Brad Pitt: America's war on drugs is a charade, and a failure
The drug war continues because it is a system that perpetuates itself. On a local level, any time a bust is made, scarcity drives up prices and, of course, the profit potential. History has taught us that there is no shortage of opportunists willing to fill the void and so the cycle continues and rates of drug use and dealing remain unchanged while incarceration skyrockets.
As long as we concentrate on staunching the supply, we create an artificially inflated market that is appealing enough to outweigh the risks of punishment. But if we focus our efforts on the flipside of the coin, and ask why there seems to be such an insatiable demand for recreational drugs, while investing in education, treatment and harm reduction, we might be able to break that cycle. The United States needs to fix the structures in our society that leave people desperate enough that addiction or drug dealing seems like a viable alternative.
The practical failure of the war on drugs is just part of the problem. The same policies that have had so little effect on the country's drug use have deeply and disparately impacted poor and minority communities in the United States. The burdens of over-incarceration and targeted policing have been borne overwhelmingly by the country's marginalised, making it harder than ever for large swathes of the population to enjoy the American dream. This is not because those communities use narcotics at a greater rate than the rest of us. In fact they don't. They are just more vulnerable to the war on drugs. It has to stop. It's one thing to abide by policies that don't make things better; it's another to continue with those that actually make things worse.
The US war on drugs has cost one trillion dollars and resulted in 45m arrests. And yet nothing has changed, argues film-maker Eugene Jarecki. So what did the prisoners in a New York jail think when he showed them his documentary?
David Simon on America's war on drugs and The House I Live In
The writer/director, who contributed to this hard-hitting documentary, on why US drugs policy has gone terribly wrong
Russell Simmons: the war on drugs made victims of the black community
The hip-hop mogul and executive producer of The House I Live In tells of the suffering he saw while growing up in Queens
Shanequa Benitez: how I started dealing drugs
Ex-drug dealer and contributor to The House I Live In on the perils of being drawn into the dangerous world of drug dealing