The War on Drugs

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L. Casler
The War on Drugs
University of Southern California

Introduction Nearly half a century has passed since Richard Nixon officially declared a War on Drugs. Several theories exist regarding Nixon’s motives behind the declaration. The most commonly cited theory states that the war on drugs was declared in response to the large number of soldiers returning home from the Vietnam War addicted to heroin. Proponents argue that Nixon actually declared a War on Drugs in fear of the civil rights movements influence on United State’s citizens. Regardless of the reason the laws that the War on Drugs eventually initiated would rob citizens of their constitution rights, oppress minorities, and give the government almost unlimited coercive powers that they would use against United States citizens. The aim of the war was to eliminate the production, sale, and consumption of illegal drugs, but in actuality the war was waged against the American public, specifically targeting minorities of low socio economic status (Hickman, 2011). Evidence suggests that Nixon was well aware of who the war was targeting and did so in response to the public outcry over proposed welfare reforms (Spitzer, 2012). Black ghettos in major metropolitan areas were growing at an alarming rate in the 1970’s and White voters were threatened, declaring a war on drugs was akin to declaring a war on crime which in many ways pacified citizens (Hilfiker, 2013). For decades the War on Drugs has attacked, punished, and marginalized, hundreds of thousands of persons of color living in poverty. Years from now people will look back on this so called war on drugs and see it for what it really was, a brutal and inhumane response to what was essentially public health concern (Stanley, 2011).
Scope of the Issue According to the DEA “40 million people have used an illegal drug within the last year, 2.7 million of whom are dependent on substances (Library on Drug Policy, 2013). 70 billion dollars a



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