Research Position Paper – Evan Horner

War on Drugs: More Trouble that it’s Worth

The War on Drugs in a long attempt by the American Government to put an end to recreational use of narcotics. The first major legislation for the drug war was “The Harrison Act” which was passed in 1914, mainly justified by panic surrounding of east-Asian opium. In the years to come marijuana will become the primary focus of the “D.E.A.” or Drug Enforcement Agency because of its use by Mexican Immigrants and African American Jazz Artists.  Linking narcotics abuse with the urban crime scene Richard Nixon and later Ronald Reagan would clearly declared a war on drugs and proceeded to increase federal spending on federal agencies associated with narcotics control. Even though recently presidents have been less strict federal spending on this drug war has not lessened and the media is used to keep the panic surrounding drugs prevalent by switching from inner-city crack abuse, inner-city heroin abuse, youth ecstasy use, and rural methamphetamine. The war is a campaign engulfed in controversy; it’s the new prohibition by the U.S. Government and participating countries worldwide. Their initiative includes drug policies put in place by the government intended to put and end to the making, selling, and using off illicit psychoactive substances. Richard Nixon first used the term “War on Drugs” in 1971. In, 1994 it was stated the war had resulting in the imprisonment of 1 Million Americans. 225,000 of these reported arrests were for possession of marijuana, which is the 4th most common cause of arrest in the U.S.

Allies of this prohibition say that prohibitive drug regulations have a effective track record conquering illegal drug use since they were presented 100 years ago. The legal drug alcohol has an existing user rate as high as 80-90% in people over the age of 14 years old, and tobacco has traditionally had present use rates up to 60% of adult populations, but the amount of people currently abusing illegal substances in countries that are part of “The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development” is usually under 1% of the population, excluding Marijuana where most have between 3% and 10% of people using.

This “War on Drugs” is a major failure. It is using incredible amounts of taxpayer money, and putting people in jail who don’t belong there thus adding to the growing prison overpopulation problem instead of helping these people with there addictions. It has also been extremely racist over the years, along with actually inadvertently helping the drug cartels not stopping them. “The Global Commission on Drug Policy, which contains previous presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Switzerland”(“Global”), say the decades-long approach of criminalizing drugs and incarcerating users while fighting cartels that regulate the trade has not worked. The commission suggested countries constantly investing in a law enforcement method should put an emphasis on violent organized crime and drug traffickers. Also they say reduced punishments should be endorsed for people at the low-end of the trade, such as cultivators, carriers and minor low-level dealers. The drug war policies have just not worked, the War on Drugs has failed because it is a strongly racist campaign, wrongly criminalizing people, and blowing billions of tax payer dollars even though decriminalization has been shown to work in other places.

The group opposing me is in fear of having a world with drugs fully legalized. They protest that this method is an “absolutely untested proposition” and the only proof offered so far is in small trials in small parts of the world. They make it seam as if a trial in America or possibly other large nations is terrifying with its “unforeseeable consequences”.

The American Drug Commission recently examined the last forty years of the Drug War and has labeled it as a failure. They are observing parts of the world using alternative methods such as Portugal, which said they would not legalize all drugs but were going to decriminalize them. Which means that someone caught in possession of drugs will not send them to prison. The money it would take to put these persons in jail will now be used to help treat their addiction “which is about three-quarters cheaper”. Portugal has seen considerable decrease in people using heroin along with drug-related theft. “Heroin use among 16- to 18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8%. New HIV infections fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003. Deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by half.” (Emine)

My opposition may be doubtful about the figures associated with Portugal because it seams to be a semi-isolated fairly small nation, and is for the most part well off. They say the poverty tormented South American locations wouldn’t react well to this style of approach. “Everything we’ve seen about decriminalization just frees up the drug barons, because they are in a position to continue a substantial market without law-enforcement”. The also say there would still be major black market for drugs, and new drugs would be coming onto the market frequently and a substantial amount of enforcement is the only way to shut this down.

Also the focus is usually on addicts getting treated for their drug habits, but the common drug user has a job and a stable life. “Is it right to criminalize them?” (Emine)

In 1970 there were roughly two hundred thousand people serving time in America’s state and federal prisons. Today there are currently one and a half million people imprisoned in our jails with another seven hundred and fifty thousand prisoners in our local penitentiaries. Even though there is significantly more prisoners locked away today the crime rate is roughly the same as back then. The department of Justice says that thirty to forty percent of present jail admissions are people involved in “victimless”(“Decriminalization”) crimes or crimes with out a targeted victim so the only one affected by the offenses is the culprit. Of the victimless offenders thirty one percent of them were arrested for crimes related to drugs, and around twelve percent of them are offenses related to marijuana. Considering our jails are already overcrowded and offer little help with actually helping fix a person’s drug problem these people should not even be sent to jail in the first place.

In the 1980’s legislatures in America approved stricter sentencing laws dealing with drug offenses. The feds led the way enacting the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988.  Along with other requirements the laws made several mandatory minimum sentencing laws for drug related crimes and also affected Sentencing guidelines causing the judge in most drug cases to lose discretion, which is normally an essential part of the sentencing process. This is what increases the amount of people in the court system exposed to jail time. This proves that the War on drugs is a major cause for the severe “prison boom”.

A new cause should hereby be activated. That is ending this war on drugs and decriminalizing these victimless crimes related to drugs to effectively reduce populations in prisons and not send people to prison who don’t necessarily deserve it, while also not “adversely affecting public safety, according to the findings of a study published this week by the JFA institute a Washington, DC criminal-justice think tank.”(“Decriminalization”)

The study also goes into how the Western European countries that have more liberal drug laws don’t see the violence seen in America due to drug trafficking. So not only would ending the war on drugs be the cause of more non-violent offenders out of prison and in treatment where they need to be it will help put an end to the violent offenses from even happening while also reducing prison population.

Not only has the War on Drugs caused problems with prisoners, and taxpayers it is also fueled by racism. It has produced greatly unequal results across races, even though “rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites.” The high arrest and conviction numbers for the Latino and Black races do not reflect an increase in trafficking or usage of drugs in these communities, it’s actually caused by Law enforcement focusing on these inner-city urban communities along with unfair treatment by the criminal justice system. Just as the “Jim Crow laws were in this country until the mid-1960s” the War on Drugs causes a “mass criminalization of people of color, particularly young African American men” the governments newest form of “racial control”(“Race”).

One of the main focuses of the Drug war is to stop people from trafficking drugs into our country such as the very dangerous Mexican cartels. Well how good of a job could our government be doing if a major drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is publicly going on record thanking the War on Drugs for helping him acquire his over one billion dollar net worth. This leader of the Sinaloa Cartel is knowledgeable enough to know that his wealth was only achievable due to the Drug War. He states, “I couldn’t have gotten so stinking rich without George Bush, George Bush Jr., Ronald Reagan, even El Presidente Obama, none of them have the cajones to stand up to all the big money that wants to keep this stuff illegal. From the bottom of my heart, I want to say, Gracias amigos, I owe my whole empire to you.”(“Mexican”) The War has taken prices for these illicit drugs and caused them to skyrocket. Which in turn causes addict who cannot legally acquire money to pay for their drug habits to turn to things like theft or prostitution for a source of income. But even more hazardous than that, it generates a vast revenue opportunity for criminal organizations.

“Delivery drivers, and retailers of beer no longer shoot it out over “turf” disputes. Drug dealers and distributors often do.” The Sinaloa Cartel is know for their violent behavior used in their illegal drug business. They play a big part in the “11,000 cartel related deaths in 2010 alone.” They have gotten so large and widespread that they actually control large portions of the Mexican Government. “It’s important to keep in mind, that they have gained their power due to our choices.” Just as in the end of the alcohol prohibition with Al Capone an end to the prohibition on drugs will cause these criminal organizations to fade away. The government has to choose what is more important punishing drug users who will use regardless if drugs are legal or not or not “sending billions to thugs like “El Chapo” and terrorist organizations like FARC (a Columbia communist terror organization) and the Taliban.”(“Mexican”)

Most simply the common drug user, 225 million people worldwide is a non-violent marijuana user. There are massive amounts of tax revenue waiting to be acquired from widespread legalization and it has been argued that smoking cannabis is safer that alternatives like alcohol and tobacco that are already legalized and taxed. “Because marijuana is the drug of choice of young people, is it right that it should be treated any differently from alcohol?” Along with reforms of prison sentencing and parole this could save taxpayers nationwide $20 billion per year and reduce the prison population from 1.5 million to below 700,000.”(“Richard Branson”). All in all the War on Drugs is a money sucking, racist, and ineffective campaign. It contributes to prison overpopulation and helps the people it is trying to stop. Ending this unwinnable war would be a radical enhancement.

Work Cited

Richard Branson and Ian Blair debate drug decriminalisation“. the guardian. Emine Saner. Friday 16 March 2012 .

Decriminalizing Pot Will Reduce Prison Population, Have No Adverse Impact On Public Safety, Study Says“. Norml. Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Global war on drugs a failure, high-level panel say“. Reuters. Michelle Nichols. Jun 2, 2011

Race and the Drug War“. We are the drug policy alliance.

Mexican Drug Cartel Leader Loves the Drug War“. Rational Public Radio

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