Understanding the War on Drugs
Can the War on Drugs Ever Be Truly Won?
There has been a significant toll on the people in this war on drugs going on in the United States. The DEA refuses to acknowledge scientific evidence of the use of some illegal substances while supporting “legal” yet potentially addictive drugs that are manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. All the while, they continue incarcerating a good number of people (mostly of color) who perpetuate the harsh and cruel privatized prison system that forces these men and women to work in slavelike conditions. Today, the United States imprisons more people than any other country does in the world. This is just one observation of the current situation, and we really have to ask ourselves, what are the long-term consequences of this war on drugs?
Before anything, we have to understand where it all began. Throughout the twentieth century, the Unites States government has been seemingly obsessed with controlling human vices, starting in 1914, when the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act restricted the distribution of certain drugs. In 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was passed, prohibiting the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol. A year later, the National Prohibition Act was passed, which enacted the provisions of the previous amendment. Prohibition saw a rise of organized crime, bootlegging, hoarding until it was repealed in 1933, leaving in its wake a sense of failure and a general increase of alcohol consumption. Not learning from the past, President Richard Nixon then declared drug abuse as the public’s number one enemy and increased federal funding for drug-control agencies in 1971. Two year later, the Drug Enforcement Agency was created and the war on drugs began. It was expanded in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan and focused on criminal punishment over treatment, which led to a sharp upward spike in arrests for nonviolent drug offenses. Then in 1986, Congress passed the Anti–Drug Abuse Act, which increased the budget and established mandatory minimum prison sentences for different drug offenses that did not make a whole lot of sense. This led to concerns over the war on drugs as the majority of those arrested were people of color, and many claimed that it was discriminatory, leading to a decrease of public support. This crackdown on illegal drugs by the DEA and the contradictory actions of the CIA by encouraging the selling of cocaine in the ’90s made the people distrust the institutions even more, and so despite the ever increasing budget for the war, the support of the people has waned. Now the issue is hotter than ever; what with the legalizing of the recreational and medical use of marijuana in several states, many are now questioning the 1986 act and the existence of the DEA itself. What will happen when the effects of prohibition are clearly more harmful than regulation? What will be the consequences if the government insists on supporting an agency that the people see as obsolete? Is the government losing the war on drugs? Only time will tell.
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