War on Drugs a Losing and Costly Battle Research Paper

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War on Drugs: a Losing and Costly Battle

Until 100 years ago, drugs were considered as simply a commodity. It wasn't until the Western cultural shifts that drugs became known as immoral and deviant. Religious movements led the crusades against drugs when in 1904 an Episcopal bishop, who while returning from a mission in the Far East argued for banning opium after observing "the natives" moral degeneration. The New York Times reported in 1914, that cocaine caused African-Americans to commit "violent crimes," and that it made them resistant to police bullets. In the decades that followed, drugs became synonymous with evil. It was from this views that President Nixon declared the War on Drugs.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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In the late 1960s, the recreational drug use became more fashionable among young, white, middle-class Americans. The social stigmatization which was previously associated with drugs became less as their use became more main-stream. Drug use became more representative of protest and social rebellion in the era's atmosphere of political unrest (Huggins, 27).The Congress established, in 1932, a unit in the Treasury Department called the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) which was charged with the enforcement of federal anti-opiate and cocaine laws. At the same time, the functions of the Federal Narcotics Control Board and Narcotics Division were consolidated by the Congress (Lurigio, Rabinowitz and Lenik, 10). The FBN, during its history managed to establish offices in France, Italy, Turkey, Lebanon, Thailand and other centers of international narcotics. Its agents cooperated with local drug enforcement agencies in gathering intelligence on smugglers and made local arrests while undercover arrests (Lurigio, Rabinowitz and Lenik, 10). The 1930s saw the spread of anti-marijuana sentiment sweeping the whole nation and jazz musicians were vilified for their use of drug. Young people were discouraged and warned against marijuana's potent effects on mood and behavior (Lurigio, Rabinowitz and Lenik, 11). Nearly 30 states passed legislation which prohibited the use of marijuana between 1915 and 1937. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 regulated marijuana in a way similar to opiates and cocaine. Physicians prescribing it and druggists selling it were to register with the Internal Revenue Service and also pay annual taxes (Lurigio, Rabinowitz and Lenik, 11).

The Bureau of Drug Abuse Control (BDAC) was established in 1966 under the auspices of the Food and Drug Administration. Its primary purpose was to monitor the sale and distribution of stimulants like amphetamine and hallucinogens such as LSD (Lurigio, Rabinowitz and Lenik, 13). The FBN and BDAC were consolidated under the Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs by President Johnson in 1968. President Nixon declared war on drugs four decades ago and since then, more Americans have become drug users and abusers and the rate of drug related violence has increased significantly (AP). The Associated Press estimates that the United States has spent approximately $1 trillion and has lost thousands of lives in its bid to curb drug trafficking and use. Drug use has become more rampant and drug related violence has become more brutal and widespread.

In the 1970s, hippies were smoking pot and dropping acid and soldiers who were returning home from Vietnam came back hooked on heroin. It was as a result of this that President Nixon declared war on drugs and signed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. The main purpose of the law was to place the manufacture, importation, distribution and possession of certain psychoactive as well as other substances under federal authority and regulation. The legislation created five schedules, I through V which categorized drugs as per their medical use and potential for abuse. The schedules were also arranged in ascending order of approved medical use and in descending order of potential for abuse in the United States (Lurigio, Rabinowitz and Lenik, 14).

The war on drugs is a costly one because as time goes by, the more the money allocated to the cause. The first drug-fighting budget was $100 million. The same budget currently stands at $15.1 billion which is, even after it is adjusted for inflation, 31 times more than the amount that Mr. Nixon set up (AP). The Associated Press claims that the United States repeatedly increased its budgets for programs that did little to stop the flow of drugs. Over the past 40 years, $20 billion of taxpayers' money has been spent in fighting the drug gangs in their home countries. The United States spent more than $6 billion while coca cultivation increased and trafficking as well as the violence moved to Mexico. $33 billion was used in marketing messages to the American youth and other preventive programs. High school students report the same rates of illegal drug use as it was in the 70s while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug overdoses have steadily risen to more than 20,000 in the past year. $49 billion has been used on law enforcement along the borders of America in a bid to cut off the flow of illegal drugs. Approximately 25 million Americans will snort, swallow, inject and smoke illicit drugs, according to the Associated Press, which is about 10 million more than it was back in the 70s with the bulk of those drugs being imported from Mexico.

$121 billion has been used in arresting more than 37 million non-violent drug offenders of whom, approximately 10 million of them were in possession of marijuana. There have been studies which show that time spent in jail tends to increase drug abuse. This is because incarceration attenuates the inmates' connection to other social institutions and to people outside the penal system. Through participation in criminal activities embeds people in social networks with few opportunities for legitimate employments. It is for this reason that time spent serving sentences in prison strengthens bonds one has to illegitimate social networks which provide few avenues for legal employment (Lurigio, Rabinowitz and Lenik, 30). There was $450 billion was used in locking the people who were arrested in prisons. In the last year, half of all federal prisoners in the United States were serving sentences for drug offenses.

The other way in which the war on drugs is proving to be costly is with relation to the consequences of drug abuse. The Justice Department estimates the consequences of drug abuse costs the nation, in this case the United States $215 billion annually. This is due to expenses incurred in the justice system being overburdened, the health care system being strained, environmental destruction and loss in productivity. According to Lurigio, Rabinowitz and Lenik, there are different types of human capital are necessary for participation in the workforce and are related to different economic outcomes with similarly different types of social networks afford people with various levels of access to jobs and other social opportunities like housing and education. Prison related employment interruptions hamper the former inmates' ability to acquire relevant job skills. The human capital which the former inmates are likely to provide decrease as job training and education programs are eliminated in prisons and government-funded educational loans for prisoners are reduced (Lurigio, Rabinowitz and Lenik, 30). Social capital is also lost through incarceration by attenuating the prisoners' connections to other social institutions and to people who are outside the penal system. Through their participation in criminal activities, people are embedded in social networks which offer few opportunities for legitimate ways of earning a living. Imprisonment strengthens bonds to illegitimate social networks which lead to few avenues for legal employment (Lurigio, Rabinowitz and Lenik, 31).

The war on drugs is a losing one due to a number of factors. Amongst them is that at every stage from production to the supply of drugs, someone stands an opportunity to make more money as compared to the amount one can make while in legal work. For instance, in the central-western canyons of Chihuahua, a Mexican border state, the peasants have no choice but to cultivate marijuana on their own land for 300 pesos per kilo. This is made possible by the presence of secret landing strips and vertical mountain plots. Pilots who deliver the cargo to the United States border, which is a few hundred meters to the north, pay the farmers themselves. The plane crews obtain approximately 5,000 pesos per kilo for their work. Marijuana is more profitable than any crop that is grown legally in a countryside that, besides its beauty, is not meant for human living (Castaneda, 1999). The risks involved in the transportation of the crop are virtually nil on the Mexican border, therefore making the profit margins huge. A small single-engine plane can carry up to half a ton of marijuana. With about dozens of 200 to 300 meter strips in the particular region, the planes fly low so as to avoid detection by radar, balloons or other mechanisms of surveillance. At the border, the cargo is offloaded onto trucks, cars, buses and nearly anything which moves on to the north, east and west into the United States. This is a tough and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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