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The Drug War Price Tag

Over the course of his eight years in office, Reagan spent $22.6 billion on his revived Drug War. Another major escalation was pushed through under George Bush, who spent $42.5 billion in a four-year term. Under Clinton, spending continued to increase, with $16 billion for one year alone allocated in the 1998 fiscal budget and $17 billion for 1999.

Those figures show federal spending only, not counting all unfunded mandates passed onto states.

Spending at other levels of government adds up to approximately the same as the federal budget, so in 1998 you can expect to see well over $30 billion spent on the Drug War.

In 1999, the federal Drug War budget alone is expected to rise again to $17 billion. Are we better off by wasting ever more money on the Drug War? Where will it end?

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How much does it cost to run the Drug War industrial complex?

$$$ The average cost of incarcerating a federal inmate is $23,000 per year. (FAMM, Coalition for Federal Sentencing Reform, March, 1997.)

$$$ Almost 60% of federal inmates — 55,624 people in the year 2000! — are drug offenders. Half of these are first time, non-violent offenders. (Bureau of Prisons, 1997.)

$$$ To feed, clothe, house and guard these 55,624 prisoners costs taxpayers $3.5 million per day, or $1.27 billion annually.

And There’s Lots More!

$$$ Public assistance or welfare for children of inmates who have lost a breadwinner,

$$$ Foster care for children who have lost their parents,

$$$ Unnecessary and inaccurate urine testing of employees, damaging both morale and job productivity,

$$$ Medical costs to treat people for diseases spread by sharing dirty needles due to bans on needle exchange programs,

$$$ Homes, property, cars, and savings forfeited from families of inmates,

$$$ Money, property stolen to support expensive illegal drug habits,

$$$ Money diverted from the open market to the underground market,

$$$ Tax dollars and untaxed incomes lost to the black market economy of drugs,

$$$ Tax dollars lost by giving tax-exempt status to Drug War propagandists such as: PRIDE, PDFA (Partnership for a Drug-Free America), Drug Watch International, DARE, etc.,

$$$ Other criminal justice system costs,

$$$ Hidden law enforcement budgets,

$$$ Paid informants,

$$$ Court costs,

$$$ Attorney fees,

$$$ Personal hardships

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Author, cannabis expert witness, journalist, artist