The War on Drugs began in 1971 under the direction of President Nixon. The “War on Drugs” was the idea that drugs were bad, and that we need to make them harder to get. This made it more of a war on the drug supply. Due to the war on drugs, law enforcement, federal agencies, and the United States military increased their efforts to combat illicit drugs.
I, by no means, disagree with the initial idea that drugs are bad for people and that there is a drug problem. However, I do not agree with the idea of the war on supply. To curtail any problem, you must look at it backwards. By this I mean look at the drug abusers first. By fixing the problem from the bottom up you will eventually curtail the supply because nobody will want to use the drugs. This idea was evident with the “Just say no” program initiated in the 1980’s.
The war on supply was too big of a goal to achieve. The global drug trade is very difficult to measure. A study published in 2013 found that despite efforts to limit the supply of drugs, prices have fallen, and the purity has increased (Chabaldi, 2016). Between 1990 and 2007, the cost of heroin fell by 80%, the cost of cocaine fell by 80% and the cost of marijuana fell by 85%. This idea shows a failure in the war on supply. When you lower the supply the cost usually goes up.
According to a 2011 report by Global Financial Integrity, illegal global drug activities are worth an estimated $320 billion dollars a year. The first failure in the war on drugs is the
The Failure on the War on Drugs
monetary cost incurred by the United States. The war on drugs started 47 years ago. In that time the U.S. has spent over one trillion dollars on interdiction and still spends on average an annual cost of $51 billion dollars.
The second failure of the war on drugs is the increase in arrestees. Some may view this as a positive direction for the war on drugs, but we must remember that it is a war on supply, not a war on users. This idea proves again that we must start from the bottom up and offer treatment and alternatives to drug use. In 1980 there were 500,000 people in jails and prisons in America. By 2010 that number jumped to 2.3 million with almost 51% of federal inmates in jail for drug offenses (Li, 2012). In 2016 there were 1.5 million people arrested for drug violations with 84% of those being for possession. We must also remember that very few prisons offer drug rehabilitation treatment. We put them in jail and didn’t fix the drug using behavior.
The drug laws also had a greater impact on society and the U.S. economy. These laws have had a long-term effect on lot of people. Along with jail time for a drug crime, a person also gets penalized for the rest of their lives. If you have ever filled out an application for financial aid or for a job then you know what I mean. Each year approximately 60,000 students get denied financial aid due to a drug conviction (Lederman, 2015). Also, many employers will not hire you if you have had a prior drug offense conviction.
Another failure of the war on drugs is the global impact that it has created. Since 2006, 85,000 people in Mexico have been killed due to the rise of cartels from the drug trade. This is due to the increased United States pressure on the Mexican government to stop the supply of drugs coming from Colombia to Mexico and then across the border to the U.S. Between 2008 and 2014 the United States gave Mexico $2.4 billion dollars for
The Failure on the War on Drugs
this effort. The United States also gave the governments of Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and Brazil almost $1 billion dollars because the drugs that entered through the Mexican border had at some point travelled through their borders. The United States also gave 15 Caribbean nations $400 million dollars and West Africa $60 million dollars to reduce drug trafficking to the U.S.
Another failure on the war on drugs was during the war in Afghanistan. The United States Department of Defense has spent billions of dollars fighting the war on drugs in Afghanistan due to drugs funding terrorism. From the start of the war the United States supported the idea of the elimination of opium, but the U.S. military also supported the drug warlords who were helping them to fight the Taliban. Then the United States began to actively combat the growing of opium inside the country. The United States continues to provide financial assistance for the eradication of Afghanistan opium. Despite the United States military, the cultivation of poppy in Afghanistan has tripled from 2002 and 2013. Afghanistan officials used the United States funding and began to eliminate the smaller opium farms but left the bigger farms intact. The Taliban began to realize this and became heavily involved in the funding of poppy fields. They later became involved in the exportation the heroin. The Taliban would also offer protection to the smaller poppy farmers. The United States attempt to destroy the opium trade in Afghanistan eventually led to the resurgence of the Taliban enabling them to generate between almost $400 million per year in profit. The United States then pushed for the criminalization of growing poppy. Opium farming employs approximately 500,000 Afghan citizens due to the amount of money they can make.
The Failure on the War on Drugs
The United States involvement in the war on opium in Afghanistan has created two issues. First, with 500,000 citizens involved in some form of the drug trade, where they earn their primary income, has made the citizens depend more on the Taliban for protection. This creates a sense of alliance with the citizens and the Taliban making it harder for the United States to fight terrorism. Second, without the support of the Afghanistan citizens, it is very hard to start a new government for the country.
Lastly, the reason that the war on drugs failed is because of a change in public attitude and perception. In 1990, 73% of the U.S. believed in a mandatory death sentence for major drug traffickers (Hall). 57% of people also thought that police should be allowed to search the houses of drug dealers without a search warrant. In 2014, The Pew Research Center found that only 26% of the population agreed that prosecution should be the focus of the war on drugs and 67% felt that the government should create drug treatment policies instead.
The public perception of drugs has changed since the inception of the war on drugs. According to the polling company, Rasmussen, only 4% of the American people believe that the government is winning the war on drugs. To today’s date, 29 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana to include the District of Columbia. 22 states have also removed jail time for simple possession of marijuana. The Drug Enforcement Agency reports that roughly 10% of all drugs coming into this country are seized. As stated earlier the U.S. spends over $50 billion dollars a year on interdiction efforts to stop drugs from entering this country. That means that $50 billion dollars is spent stopping only 10% of the drugs. The money would be more effectively spent removing the customers versus removing the supply. The only things that the war on drugs has done was put more people in jail, decreased civil rights and create more violent criminal organizations