Losing The War On Drugs Essay, Research Paper
Losing the War on Drugs
America is spending millions of dollars to run ad campaigns with teenage
waifs smashing up the kitchen with frying pans, brain fried egg commercials, and
other inaccurate and misleading ads put fear into our nations youth and adults alike.
One such ad showed a flat line brain scan purportedly hooked up to a drug user. It
was later proven that it was hooked up to nothing and most of our nations kids now
know it. Seeing the “Land of the Free” turn into a nation that imprisons more of its
citizens than any other industrialized nation on earth is neither effective or a good
message to send our children. We are building 9 new prisons for every one new
university( ). Which do you want built for your children?
In this country, we are locked in war we simply cannot win. We strive to
protect over 10,000 miles of border, against enemies who are driven by the lure of
an obscene really resulted from this war is the overcrowding of prisons, the
expansion of law and distrust. If its not obvious already, I am referring to the war
on drugs. As time goes on, it becomes more and more evident that the war on drugs
is as useless as officials, who use the war as a reelection tool. To study this
problem, I visited government web pages for statistics and facts dealing with the
war, and was surprised what I found.
To most people the fiscal reasons for ending the war are the most convincing.
For example, it costs over $30,000 per year to house a prisoner – this does not
include processing and legal fees, only the actual prison costs – food, water,
electricity and guards ( ). There are over 1.5 million non-violent drug law offenders
in prison right now, and this number is increasing daily( ). That means we are
spending a minimum of $45 billion per year keeping former tax-paying citizens,
most of whom had jobs and were contributing to the economy in some way, locked
up with murderers and rapists. When these people get out of jail, they will have
criminal records, which will make it nearly impossible to get a decent job, and a
grudge against the government and society in general.
In addition, we spend $37 billion per year funding the police efforts and
interdiction, and recent evidence suggests the CIA has been involved in
drug-trafficking to fund its own private wars ().Currently there is over $150 billion
worth of drug traffic that remains untaxed ( ).If you figure a tax rate of 15%, that is
a total of $22.5 billion of taxes that America doesn’t see. The bottom line? The US
Treasury estimates America wastes a minimum of $104.5 billion per year fighting a
war that can not be won ( ), while crime rates continue to rise (because of the huge
profits made possible by the risks involved in the drug trade as drugs remain
illegal), and the quality of education, medical care and environmental protection
falls due to lack of money in the budget.
There are also moral dilemmas in declaring war on drugs and their users.
Firstly, drug use or abuse is a medical and social problem not a criminal problem,
yet we think we’re solving the problem by throwing people in jail. The logic seems
to be, maybe if we just take their life away, confiscate all of their personal
property, ruin their reputation and self-respect, put them in jail with the worst
elements of society – murderers, thieves and rapists, where they will most likely be
beaten and/or raped repeatedly they will see the error of their ways. Not a very
Also bear in mind, nicotine, caffeine and alcohol are all drugs. Nicotine is
one of the most addictive drugs known to man, behind substances like heroin.
Cigarettes kill over 300,000 people every year. Alcohol kills over 120,000 people
every year ( ).Alcohol has been linked to men beating their wives and children. In
contrast, marijuana has a recorded history that dates back over 4000 years, and has
never killed anyone in the direct way alcohol does ( ). The DEA’s own
Administrative Law Judge, after reviewing the evidence, called marijuana “…one
of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man…” ( ).
It’s been said that the first casualty in any war is truth. That
sentiment is seen nowhere as clearly as in the war on drugs. The
government and special interests have been running this war for over 50
years now. The government ?spews propaganda as truth, to cover their collective
backsides, which creates distrust and unrest, and breeds
contempt and disrespect in our children? ( ). An example – We have uniformed
police officers coming into our classrooms telling kids that marijuana
is more dangerous than alcohol and at least if not more dangerous than
crack cocaine or heroin. History and scientific evidence prove that it is not. So if
the officer wasn’t being honest about marijuana, what else is the government lying
Worse yet, if marijuana is not that bad, maybe crack and heroin aren’t either.
Their are also some logical problems with supporting such a war. This is a free
country with over 10,000 miles of border and over 247 million inhabitants( ).There
is simply no way you can watch all of the people all of the time if we are to
continue with the freedoms we have. A large percentage of the drugs brought into
the country are brought in by people swallowing small balloons filled with pure
cocaine or heroin.
This is nearly impossible to prevent. There is no way you will ever be
able to eradicate drugs from this country without declaring martial
law, doing house-to-house searches and increasing border security
dramatically. Clearly, America would not submit to draconian polices.
The problem with drugs is not their effect, it is the corruption that
is tied to the huge profits that doing illegal business commands. Statistics show that
illegal drugs kill far less people than obesity – that is, an addiction to food ( ). So
why doesn?t America make Twinkies illegal? Increasing penalties for drug crimes
will just increase the prices and thereby the profits for people willing to take the
risk. Along with these profits will come increasing war in our neighborhoods as
gangs and dealers fight and kill for the enormous profits. Americans will never see
any of this money because, being illegal, it is not taxed. Supply is driven by
demand. As long as there are people that want to adjust their state of mind, there
will be someone to help them do it, and adjusting our state of mind is part of
human nature. There are many ways to regulate use of marijuana without simply
legalizing it. Our country must make a drastic change to model our laws after those
of other countries who are successfully regulating the use of marijuana.
Perhaps the fact that drugs are less taboo in the Netherlands lowers their
allure to citizens, or maybe the fact that they are forbidden in the United States
makes them more appealing to rebellious teenagers. Whatever the case, studies
almost mock the strictness of the anti-drug laws of the United States, as they show
them to be completely ineffective.
This summer I will have the opportunity to travel around Western Europe,
and among all of the places I visit, I find Amsterdam to be one the most intriguing.
Specifically, living in and watching a city function, in which drug use is considered
a health problem rather than a criminal issue, will be different than anything I have
ever seen. I have always been curious as to the extent of which the drug policy was
abused by the people of the Netherlands, in relation to the strictly enforced drug
policies of the United States. However, recent studies show that the use of both soft
drugs (marijuana, hashish, and mushrooms) and hard drugs (ecstasy, cocaine, and
heroine) are significantly lower in the Netherlands per percentage of the
population, than in the United States (Dutch Embassy). As a result, I find myself
questioning the United States of America?s ?War on Drugs?, and the money, time,
and work the Criminal Justice department devotes to enforcing a system of laws
that apparently are not working.
I have researched the city of Amsterdam quite extensively.. Among all of the
things I learned about the city, I found the city?s tolerance to sexual expression and
drug use remarkable. Rather than punishing citizens for their personal choice to use
cannabis products, the city uses coffee shops as places to ?separate marijuana
smokers from the under world? ( 12). These coffee shops are strictly licensed and
taxed, and not only serve as a convenient and respectable place to purchase and
smoke cannabis products, but also serve as a source of revenue for a booming city
(). The Dutch government takes a libertarian approach to human rights, in that it
believes that what citizens do with their own bodies is of no concern to the police
or the control of state. In accordance, the government runs an array of programs
that are considered unthinkable by the standards of American law. For example, the
Dutch government exchanges used syringes for clean ones to control the spread of
diseases among hard-core drug abusers. The Netherlands?s hands-on approach of
helping and dealing with hard drug abusers is a refreshing and different approach at
solving a seemingly uncontrollable problem, especially after watching the United
States condemn and shun those citizens who have lost control of their lives.
The result of the Netherlands tolerant society is astonishing, as its citizens do
not abuse their freedom. According to a survey by the Center for Drug Research at
the University of Amsterdam, ?only two to three percent of Dutch over the age of
twelve 12 had used marijuana over a one-month period? (Media Awareness
Project). In contrast, in the United States, ?a 1996 government study concluded
around five percent of the population used the drug at least once a month? (Media
Awareness Project). Other studies concluded that United States high school seniors
use cannabis almost six percent more than high school seniors from Amsterdam
(Drug Policy and Crime Statistics). Overall, these studies showed a significantly
greater abuse of cannabis by people under the age of eighteen in the United States,
than in the Netherlands (Drug Policy and Crime Statistics). In addition, not only is
hard and soft drug use significantly lower in Amsterdam, crime is also considerably
lower in Netherlands. Both the United States murder rate, and crime related deaths,
average around eight times more than that of the Netherlands (Drug Policy and
Crime Statistics). Meanwhile, the United States spends fifty-four dollars more per
capita on drug related law enforcement (Drug Policy and Crime Statistics). This is
alarming, as these figures depict ?The War on Drugs? as a waste of money and
Is there really a ?War on Drugs? in America. Well, let?s compare our ?War
on Drugs? to a protypical war fought between two conflicting powers. In a war,
two opposing sides have soldiers. In this case, The US has police, DEA, Customs
Agents, Swat Teams, and Special Task Forces to name a few. What does the enemy
have? Better yet, who is the enemy? Well, the enemy is our own people. Eighty
percent of drug arrest are for personal use. The people arrested have careers,
families, and in most cases are otherwise law abiding and tax paying citizens. It is
well known that wars cost money. The ?War on Drugs? is no exception, annually
costing eighteen billion dollars federally and fifty billion dollars nationally (). In a
war, both sides feel justified, but are willing to negotiate. In the ?War on Drugs?,
both sides feel justified, but one is not willing to negotiate. War always prisoners
on both sides. However, in this war, only one side takes prisoners. Seven-hundred
thousand are locked up every year( ). Wars are traditionally fought on
battlegrounds. The ?War on Drugs? is fought on our streets and effects our
children. The war is not against drugs, but is against our Human Rights as defined
in The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution.
The Declaration of Independence states that we have “unalienable rights” and
the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the US Constitution state that there are other
rights than those listed in the “Bill of Rights” and that those powers that the people
did not expressly give to the government still belong to the people. The people
retain their inalienable rights as they have not given the government the power to
act as their moral dictator.
Further, the principle of inalienable rights, one of the principles upon which
this nation was founded, tells us by logic that property rights are the most
important rights we have. If we do not have the inalienable right to own property
then we ourselves are slaves to those who do. If we do have the right to own
property than we have the right to use that property as we see fit, so long as we do
not harm others by such use. If we do not have the right to use our property as we
see fit, then the ownership of that property is a sham; it means nothing and we are
in fact slaves.
Our most basic property is ourselves, that is, our bodies and our minds. If we
are not slaves to the government (or to those who control the government) then we
have the inalienable right to use our bodies and our minds as we wish, even if it
harms us, just so long as we do not harm others or their property. This fact, in a
truly liberty-loving society, is not debatable, it is a given and cannot legitimately be
taken from us, otherwise there is no true liberty, no free society, just a society of
slaves or quasi-slaves.
Marks, Alexandra. ?US is losing the War on Drugs.? The Christian Science Monitor 5
Jan 2000: 1-2.
?Going Dutch?.? The Economist (US). 15 Jan 2000, 55-57.
Massing, Michael. ?Beyond Legalization.? The Nation 20 Sept 1999: 19-21
MacCoun, Robert J., Reuter, Peter. ?Does Europe Do It Better?.? The Nation 20 Sept
?Drug Policy and Crime Statistics.? Dutch Embassy. 6 Aug 1998.
?The Netherlands: Dutch Marijuana Use Lower Than US.? Media Awareness Project.
16 Apr 1998. (http://www.mapinc.org/).