In a world where rules and laws seem to outline a direct image of morality and logic, all while shaping our view of the world and the best ways to regulate it. What if I were to tell you some of these laws where hindering the progress of the problems they were trying to fix, and unnecessarily spending tons of money while doing it. Here I will discuss with you a war that was officially declared by the 37th president of the United States, Richard Nixon. We as a nation have been fighting this “war” for over four decades and has been a wrongful use of our taxes in many different ways. This state of affairs and our decisions along the way not only affect us, but affect other people and their livelihoods continents over. In June of 1971 this war was officially coined “The War on Drugs.” This war has been a burden on us and causes major problems for the people involved. These are, but not limited to, racial injustice, causing big problems for Central and Southern American countries, and the fact that it’s not working.
The prohibition of drugs has gone back further than the official declaration of the war. It actually has its roots deeply seeded in racial affairs. According to an article called “A Brief History of the War on Drugs” on drugpolicy.org, (Author and Date unknown) the first anti-opium laws in the 1870s were directed at Chinese immigrants. The first anti-cocaine laws in the early 1900s were directed at black men in the South. The first anti-marijuana laws, in the Midwest and the Southwest in the 1910s and 20s, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans. Each of these situations are examples of the use of fear and xenophobic tendencies used to sway a population’s view on a political standing, of a few and not the people.
As stated by an article found on alternet.com called “Race and the Drug War,” (Desiree Evans, 2002) in the town of Tulia Texas, 12% of the African American community was arrested and prosecuted in 1999 on drug charges. This was solely based on the word of one undercover cop that was later exposed as corrupt. In accordance with a paper called “A Brief Review of the System of The New Jim Crow” authored by Laura Branca (Dorothy Cotton Institute 2017) nearly 80% of people in federal prison and almost 60% of people that are in state prison for drug offenses are black or Latino.
Central and Southern American countries are among the most directly affected countries in the wake of all this. According to an article on worldpress.com, authored by Joshua Pringle in 2015, Otto Perez Molina, the late president of Guatemala, said that the crusade is costing Central American countries hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives every year. The bulk of these losses come from groups like the drug cartels. On the report of an article on bbc.com called “Mexico’s most wanted: A guide to the drug cartels,” authored by Duncan Tucker in 2018, the government in Mexico succeed in capturing/and or killing some of the biggest names at the time. Things were quiet for a while, up until around 2012 where organized crime related violence started to skyrocket. It was said that the governments’ previous efforts merely broke the cartels up into smaller often more violent gangs.
The last problem I will discuss is the war’s non effectiveness. As stated by vox.com in a article called “The War on Drugs Explained” by German Lopez (2016), The US has spent over $1 trillion dollars on this effort alone. All this money, but to no avail. Much of this money spent on law enforcement cracking down on drug prohibition where to this day, 40 years later, drug addiction is still a serious problem. The US also has some of the highest rates of drug related deaths around the world. As stated by a segment titled “The Highest Overdose and Drug Related Death Rates in the World,” on worldatlas.com written by Jessica Dillinger (2018), the US holds a staggering rate of 245.8 overdoses per million. These numbers lie right above Iceland with 221.2 and El Salvador with 160.1.
It’s a lot to take in at first glance, but there is a way to help level the situation and address all the issues stated earlier. This solution comes in the form of drug legalization. This means you would be able to acquire and use without criminal prosecution and the government would be able to regulate and tax the commodities. Alcohol or tobacco would be good comparisons.
We need something that works, and with legalization it has the chance to significantly reduce the rate of deaths related to drug usage. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, since Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs they now hold the second lowest rate of drug overdoses in the European Union at 3 overdoes per million.
In no way would drug legalization be a fix all remedy, but done correctly and with the right amount of public education, it would be a far better solution for the many currently affected by this mess that it is today. Also, the money that we would save could be better spent on much needed areas of society.
I’d like to end by paraphrasing Jeffery Miron. (Economist, Harvard) as he states, “So what are these consequences of attempting to prohibit drugs? To begin with, we don’t eliminate drugs, we drive the market underground. And the underground market for drugs is violent, corrupt, has poor quality control, and in the attempt to enforce it we have to infringe civil liberties by basically shredding the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. We reduce the ability of people to get the medicine they need freely to reduce pain, to relieve nausea from chemotherapy, and among other symptoms. We interfere in other countries like Mexico and Afghanistan. All resulting from the fact that we’ve driven drug markets underground, and so terrorist groups make a profit by selling their protection services to the drug traffickers, the drug traffickers get the protection and the terrorists get profits.”
“A Brief History of the Drug War.” Drug Policy Alliance, www.drugpolicy.org/issues/brief-history-drug-war.
As the title en-tales, its a brief history of the concept of the war on drugs. This includes the facts such as the year it was officially announced, who announced it and where the concepts had stemmed from. I chose this article because it points out that the history of this subject isnt shrouded in just laws and drive, it brushes over the racial ties to the “war.”
“Criminal Justice Facts.” The Sentencing Project, www.sentencingproject.org/criminal-justice-facts/.
This article is on one of the sites main pages that shows general data surrounding the issue of the prison system and wrongful incarceration. The whole site and team is dedicated to achieving data to show the problem with the way we are handling our incarcerations in America. I chose this article because it brings up an interesting statistic on how much incarceration rate have gone up since the declaration of the “war.”
Dillinger, Jessica. “Highest Overdose & Drug Related Death Rates In The World.” WorldAtlas, 2 Nov. 2015, www.worldatlas.com/articles/10-highest-overdose-and-drug-related-death-rates-in-the-world.html.
– In this article lies a list of the top ten countries in the world with the highest rate of over doses. Since this article does cover world events I would assume there would be less room for bias. I chose this one for the interesting fact the pointed to the US with some of the highest numbers of overdoses.
Pringle, Joshua. “Rethinking the Drug War in the Americas.” WorldPress, www.worldpress.org/americas/3912.cfm.
– This article reviews the drug war but from the eyes of some of the South American countries like Guatemala and Mexico. It talks about what kind of drugs dealt in the trade and how much money is being spent to fight this effort. I chose this article because it give some insight of a different perspective of the situation.
Tucker, Duncan. “Mexico’s Most-Wanted: A Guide to the Drug Cartels.” BBC News, BBC, 27 Mar. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-40480405.
– This article breaks down the drug cartels with helpful graphs, arranging the numerous factions by region and size. It goes over how Mexico’s been dealing with the problem and the effects of doing so. I chose this article because it shows how that trying to deal with these issues on the surface doesn’t work and can make the problem worse.