War on Drugs

The “War on Drugs” is a prohibition campaign undertaken by the United States government with the assistance of participating countries, intended to “combat” the illegal drug trade—to curb supply and diminish demand for certain psychoactive substances deemed harmful by the government. This initiative includes a set of laws and policies that are intended to discourage the production, distribution, and consumption of targeted substances.

History In its broadest sense, the War on Drugs could be considered to have started in 1880, when the U. S. and China completed an agreement (see Opium wars) that prohibited the shipment of opium between the two countries. The United States alcohol prohibition from 1920-1933 is the most widely known historical period of drug prohibition. The term itself, however, was coined in 1971 by Richard Nixon to describe a new set of initiatives designed to enhance drug prohibition. The first recorded instance of the United States enacting a ban on the domestic distribution of drugs is the Harrison Narcotic Act [2] of 1914.

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This act was presented and passed as a method of regulating the production and distribution of opiate-containing substances under the commerce clause of the U. S. Constitution, but a section of the act was later interpreted by law enforcement officials for the purpose of prosecuting doctors who prescribe opiates to addicts. In 1925 United States supported regulation of cannabis as a drug in the International Opium Convention. [1] Alcohol prohibition in the U. S. first appeared under numerous provincial bans and was eventually codified under a federal constitutional amendment in 1919, having been approved by 36 of the 48 U. S. states.

The amendment remains the only major act of prohibition to be repealed, having been struck down by a later constitutional amendment in 1933. In 1937, congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. Presented as a $1 nuisance tax on the distribution of marijuana, this act required anyone distributing the drug to maintain and submit a detailed account of his or her transactions, including inspections, affidavits, and private information regarding the parties involved.

This law, however, was something of a “Catch-22”, as obtaining a tax stamp required individuals to first present their goods, which was an action tantamount to confession. No marijuana tax stamps were ever produced. This act was passed by Congress on the basis of testimony and public perception that marijuana caused insanity, criminality, and death. The 1951 Boggs Act increased penalties fourfold; five years later, the 1956 Daniel Act increased penalties by a factor of eight over those specified in the Boggs Act.

Although by this time there was adequate testimony to refute the claim that marijuana caused insanity, criminality, or death, the rationalizations for these laws shifted in focus to the proposition that marijuana use led to the use of heroin, creating the gateway drug theory. Nixon’s modern-day War on Drugs began in 1969. He characterized the abuse of illicit substances as “public enemy number one in the United States” at a press conference given on June 17th, 1971 [3], although the Shafer Commission recommended legalizing possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana [4].

Under Nixon, the U. S. Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This legislation is the foundation on which the modern drug war exists. Responsibility for enforcement of this new law was given to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and then in 1973 to the newly formed Drug Enforcement Administration. In 1988, towards the close of the Reagan administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy was created for central coordination of drug-related legislative, security, diplomatic, research and health policy throughout the government.

In recognition of his central role, the director of ONDCP is commonly known as the Drug Czar. The position was raised to cabinet-level status by Bill Clinton in 1993. Cost The U. S. government estimates the cost of the War on Drugs by calculating the funds used in attempting to control the supply of illegal drugs, in paying government employees involved in waging the war on crack, and to satisfy rehabilitation costs. This total was estimated by the U. S. government’s cost report on drug control to be roughly $12 billion in 2005. Additionally, in a separate report, the U.

S. government reports that the cost of incarcerating drug law offenders was $30. 1 billion — $9. 1 billion for police protection, $4. 5 billion for legal adjudication, and $11. 0 billion for state and federal corrections. In total, roughly $45. 5 billion was spent in 2005 for these factors. [2] The socioeconomic costs, as well as the individual costs (i. e. , the personal disadvantages in income and career), caused by the incarceration of millions of people are not included in this number. Nor are the many real wars fought in the name of the “War on Drugs” included.

In 1998 the total cost of drug abuse in America was estimated at $143. 4 billion. [3] This number, however, includes indirect costs and includes some costs of drug policy enforcement, and so is not directly comparable. Effects Drug use has increased in all categories since prohibition. [4] Since 1937, the use of marijuana, once an activity seemingly limited to Mexican immigrants and jazz musicians,[5] has become one undertaken by 20-37% of the youth of the United States. [4] Between 1972 and 1988 the use of cocaine increased more than fivefold.

[6] The usage patterns of the current two most prevalent drugs, methamphetamine and ecstasy, have shown similar gains. [4] From the perspective of decreasing the prevalence of the use of drugs, the War on Drugs has been an abysmal failure. It was, however, successful in reducing the amount of marijuana being illegally imported into the country. As an unintended consequence of the War, drug smugglers turned to cocaine, which was easier to move and gave a much higher profit margin for the weight and volume of their product. It also gave incentive to U. S.

marijuana growers who moved to meet the demand by increasing domestic marijuana production and improving its quality. A number of economically-depressed Colombian farmers in several remote areas of their country began to turn to what became a new, illicit cash crop for its high resale value and cheap manufacturing process. Local coca cultivation, however, remained comparatively rare in Colombia until the mid-1990s. Drug traffickers originally imported most coca base from traditional producers in Peru and Bolivia for processing in Colombia, continuing to do so until eradication efforts in those countries resulted in a “balloon effect”.