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Ending America’s Forever Drug War

Until now, no US administration has wanted to accept the evidence that America's 50-year-long war on drugs has utterly failed to achieve any of its objectives. By reforming US drug policy over the next four years, President Joe Biden could chart a much more promising course for America and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

BOGOTÁ – US administrations come and go, but America’s repressive drug strategy remains a constant. Ever since President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs” in 1971, the world has hoped for a change in US drug policy with every new administration. Will President Joe Biden’s administration finally abandon his predecessors’ tried-and-failed approach?

In the 50 years since the war started, drug-trafficking cartels have seldom shied away from fighting it, resorting to murder and kidnapping and violently challenging law-enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, policymakers have used military resources and tactics to fight criminal organizations, and have spent billions of dollars on law enforcement and prisons.

But all these efforts have been to no avail, because demand for illegal drugs is steady and supply adaptable. Drug use is related to people’s circumstances or choices, so reducing demand through coercion is wishful thinking. No country in the last half-century has succeeded in eradicating the illegal drug market through enforcement.

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