A War that Cannot be Won

Drug prohibition is not the answer

Main Claim: In order to solve the drug problems in America, the US Government must start approaching the situation as a public health issue and not a criminal justice issue.

Background Info

  • US President Richard Nixon on June 18, 1971 declares drug use as “public enemy number one”
  • High-scale prohibition of drugs
  • U.S. taxpayers have collectively spent trillions of dollars to support the national drug policy since it was declared by President Nixon (Wood).
  • $25.4 billion to be spent in 2015 to reduce druge use
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Has drug consumption gone down?

  • According to United Nations estimates, consumption of opiates, cocaine and marijuana increased by 35 percent, 27 percent and 9 percent, respectively, between 1998 and 2008 (Miles).
  • Roughly 40 percent of high school seniors admit to taking an illegal drug in 2011. This is about 30 percent more than the amount of seniors who took an illegal drug a couple decades ago (Porter).
  • The biggest perpetuator of drug consumption is the black market.
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  • “Over 50 percent of inmates currently in federal prison are there for drug offenses, according to an infographic recently released by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. That percentage has risen fairly consistently over decades, all the way from 16 percent in 1970” (Miles).
  • The harsh reality is that many people are profiting from the prison industry, more specifically private prisons.
  • “Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one” (Pelaez).
  • The ACLU estimates that African Americans are almost 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than Caucasians.
  • Michelle Alexander writes, “The criminalization and demonization of black men is one habit that America seems unlikely to break without addressing head-on the racial dynamics that have given rise to our latest caste system” (27).

Has crime gone down?

  • The actual people who are causing the country to be unsafe and under threat are the ones profiting from the prohibition.
  • Mexico is also where a bloody drug war has claimed the lives of more than 40,000 people since 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared a war on drugs in that country (Wood).
  • Similar effects were seen during the alcohol prohibition in the 1920s. When alcohol was legalized, overall crime as a result of drug trade decreased (Cachanosky, Zelaya, and Block 8).
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"Why Are So Many Violent Criminals Walking Free?" | Learn Liberty

Alternative Policies

  • The other major policy that some countries find adapting is the policy of decriminalization which is essentially means the removal of criminal penalties or legal restrictions.
  • In 2001, Portugal implemented a progressive drug policy in which all controlled substances were no longer criminalized - led to a reduction in overdose and opiate-related death (Hughes and Stevens, 1018).
  • “Countries that have adopted less punitive policies toward drug possession have not experienced any significant increases in drug use, drug-related harm or drug-related crime relative to more punitive countries" ("Approaches").
Legalize All Drugs

Works Cited

Alexander, Michelle. "Obama's Drug War." Nation 291.26 (2010): 25-27. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

"Approaches to Decriminalizing Drug Use & Possession." (n.d.): n. pag. Feb. 2014. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

Barcott, Bruce. "A Tale Of Two Drug Wars." Rolling Stone 1200 (2014): 35-39. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

Barton, Mike. "Why Ending the War on Drugs Will Cut Crime." Making Drugs Legal – but Controlling Supply – Would Stop the Flow of Money to Crime Gangs and Destroy Their Power. Guardian News and Media Limited, 28 Sept. 2013. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

Cachanosky, Ivan, Vannia J. Zelaya, and Walter E. Block. "Drug Legalization: Rescuing Central America From The Claws Of Crime."Journal Jurisprudence 21.1 (2014): 9-25. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

"Drug Prohibition and Violence." Drug Policy Alliance. Drug Policy Alliance, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.

Gaudio, Christina M. "A Call To Congress To Give Back The Future: End The “War On Drugs” And Encourage States To Reconstruct The Juvenile Justice System." Family Court Review 48.1 (2010): 212-227. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

Hughes, Caitlin Elizabeth, and Alex Stevens. "What Can We Learn From The Portuguese Decriminalization Of Illicit Drugs?." British Journal Of Criminology 50.6 (2010): 999-1022. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

Mauer, Marc. The Changing Racial Dynamics of the War on Drugs. Rep. The Sentencing Project, Apr. (2009): 12-19. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

Miles, Kathleen. "Just How Much The War On Drugs Impacts Our Overcrowded Prisons, In One Chart." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 25 Oct. 2014.

"National Drug Control Budget." (n.d.): n. pag. FY 2015 Funding Highlights. Office of National Drug Control Policy, Mar. 2014. Web. 3 Oct. 2014.

Porter, Eduardo. "Numbers Tell of Failure in Drug War." The New York Times. The New York Times, 03 July 2012. Web. 03 Oct. 2014.

Wood, Evan. "Organized Crime Won the War on Drugs." CNN. Cable News Network, 07 June 2011. Web. 03 Oct. 2014.