Wagner Moura, the Brazilian actor who plays Pablo Escobar in "Narcos," has some very strong opinions about the War on Drugs.
When you have to try and get inside the head of perhaps the most notorious drug trafficker in history, it's probably hard not to.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, the actor said,
The War on Drugs is a big flop. Especially for those of us who live in countries that export and produce drugs. Those are the places where those wars are taking place, and still happening. The amount of people who are being killed in that war, I'm sure it's bigger than the amount of people who are dying of overdoses.
When you look at the death toll in the Mexican drug war alone, where over 164,000 people have disappeared or been killed over the past decade or so, Moura certainly has a point.
This doesn't mean he believes we shouldn't take the health issues related to drug use seriously. But like many of those who champion drug reform, Moura believes we should treat drug use and addiction as a health problem, rather than a criminal one.
I'm not saying addiction isn't a big problem. I really think it is. But it should be treated as a health problem, not as a police or military problem... I always thought drugs should be legalized and now, just by doing [Narcos], it reinforced that.
In other words, Moura believes it's long past time to end the War on Drugs, and thinks the approach that's been taken has been exceptionally ineffective.
As he put it,
Killing and sending drug dealers to prison is not solely the problem. This is not the point. After you incarcerate the drug lord, of course it represents a defeat to the drug cartels, but it's not gonna end them.
When you look at America's approach to the war on drugs, it's hard not to agree with Moura.
A large part of the reason the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world is due to its harsh drug sentencing laws.
America spends $80 billion per year on mass incarceration, putting many nonviolent drug offenders behind bars, but drug use continues.
Meanwhile, criminal organizations benefit the most from the current approach to drugs, bringing in over $320 billion per year as they continue to control the global market.
The US has tried to incarcerate its way out of a health issue, not providing enough resources for the root of the problem: addiction.
Simply put, you can't reduce the presence of drugs in society without eliminating the demand, and the demand is fundamentally linked to addiction.
Wagner Moura seems to understand this, but many lawmakers around the world, including the US, are seemingly content to continue pouring money into a costly, violent and ineffective approach to drugs.