Recreational drug users (other than those who take harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco) are regularly imprisoned. Nearly half a million drug offenders are incarcerated in US jails, more than the total number of prisoners in 1980 and more than the entire EU prison population. In some states more is spent on maintaining the prison system than on education. Current drug policies lead to immense personal suffering, as well as police corruption, organized crime and contempt for the law, and make drugs more dangerous because they are illegal and thus not subject to proper controls. Politicians from all sides of the political spectrum are beginning to ask: is it worth it?
In arguing that criminalization is unjust, Douglas Husak explodes many of the myths that surround drug use. In some years, more than half of high school seniors take drugs, yet the US is not overrun with drug-crazed addicts. Horror stories of the dangers of drug use abound, but the truth is more prosaic; although recreational drugs are sometimes bad for users, there are between 80 and 90 million US citizens who have used illicit drugs without ill effects.