United States Government Has Been Engaged Research Paper

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¶ … United States government has been engaged in what has been characterized as a "War on Drugs" for several decades (Suddath, 2009). Yet, as the violence surrounding the production and sale of drugs increases in locations such Mexico and Brazil an International Global Commission on Drug Policy has concluded that the United States' war on drugs is not working (Global Commission on Drug Policy). The Commission went even further by insisting that the United States and other nations involved in the war on drugs engage themselves in frank discussions regarding the issue and to consider legalizing certain drugs such as marijuana. Unfortunately, even if the United States would consider the Commission's recommendations, drug laws in the United States are primarily the province of the individual states, and it is highly questionable whether the federal government's intervention provides much additional protection and whether the government's involvement might actually be counterproductive.

The United States has made prior attempts at controlling the social activities of its citizen. In the 1920's, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation that attempted to prohibit the use of alcohol. The government experiment was a miserable failure and contributed to creating more problems than it ever solved. The experiment lasted just over a decade and Congress, recognizing its mistake, repealed prohibition in 1933 (Encylopedia Brittannica, 2011).Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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This situation presently facing the federal government in regard to the control of recreational drug usage and sale in the United States mirrors, in many regards, what the government tried to do through its involvement with Prohibition. The government's involvement in drug control has likely been more vigorous than any of its attempts during Prohibition. During the entire period of Prohibition the U.S. government spent only $88 million dollars in its attempts to enforce the law. This amount, which in present day dollars converts to $1 billion dollars, pales in comparison to what the U.S. government spends on drug enforcement. On an average, the United States spends about $12 billion. This amount is in addition to whatever the individual states spend on enforcement (White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, 2003).

It can be argued that this amount may be reasonable if such efforts are resulting in a significance decrease in drug usage and sales and there are some who argue that this is indeed the case. Total arrests related to drug usage, sale and production total over 1.5 million a year and the number of persons being incarcerated for drug offenses are far more than the number being incarcerated for other type crimes. The prisons are so full of persons charged with drug offenses that over 50% of all inmates are there because of their involvement with drugs (National Institute of Justice, 2009).

Conversely, however, the fact that our prisons are full of drug offenders has seemingly had little effect on the number of individuals using and abusing drugs, the number of persons selling drugs, or the occurrence of crimes related to crime usage, sales and production. Usage among youth, despite a massive federal effort to discourage such usage, has been largely ineffective. Most recent statistics indicate that marijuana usage among high school age students remains prevalent and that up to 82% of all students find marijuana either "fairly easy" or "very easy" to obtain (Frone, 2000).

The information on drug usage is not encouraging but the information regarding the increase in crime related to drugs is even more discouraging. The information is so discouraging in fact that many political leaders are calling for the end of federal involvement in drug enforcement (Webb, 2009).

The federal law that has been front and center in the federal government's involvement in drug enforcement for many years is the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (Controlled Substance). The Act expanded the federal government's role in drug enforcement and changed the interaction between the federal government and the states relative to drug control.

The federal government's decision, however, to enter into the area of drug enforcement has forced it into an area that was never intended. Drug activity generates high levels of related crime activity. This activity is generated because addicts need to pay for their habit. In their attempts to do so, involvement in the black market is inevitable. Differences in the black market are not settled in the courts but in the streets. As a result, federal drug enforcement officials find themselves involved less with drug enforcement and more involved in other crimes.

As a result of the Controlled Substances Act, the federal government has dedicated itself to employing over 10,000 individuals at various levels to assist in the enforcement of the provisions of the Act (Drug Enforcement Admininstration, 1999). These resources, in the aftermath of the events of 9/11, could be more efficiently used in other areas of law enforcement. Instead of having federal officers investigating the importation and sale of marijuana, they might be better utilized searching for terrorists.

Like many federal programs the War on Drugs may represent a situation where the money being spent is an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money. Like many federally created bureaucracies the drug enforcement effort has become an exercise in self-perpetuation. Instead of existing because of a need it exists in order to protect the organization. The budget over the years has been maintained at the same lever or greater in order to maintain the operation despite overwhelming evidence that federal involvement in the process has done little, if anything, to lessen the problems presented by drug enforcement.

The federal government's involvement in drug enforcement has, like it did during the period of prohibition, caused the increased growth in a criminal underground. Like the bootleggers of the 1930's, cocaine and marijuana kingpins have emerged as cultural heroes and made millionaires out of individuals who would otherwise be considered common criminals. The legalizing of the drugs that the government is spending billions to control through criminal justice means would be more efficiently controlled through more conventional means. It would also open the opportunity for legitimate businesses to profit from such sales creating not only a source of legal income for thousands but also generate tax dollars in the form of licensing, sales tax, and income tax. Instead of a complete outflow of money as presently exists where the drugs are treated as illegal a new system could be developed where the same drugs would serve as a money generating system for the government.

The legalization of drugs of certain drugs now considered illegal, such as marijuana, would have a spiral effect on the nation's economy. As already pointed out, it would open up a whole new industry that would be profitable for not only entrepreneurs, but also for local, state and federal governments. This, however, is only the beginning.

The legalization of drugs would curtail substantially the growth of crime and the nature of crime in the nation's cities. Presently, a great degree of the crime is related to the illegal drug trade. Making the drugs legal would reduce the influence of the criminal element presently engaged in the sale, transportation, and production of the illegal drugs. There will also remain a sector of society that is involved in the black marketing of nearly every consumer product but making the drugs available through legal means will reduce the number of individuals profiting from the drugs. Collaterally, the various crimes associated with these illegal drugs will also decrease. The crimes of theft, prostitution, assault, and even murder have a high correlation with the illegal drug industry and, like the decrease in crime resulting in the repeal of Prohibition, a similar downturn could be expected

Assuming that a downturn in collateral criminal activity would result one must only add in the fact that the decriminalization of the sale of the formerly illegal drugs would combine to drastically reduce the number of individuals being housed in our nation's prisons. Presently, over 50% of the inmates in the federal prison system are there for drug related crimes and so it is easy to see the impact that legalization would have on these numbers.

In a related public policy concern involving the legalization of certain drugs is the impact that such legalization could have on the treatment of individuals with cancer and other medical conditions involving severe and debilitating pain. Marijuana has been demonstrated to be an effective therapeutic tool in the treatment of not only pain but also nausea. The National Institute of Health has also found it be helpful in improving the appetite of AIDS and cancer patients. Yet, there remains considerable opposition to its use even in these situations (National Cancer Society, 1999). Over 70% of doctors polled said they would prescribe marijuana for use by their patients if it was legal but in the majority of states this is not possible because of its illegality. Its illegality continues primarily because of public policy considerations. Public policy considerations that are so strong as to support federal agents continuing to conduct raids on medical marijuana clinics even in jurisdictions… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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