What if the War on Drugs Had Never Happened?


For decades, the DEA has been on the losing side of the drug war.

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No matter how many drugs they take off the streets, or how many users are arrested and put in prison, the demand for drugs never seems to go down. Worse, that illegal demand has created huge upheaval not just in America, but around the world. The rise of Mexican and South American cartels, literal drug wars that cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and a toll of Americans who did nothing more than get caught doing drugs, but who now have no ability to even get a job because of their records.

The war on drugs has levied heavy costs… but what if it had never happened? That’s the question Alternate History Hub took on, and its conclusions are, funnily enough, the sort of results we’re seeing with marijuana legalization.

Not Perfect, But A Whole Lot Better

The war on drugs gained that moniker during the 1960s, but laws against marijuana and other substances had been used as ways to enforce social controls on certain groups of people since the official end of Prohibition. However, it’s the 1960s where we see real crack downs, and the beginning of ripples. The demand for drugs goes mainstream, particularly with marijuana now that it’s being enjoyed by white college kids and not just African-American and Hispanic citizens, and the black market grows. In the 1980s this leads to the rise of drug cartels across central and South America, and those cartels, along with the CIA, make life very difficult all across the two American continents. Police respond by militarizing, invasive laws are passed for the express purpose of being able to track drug traffickers, and draconian mandatory sentencing laws are used as a way to punish drug users and drug dealers.

None of it works. As we all know, all the war on drugs did was lead to the rise of extremely powerful criminal organizations, criminalize U.S. citizens (who then had to turn to a life of crime because employment opportunities had been cut off for them), engender the beginnings of a police state, and create a swirling maelstrom of inner city crime. But what if the war on drugs hadn’t happened at all? What if drug users were treated medically, given community support, and we had legalized some substances in order to stop users from having to deal with the black market?

Well, instead of DEA marijuana eradication, we would have seen the same results legalization is showing now; emptier prisons, fewer criminal records, bigger tax coffers, and less police aggression. Would things have been perfect? No, there would always have been problems, but stop and ask yourself what a world where legalization and treatment began in the 1960s would look like today. How many of our current “drug problems” are really just problems we created for ourselves out of a moral panic that’s ruined (and ended) lives across the world.


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Keep reading! Check these stories out next:

DEA Marijuana Eradication: Largely a Failure?

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