War on drugs refers to various campaigns that are aimed at barring and reducing rampant trade on illegal drugs and substances. This equally refers to various initiatives that include a series of drug policies that are formulated by governments and international anti-drugs bodies with an aim of suppressing production, supply as well as consumption of illicit drugs (Joseph, 2014). In the United States, the war on drugs started more than a century ago but it was officially initiated by President Nixon in mid-1971 when he declared drug abuse as a major threat to American citizens. The war on drugs has been accelerated by the various negative effects it has on various people around the world (King & Mauer, 2006). In the United States, the war on drugs is estimated to have cost more than $ 2.5 million over the last half a decade and is now costing $ 50 million annually with numerous drug abusers arrested and imprisoned. This has therefore been very costly as huge financial and manpower resources have been engaged globally with minimal results. War on drugs has been a very challenging task as drug sellers and users have devised sophisticated ways of evading law enforcement agencies as they continue abusing these drugs (Joseph, 2014). Most of the drugs abused in the United States are gotten from drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia, which are high global suppliers and consumers. While the war on drugs is aimed at controlling the abuse of all illegal drugs globally, it has largely been adopted in United States to address the ever-rising marijuana abuse (King & Mauer, 2006).
War on Drugs
Drugs were first introduced in the United States in the early 1800s and many became popular especially after the American Civil War as they served various purposes that included medicinal, health drinks, and pain killers. The war on drugs in United States dates back one century ago when protestant missionaries and other American religious organizations convinced Congress to outlaw drugs as they viewed them as evil and dangerous to people. The drugs that were mainly termed as dangerous to the health and lives of people both in the US and other parts of the world included opium, cocaine, morphine, and marijuana. Such statements were equally attributed to the notion that some Negroes were causing murder among American whites due to drug influence (Joseph, 2014). Despite the fact that United States citizens had previously used these drugs for more than one and a half centuries while observing the law, the passing of the Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act halted their freedom to use these drugs freely. The Harrison Act of 1914 is touted as the foundation of the war on drugs that has in the recent past expanded to become one of the heavily financed American projects. This act resulted in the imprisonment of various physicians and pharmacists that were also fined heavily for selling outlawed drugs in the early 1900s (King & Mauer, 2006).
The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) was formed in1930 and it further outlawed the use of drugs like marijuana. This body adopted the use of propaganda to prevent further spread of abuse of this drug especially because it purported that marijuana was responsible for numerous cases of insanity and deaths among most drug users in the United States (Joseph, 2014). This war, as propagated by FBN, created counter behaviors that led to increased cases of drug abuse in many campuses across the United States. The demand for drugs in the United States skyrocketed in the 1960s as young people and soldiers from Vietnam War developed habits of consistent abuse of these drugs and even started using hallucinogens as stimulants. The rising trend of drug abuse saw the Johnson Administration passing Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act in the mid-1960s (King & Mauer, 2006). This Act led to the commitment of the United States federal government in allocating funds for rehabilitating numerous cases of drug abusers. The war on drugs in the United States was renewed as President Nixon declared drug abuse as a major enemy to the United States citizens. He thus strategized a comprehensive plan that would enable the United States to counter the supply as well as consumption of all illegal drugs (Joseph, 2014). The president equally initiated the greatest ever federal funding for programs intended to treat various cases among drug abusers. He later initiated an extensive interdiction effort in Mexico as he tried to block drugs coming from Mexico from entering the US soil. This measure, though attributing to short-term success, led to an increased supply of illegal drugs especially marijuana from Colombia as drug traffickers moved to fill the supply void created by stopped supplies from Mexico (King & Mauer, 2006).
Marijuana, which is a major illegal drug that is mostly supplied to the ever great demand in the United States from Mexico and Colombia always find routes to enter the US market. This is despite the spirited efforts by the United States federal government to counter their supply routes that are ever reorganized by well-established drug gangs. These gangs have particularly adopted sophisticated modes of transporting drugs that include marijuana through air, land, and even water routes (Joseph, 2014). This has therefore led the US government to realize that as long as there is a demand for drugs in their nation, drug gangs’ activities of supplying these drugs cannot be controlled. War on drugs went on as President Carter rose to power in 1977 and he adopted lenient means of controlling the spread of these drugs. Although this president adopted a lenient approach towards controlling drugs especially marijuana, he never supported its legalization. He equally fought the spread of these drugs through the supply front as his administration focused on interdiction as well as eradication measures (King & Mauer, 2006). Marijuana continued to become a major abused drug that led to the highest ever recorded arrest cases among a significant number of drug abusers. Cocaine like marijuana gained prominence in 1978 to 1984 as its consumption rose by more than 700% and this greatly threatened the success of the war on drugs.
The rise of President Reagan in 1981 saw greater funding dedicated to efforts curtailing the supply of commonly abused drugs like president Nixon had done. He equally reduced federal funding for programs that aimed at eradicating, educating as well as rehabilitating people affected by abuse of drugs (Joseph, 2014). This president adopted a program that was referred to as “zero tolerance” that encouraged punishing drug abusers that were arrested. This ultimately led to the introduction of the “Anti-Drug Abuse” program that held all drug abusers responsible for possession and abuse of drugs and advocated for subsequent penalties. The continued measures to counter drug abuse in the United States have further led to increased cases of drug abuse as many citizens tend to be deviant to the restrictive measures formulated by the government. This, therefore, has made all budgetary allocation of money for rehabilitation to be insufficient in caring for rehabilitation cases (King & Mauer, 2006). President Clinton adopted an approach that attempted to wage war on the drug demand and supply front by allocating more than a $ 1 billion budget to achieve this objective. He also doubled the rehabilitation, eradication as well as prevention programs budget that would enable abusers to receive quality care. He further allocated more resources to law enforcement agencies that were tasked with the responsibility of countering the rising drug trade. While Clinton continued to allocate more resources to counter the supply of drugs to the US citizens, he equally allocated finances to fight drugs on the demand side (Joseph, 2014). He equally initiated innovative and inventive policies that focused on Community Action Programs as well as grassroots initiatives that would enable communities to help in controlling the abuse of drugs in their neighborhoods.
Since the beginning of the war on drugs, Congress has established numerous legislations that have enabled various leaders and law enforcement agencies to fight the war on drugs on more established grounds (King & Mauer, 2006). The Congress has also rejected various proposals that leaders and various stakeholders have requested for their legislation as they deem them unworthy for the fight on drugs. Arrests made by law enforcement agencies on drug abuse cases have surpassed all other criminal case arrests. Cases of arrests have continued to increase with more than one million cases of arrests made annually on people possessing illegal drugs. In the recent past, cases of marijuana arrests have continued to increase making marijuana to be one of the most abused drugs, which has led to subsequent increases in marijuana-related arrests. The rate of marijuana abuse has consistently increased by 113% from 1990 to 2002 (Joseph, 2014). In the United States, drug abuse has greatly affected the lives of African Americans that have equally registered the highest proportion of arrests made on marijuana abusers. War on drugs has led to increased costs that include financial resources used to hire and sustain numerous law enforcement agencies, the building of various prisons to hold arrested drug criminals as well as the increased loss of lives due to deaths caused during the war. This war has also been complicated by well-organized criminal gangs that are ready to lose their lives as they spread the drug trade as well as protecting their territories. Gangster “cops” have also been on the rise as they rob drug dealers of their drugs, sell them and ultimately rake profits enriching themselves (King & Mauer, 2006). These “cops” cover their dirty acts by framing innocent people that they are supposed to protect and safeguard. This in return has led to erosion of people’s confidence in the law enforcement officers due to such kinds of betrayals. People have therefore continued to watch numerous drug cases in their neighborhoods go without reporting as mistrust between them and law enforcement officers have continued to increase. Corruption has equally infiltrated the drug trade as numerous police officers collude with drug gangs to allow them to trade secretly in return for money (Joseph, 2014). The continued war on drugs has diverted attention and resources committed to averting other criminal activities, and this has indirectly increased abuse of drugs by numerous people. Increased number of arrests for drug abusers and traders has equally overwhelmed the law enforcement officers and this has led to low-ranking offenses in the drug trade being ignored as they cannot all be handled in courts of law. Despite this spirited war on drugs, cases of drug abuse have increased worldwide in general and in the United States in particular (King & Mauer, 2006).
The legalization of drugs is a highly debated issue that has seen some people support it while others have strongly opposed it. Following years of war on drugs, there have been very minimal achievements compared to the great investment that various governments have to spend on this war. In the recent past, many people in the United States feel that legalizing illicit drugs will be the best option as it will enable the government to regulate the supply of these drugs thereby eliminating drug cartels in the markets (Joseph, 2014). Drug cartels have increasingly raked profits in the black market as people have continued to buy these drugs at very exorbitant prices. This indicates that legalizing these drugs will enable the government to reap great tax revenue from the sale of regulated drugs that will be used to build the nation in various ways. The legalization of drugs will ultimately stop the war on drugs and this will save a huge amount of money that will be used to provide services to US citizens. This will equally enable law enforcement agencies to concentrate their efforts in controlling other crimes that have been neglected as a result of the war on drugs (King & Mauer, 2006). This in return will reduce overall crime rates as law enforcement agencies will have sufficient time and resources to control criminal activities. The legalization of illicit drugs will also reduce the rising corruption trends that have infiltrated law enforcement agencies, as these have contributed to reduced public confidence and trust in law enforcement officers. This will therefore restore the reduced confidence, which is important in controlling all forms of crimes as citizens are the most reliable informants of criminal activities in various neighborhoods (Joseph, 2014). The legalization of these drugs will also allow medical practitioners to use them freely for medical purposes as many of them have great medicinal value that can greatly help sick people. Marijuana for example can be used as a pain reliever as it is renowned for its effectiveness. Legalization will equally enable people to access unbiased information, which is commonly given by anti-drug policymakers. This will therefore enable them to make informed choices on whether to use these drugs or not as they will have important information on their harm and benefits (King & Mauer, 2006).
War on drugs is a practice that was initiated more than one century ago by American protestant missionaries that convinced Congress to pass laws prohibiting their use as they believed that they were both evil and dangerous. Illegal drugs that include cocaine, morphine, heroin, and even marijuana have negatively affected most US citizens. Marijuana, which is the most commonly abused drug, is renowned for attributing to the greatest number of arrests across the United States. The war on drugs has mostly been spearheaded by various presidents in the United States that have formulated different strategies to counter the supply as well as consumption of these drugs. These presidents have consulted the input of Congress to formulate legislation that has enabled them to act within the law. Such legislations include Harrison Act, Anti-Drug Abuse, and Narcotics Addict Rehabilitation Act. The war on drugs has compelled the United States to use billions of dollars within and beyond its borders as it attempts to control the drug movement especially from Mexico and Colombia, which are the highest drug suppliers to the United States. Due to huge costs and minimal achievements made on this war, various lobby groups are calling for the legalization of illicit drugs to enable the government to be directly involved in their distribution. This will eliminate the great cost of fighting the organized cartels and enable the government to earn huge tax revenue from their sale. This will equally eliminate drug cartels that have continued growing rich for their trade on drugs as well as minimizing the overall crime rate in the United States.
Joseph, M.J. (2014). The Hidden Cost of America’s War on Drugs, Retrieved on 8th March 2014 from file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Rkey/My%20Documents/Downloads/16595785_WAR_ON_DRUGS_MCNAMARA_1%20(1).pdf
King, R.S. and Mauer, M. (2006). The War on Marijuana: The Transformation of the War on Drugs in the 1990s, Harm Reduction Journal, 3(6):1-24.