Term Paper: Drug Legalization

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Drug Legalization

As the country was turning into the 20th century, drugs that were in the market were largely unregulated. There were medical remedies that often contained derivatives of cocaine and heroin. These were freely distributed over-the-counter without a prescription and without the consumer being much aware of which drugs were more potent and which were not. There was a caveat emptor attitude towards the use of medical tonics which could have led to the difference between life and death. This is what led to the war on drugs that led to the implementation of drug regulations. However, these drug regulations have since come of age and they need to be removed.

History of the war on drugs

The war on drugs began in the year 1914 when there was the Opening Salvo. The Supreme Court ruled in the year 1886 that state governments were not able to regulate interstate commerce. Additionally, the federal government which had skimpy law enforcement focused mainly on counterfeiting and other major crimes committed against the state. Therefore, they initially did very little to pick up the slack. However, in the early years of the 20th century, all this changed. There was the invention of automobiles that made interstate crime and the investigation of interstate crime to be more practicable Jones 299()

Before the 1970s, drug abuse was seen by many policymakers to primarily be a social disease that could be easily addressed with the use of treatment. After the year 1970, drug abuse was seen majorly by policymakers and primarily as a problem of law enforcement which could be addressed with the use of criminal justice policies that were aggressive Jones 300()

When the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was added to the federal law enforcement in the year 1973, this was a significant step in a positive direction of an approach that was oriented towards a criminal justice for enforcement of drug. With the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of the year 1970 being the formal declaration of the war on drugs, the DEA became its soldiers Jones 300()

In 1986, powdered cocaine was the champagne of all drugs. It was closely associated with the white yuppies than the other drugs that were in the imagination of the public. Heroin was closely associated with African-Americans while marijuana was associated with the Mexicans and Latinos. There then came crack which was a processed form of cocaine. It was sold at a price that the non-yuppies could afford Jones 300()

In 1994, the U.S. introduced the death penalty for drug kingpins to help curb the menace of drugs. Previously, the death penalty was reserved for offenses that involve taking another person's life. However, capital punishment was banned for cases of rape and federal death penalty could be applied to cases of treason or espionage. The bill to include a provision for federal execution for drug kingpins was setup by Senator Joe Biden in his 1994, Omnibus Crime Bill. This indicated that the war on drugs had reached an ultimate high and was ranked at the same level as murder and treason Venturelli 80()

There was a medicine show in the year 2001 which placed a thin line between legal and illegal drugs. It stated that narcotics were illegal except when they are processed for use as prescription drugs. Prescription narcotics can also be deemed to be illegal if the person who is in possession of them hasn't been given any prescription. This is a good measure that provides precariousness that is not necessarily confusing Venturelli 80()

In the year 2009, the drug policy coordinator for Obama's administration, Gil Kerlikowske nicknamed "drug czar," led a call to an end to the war on drugs. His was an attempt to rebrand the antidrug efforts of the federal government into efforts that simply reduce the harm caused by these drugs. He was then promoted to Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) since Obama shared in his vision that the war on drugs had become counter-productive. "Drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated... making drugs more available will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe." Venturelli 81()

To date, the Obama administration has actualized many drug policies into enforcement but these have just slightly differed from those of the Bush administration. The war on drugs has, however, remained to be a rhetorical convention since it is impossible to declare a war on inanimate objects, moods, social phenomena and abstraction. The good thing is that it is a rhetorical convention that has been accepted and has determined the way the country views the enforcement of drug policy thus acknowledging that the war is actually an initiative of policy rather than a war. This is the basis of eliminating the war on drugs as spelt out by Gil Kerlikowske Venturelli 82()

For argument

The war on drugs has failed

There are many reasons why the war on drugs needs to be stopped. First is that the war has failed globally and not just in the U.S. This was evidenced in the Global Commission on Drug policy in their 2011 report which stated that the war on drugs had failed.

"The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and years after President Nixon launched the U.S. government's war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed." The Global Commission on Drug Policy 24()

The report received a widespread praise and criticism from organizations that were opposed to a general legalization of drugs. Two weeks after the report was released, former president Jimmy Carter wrote an article in the New York Times where he explicitly endorsed the initiative of the commission. He stated that the federal government of the U.S. spent well over 15 billion dollars on the war on drugs at a rate of roughly $500 per second Nadelmann 30()

Sentencing disparities

As a result of there being disparities in the sentencing of offenders caught with different drugs, it represents the lack of fair justice for these crimes. The 100:1 ratio for crack to powdered cocaine was the first to be challenged. In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act cut the disparity in sentencing to 18:1 the Washington Post ()

. Therefore, there is a need to review the crack to powdered cocaine sentencing to reflect the new act that was implemented.

Additionally, statistics on crime and sentencing show that in the year 2009, African-Americans were more likely to get arrested for crimes related to drugs and that they received stiffer penalties and sentences that the other minority groups. The statistics also showed that such events were more likely to happen in areas that had high levels of minority crimes such as city projects and low income housing neighborhoods Human Rights Watch ()

In 1998, the statistics also showed huge racial disparities in arrests, sentencing, prosecution and penalties for drug crimes. The statistics showed that African-American users of drugs made up about 35% of the drug arrests, 55% of the convictions and 74% of those who were sent to prison for drug crimes. Nationally, members of the African-American race were sent to prison an average of 13 times more often than members of other races. This when compared to the statistic that African-Americans only account for 13% of the regular drug users shows that there are huge disparities in sentencing and thus the war on drugs was not a fair process the Washington Post ()

The anti-drug legislation in place has also been noted to be racially biased. A professor at the University of Minnesota, Michael Tonry wrote that:

"The War on Drugs foreseeably and unnecessarily blighted the lives of hundreds and thousands of young disadvantaged black Americans and undermined decades of effort to improve the life chances of members of the urban black underclass." Tonry 82()

This bias becomes clear when looking at the antidrug legislation during the modern, post-civil rights era.

In the year 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson made a decision that the government needed to make efforts to curtail the social unrest that had blanketed the country during this time. His efforts were focused towards the illegal use of drugs. While this may look like an initiative that is unrelated to the war on drugs, it was in line with the opinion of experts on this issue at that time. It came from the belief that about 50% of the crimes that were conducted in the U.S. In the 1960s were related to drugs and this number had grown to 90% within a decade Inciardi 286.

He, therefore, created the Reorganization Plan of the year 1968 which merged the Bureau of Narcotics with the Bureau of Drug Abuse thus forming the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs which was in the Department of Justice (DoJ) Whitford and Yates 40.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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