I excerpt the section titled “Costs” of Eric Sterling’s June 2nd memorandum on the War on Drugs, but you should read the whole thing:
Nixon asked for an additional $159 million dollars for his initiatives, plus an unspecified amount to pay 325 additional positions in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (forerunner to the DEA).
Over the past 40 years, with leadership from successive presidents and “drug czars,” and enthusiastic support from Congress, the Federal government has spent, cumulatively, about a half trillion dollars on the “war on drugs.” By FY 1975, federal anti-drug spending had climbed to $680 million. For the past 20 years, Federal spending on drugs has exceeded $15 billion per year including the costs of imprisonment.
The costs are now so high, the “drug czar” seems to conceal almost one-third of the anti-drug spending by excluding it from the formal anti-drug budget. ONDCP says that $14.8 billion was spent in FY 2009 to fight drugs. But another $6.9 billion was actually spent in FY 2009 on fundamental anti-drug activity such as the incarceration of federal drug prisoners.