Drug Policy American Research Paper

Pages: 10 (3213 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Sports - Drugs


The United States has spent a great deal of money on all phases of the "war" to try and make sure that drugs do not come into the county, or, at least, that they do not come into the country in the amounts that they have. Douglas Husak offers some figures associated with the war on drugs.

In 2000 the United States spent 40 billion dollars on prisons and jails.

By 2000 approximately 460,000 drug offenders were incarcerated.

About 58% of all federal inmates are incarcerated for drug offences.

Prison terms, for drug offences have increased from an average of sixty-two months to an average of seventy-four months from 1984 to 1999.

From 1980 to 1997, the number of non-violent offenders in state prisons tripled.

28% of all offenders sent to state prisons were convicted of simple possession and use (45).

First of all these figures show that the United States has become a prison state. The other issue is how much it costs to keep all of these people incarcerated. Since the sentence for a non-violent offender has jumped to over six years on average (and that was in 1999) it costs a more to house and feed these people. That says nothing of the people it takes to guard them or of the courts system and law enforcement personnel it takes to put them there. Many billions of dollars is spent annually at the local, state and federal levels to incarcerate people who did nothing worse than take a drug recreationally. It must be remembered that many of these people were not imprisoned for selling drugs to others.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on Drug Policy American Drug Policy: Assignment

The costs could be the worse part of this equation. Business people have to turn a profit if they want to stay afloat. The reason for this is that no one is going to give them a free hand out, they have to be able to produce good products and present them with good customer service. Unfortunately, this is not the way the government works. The war on drugs is perfect illustration of the way the minds in charge of the federal government work. For many years citizens were told that the reason that there is so much crime is that people are taking illicit drugs and they cannot control themselves (Blumenson & Nilsen). When these people are out of control because of the drugs they commit heinous crimes, or they commit heinous crimes because they want to procure money to purchase more drugs. While this is true to a very small extent, it does not have the impact on violent crime that it is supposed to (Lynch 23). Because the average citizen was frightened by these outlandish claims and the oversimplification of the problem, drug offences gained a lot more attention from law makers, and the sentences became much stiffer. Congress also realized it had a "mandate" to stop these illicit drugs from coming into the United States, so a drug war was declared and hundreds of billions of dollars that could have been used elsewhere were funneled into the war (Husak 167). If the government were to commission a true cost-benefit analysis, they would see that what they have gotten for their money has not justified even a tenth of the expense.

Besides actual monetary cost though there is the personal cost of the war. As mentioned above, figures prove that incarceration for drug offenses accounts for more than 50% of the people incarcerated in jails and prisons today. This means that there are twice as many people in prison for drug offences presently than there were in the total U.S. prison population in 1980 (Husak 45). The drug laws have been a failure to America's young people, and especially to those of color. Research indicates that the ratio of convicted criminals who are in jail or prison due to a drug offense are more than three times to be Black or Hispanic than White (Thornhill). This seems like racial profiling, but there have been no reputable studies that have found evidence of that. What it does say is that it is easier to arrest a young person hanging out on the street of the inner city for a small bag of weed than it is to go into someone's house in the suburbs and find the same thing. Meaning that the war on drugs against U.S. citizens is as much a war on poverty as it is with drugs (Thornhill).

The Revenue of Legalization

One argument that can be made in favor of legalizing marijuana that even politicians can get behind is one which enables them to spend more money. The government has been enacting what have become popularly known as "sin" taxes for many years. Alcohol has been regulated and taxed since the U.S. came into being, tobacco is now taxed at an exorbitant rate because it is known to be a health hazard. Many different products and activities are taxed at a greater rate because part of the population believes that if a less morally secure part of the population is going to indulge in them, they should be taxed for that use. It makes sense in some case because of the monetary damage that is done to society. The large tort cases against tobacco companies went forward because lawyers and the government saw a way to make a lot of money. If this same argument was used for marijuana, it would make sense to legalize it.

The following chart shows the current rates at which alcohol in different amounts and tobacco are taxed in the United States (from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau).



TAX PER PACKAGE (usually to nearest cent)


Barrel (31 gallons)

12 oz. can

Regular Rate



Reduced Rate

$7 on first 60,000 barrels for brewer who produces less than 2 million barrels.

$18 per barrel after the first 60,000 barrels.



Wine Gallon

750 ml bottle

14% Alcohol or Less



Over 14 to 21%



Over 21 to 24%



Naturally Sparkling



Artificially Carbonated



Hard Cider



(1 $0.90 credit, or for hard cider $0.056, may be available for the first 100,000 gallons removed by a small winery producing not more than 150,000 w.g. per year. Decreasing credit rates for a winery producing up to 250,000 w.g. per year.)

Distilled Spirits

Proof Gallon *

750 ml Bottle


$13.50 less any credit for wine and flavor content.

$2.14 (at 80 proof)

* A proof gallon is a gallon of liquid that is 100 proof, or 50% alcohol. The tax is adjusted, depending on the percentage of alcohol of the product.

Tobacco Products

1000 units

Pack of 20

Small Cigarettes



Large Cigarettes



Small Cigars



Tobacco Products

1000 units


Large Cigars

52.75% of sales price but not to exceed $402.60 per 1,000

$0.40 maximum

Alcohol is taxed a relatively normal rate that increases as the percentage of alcohol in the drink increases. Thus beer is taxed less than wine which is less than distilled spirits. However, the tax on a pack of cigarettes has steadily raised over the past two decades as people have come to realize just how dangerous they are and how costly they are from a healthcare standpoint. The largest tax is on large cigarettes and cigars. This also seems to correspond to the amount of tobacco used to make the product.

Marijuana could be controlled in the same fashion and that would add a great deal of money to every state's general fund (or wherever they designate these funds should go. By controlling and regulating the legal sale of marijuana it could also be made safer because inferior product would not be on the streets. The tar content could also be regulated as it is with cigarettes. Besides the tax revenue, the legalization of marijuana would prove to be a boon to the healthcare industry and it would allow the U.S. To stop the war on drugs which has had such deleterious financial and social effects on the country.


Many would say that the legalization of marijuana is fraught with problems such as the same financial and social costs that it would likely save. The only issue is that it is a program that would have to be well thought out and it is a product that would have to be controlled by the government. However, it would not be any more difficult than it has been to regulate and control alcohol and tobacco for decades. As a matter of fact all it would take would be for the ATF to add an M. To their jackets and letter head.

The only reason that marijuana has not been legalized in the past is that it is considered a gateway to other, harder… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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