William SobolewskiMrs.HedgesSeminar English 3-4January 2018It is Time to End The War on DrugsNearly half a century ago, United States President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse to be the largest issue to the general public. This started a never before seen international crusade known as, “The War on Drugs”.
Today we have come to know the war on drugs has been an all around failure. It has led to mass incarceration within the US; corruption, political destabilization, violence in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, as well as general human rights abuses across the globe. It is easy to say that it has negatively affected the lives of millions of people. Yet we continue to waste billions of dollars every year, only to create and fuel powerful drug cartels.
Today, the goal of a world without drugs looks less possible than ever. How could this happen?The main strategy of the War on Drugs has been, “no drugs, no problems”. So, the majority of efforts in the last few decades, have been focused on eradicating the supply of drugs and incarcerating drug offenders. In theory this seems like an effective plan, but this ignores the most fundamental of market strategies: supply and demand. If you reduce the supply of anything without reducing the demand first, the price will go up. This might lower sales for a plethora of other products, but not for something as addicting as drugs. The market for drugs is not highly price-sensitive, and drugs will be obtained and consumed no matter what they cost. In the 1970’s, the US Government attempted to halt production of Methamphetamine by strictly regulating the sale of chemicals used to manufacture the drug.
This forced big meth producers out of business, but the inadvertent consequence was thousands of small, home based operations sprouted all over the country, mostly in small towns and rural communities. They were using chemicals that weren’t regulated to work around restricting laws. In response to this, some US states wanted to reduce the supply of homemade meth by regulating even more chemicals, which reduced small-scale meth production drastically. In spite of this, the supply of meth still remained the same. Mexican drug cartels immediately took over the drug supply in the US and opened large-scale operations.
Their meth was higher quality than it was before, and they had lots of experience in smuggling. So all these efforts to stop drug production resulted in; meth production becoming more professional and supply not being reduced at all. This war can not be won on the supply side. Drugs are widely available, demand is increasing, and some drugs are purer than in the past. The US Drug Enforcement Agency, with a budget of around $30 billion, has a success rate of less than 1% when it comes to stopping the flow of drugs into and inside the US. For many children around the world, it is as easy to get illegal drugs as it is to obtain alcohol. Prohibition may prevent a certain amount of people from legally consuming drugs, but in the process it causes immense damage to society as a whole. Problems we associate with drug use are in actuality caused by the war against them.
For example, the prohibition of drugs has made them stronger. It was the same during alcohol prohibition, people began to store as much alcohol into small spaces as they could. This led to an increased consumption of strong liquor over beer.
The prohibition of drugs has also led to more violence and murders around the world. Gangs and cartels do not have access to the legal system to settle disputes, so they use violence. This has led to an ever-increasing rate of violent crimes. According to some estimates, the homicide rate in the US is 25–75% higher since the beginning of the War on Drugs. In Mexico, an estimated 164,000 have been murdered between 2007 and 2014 over drug disputes, more people than in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq in the same period combined.6 But where the War on Drugs does the most damage to society is the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders.The United States has 5% of the world’s total population, but 25% of the world’s prison population, largely due to the harsh punishments and mandatory minimums.
Minorities suffer because of this especially. African Americans make up 40% of all US prison inmates, and while caucasian kids are statistically more likely to abuse drugs, African American kids are 10 times more likely to get arrested for drug offenses (data adjusted to population percentage). Is there actually something different we could do? Is there a way out of this mess? In the 1980s, Portugal experienced a public health crisis related to heroin use. HIV rates skyrocketed and street crime became a serious problem.
Authorities tried a new strategy: the decriminalization of drug use. They opened free heroin maintenance centers, where addicts would be treated and stabilized without facing the risk of imprisonment. Here, people would be given free heroin of high quality, while addicts and users could receive clean needles and have access to safe injection rooms, showers, beds, and medical supervision. Social workers help them find housing and deal with other obstacles in their lives. The results were a sharp drop in drug-related crime and two thirds of the people in the centers got regular jobs, because they could now focus on getting better, instead of financing their addiction. Today, over 70% of all heroin addicts in Portugal receive treatment. HIV infections have dropped drastically. Drug-related street sex work and crime has been reduced enormously.
Now, Portugal has one of the lowest drug related death counts in all of Europe.So there are methods that are not only far cheaper, but actually work instead of creating more problems. Drug prohibition is currently a flawed system that infringes basic human rights, is highly expensive, and creates a lot of misery, all in pursuit of a virtually unattainable goal.
After 40 years of fighting, it’s time to finally end the War on Drugs and move on to something better for our country.