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War on Drugs

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War on Drugs
Jude Ocampo
San Joaquin Delta College
Sociology 1a
Professor Medina

Introduction

The War on Drugs is a term that is used to refer to the federal government’s attempts to end the import, manufacture, sale, and use of illegal drugs. It is not a specific term only relating to a secret policy or objective, but to a series of antidrug initiatives that are directed towards the common goal of ending drug abuse. These initiatives include different drug policies in the United States that are intended to lower and discourage the manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of illegal psychotropic drugs. The War on Drugs started with President Dwight D. Eisenhower establishing an Interdepartmental Committee on Narcotics on November 27, 1954. The phrase “War on Drugs” originated from President Richard Nixon when he used it at a Press Conference on June 17, 1971. In this conference he stated illegal drugs as “a number one public enemy in the United States.”
There is a chronological history of the Federal Antidrug Policy and the history of the War on Drugs as it continued to change based on the alarming threat of illegal drug usage from the past to the present. The first act made as a result of the War on Drugs was the Harrison Tax Act of 1914, which restricted the sale of heroin and cocaine. In 1954 during Eisenhower’s presidency was when the parameters of the War on Drugs was truly defined as illegal drug usage was becoming more prevalent. In addition to Eisenhower’s presidency, a committee led by Senator Price Daniel called that federal penalties on narcotics increased, resulting with the Narcotic Control Act of 1956. This act increased penalties on using abusive drugs like narcotics compared to the Boggs Act of 1951. Because of Eisenhower’s establishment of the Committee on Narcotics, he was viewed as one of the first presidents to address the War on Drug. The next policy was the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which was an attempt to tax marijuana at a high rate to prevent people from purchasing it. This law was passed because the perception of marijuana was a drug to use rather than heroin and it was very popular to the Mexican-American Immigrants which made the demand of this drug rise.
History continues with the War on Drugs and the Federal Antidrug Policy during Nixon’s presidency. At the time of Nixon’s presidency, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 was passed in which the federal government became more active in the role of drug enforcement and drug abusive. It established the federal antidrug policy as we see in the present. As history progresses in the 1970s and forward, many policymakers start developing a viewpoint towards drug abuse. They view it as a social disease which can be treated by aggressive criminal justice policies. The addition of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the 1973 depicted this criminal justice enforcement on drug abuse. As drug use among children increased in the 1980s, Nancy Reagen toured elementary schools and gave speeches on the dangers of illicit drugs. Nancy Reagen even created an antidrug slogan that said: “Just say no.” Because she was able to preach to the kids that drugs are a threat, the administration could pursue more antidrug legislations. In 1994, drugs in society became so prevalent that Joe Biden’s 1994 Ominous Bill included a provision on killing drug lords. As a result of the growing demand of drugs and drug usage in the 1990s; the War on Drugs reached the point that any drug related activities would be treated like murder or treason. The drugs are also becoming more confusing because some narcotics can be used as prescription medicine, but it has to be prescribed to the individual. For this reason, the line between legal and illegal drugs has gotten narrower.
In a world viewpoint, all geographic areas of the world and most countries are affected by drug abuse or mind-altering drugs. These places include Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean, Australia and Oceania, Europe and North America. In Africa, Cannabis and Alcohol are used predominately under code names and the legal and illegal alcohol consumption is growing in a rapid rate. In Asia many countries like Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Iran, Thailand, and South Korea are the major countries with a strong emphasis on drug usage like narcotics, opium, and alcohol. In Pakistan and India, there is a widespread use of opium and cannabis in all forms and in oral forms. In Australia and Oceana, they are affected by alcoholism which causes many financial losses to families, agencies, and businesses. In South America the use of cannabis is very widespread and alcohol is also very common in different forms derived from indigenous plants. In Europe, alcoholism is their greatest threat, affecting 10% of its population. Some drugs, sedatives, stimulants, and tranquilizers are used in the big cities in Western Europe. Canada and the U.S. are facing the same problems as Europe is which alcoholism. Despite many violations against alcohol, it remains uncontrolled and massively advertised to promote happiness, sex, and beauty.
America has one of the highest confinement rates because of drug abuse in the world. In the 1908s the number or arrest for crimes rose 28%, but the number for drug offenses rose to 126%. Consequently, The United States deports those who are non-citizens and have been convicted of drug offenses. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 55% of federal prisoners and 21% of state-level prisoners were imprisoned because of drug-related crimes. According to the Drug War Cost Clock based on Nov. 2, 2012 the money government has spent on the Drug War is $45,514,252,577 and it continues to rise constantly. In Addition, the drug war clock shows statistics that 1,399,487 have been arrested for drug law offenses and 722,136 have been arrested for cannabis law offenses.
In a public opinion, the War on Drugs is viewed as a failure in the present. According to an October 2008 Zogby Poll of voters, 76% had described the War on Drugs as a failure. As of June 2011, the Global Commision on Drug Policy released a report on the War on Drugs declaring, “The Global War has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” The fifty years that followed Nixon’s launch of the U.S. government’s war on drugs, reforms in national and global drug control policies are needed imperatively. Pros and Cons
A pro for the War on Drugs is its objective of trying to protect many people from many harmful and dangerous drugs. The main theory that the War on Drugs was built upon was protecting people from using narcotics which will endanger their lives under the influence or because of addiction. By protecting the current America, it will also protect the future of America because the parents will influence the youth of this generation to stay clean and safe. Therefore, the belief will continue on through many generations. In order to protect the American people from these illicit drugs, the U.S. Government can create jobs for this purpose. Many of the jobs that are generated can be jobs in the criminal justice field, law enforcement, and other various jobs that deal with the legalization and protection against the various illegal drugs. The creation of many jobs as an effect of the War on Drugs can be viewed as a positive especially in this economic state. Another pro the War on Drugs can offer is that if drugs were legalized then it could save the government approximately $41.3 billion annually on applications related to the enforcement of prohibition. Based on the $41.3 billion on savings, $8.7 billion would result from the legalization of marijuana alone and $32.6 billion from the legalization on other drugs like cocaine.
Conversely, the cons for the War on Drugs greatly outweigh the pros of the drug war. A con that is always emphasized on against the War on Drugs is that it is simply not working. Despite its aim to protect Americans from drugs, many teens are able to easily obtain drugs. Many gangs, drug lords, and teens sell drugs on the street and many kids who feel they are too weak to say no or have psychological problems often accept and become addicted to these drugs. Many of today’s youth are able to buy drugs from friends, get them from parties, or simply get “hook-ups” from a cousin or someone they know. For this purpose, it makes drug legalization a negative as it can increase crime rates and worsen people’s health. Drug legalization would make these mind-altering drugs more available to everyone as many people are going to conform it within society because it is legal.
Another major con against the War on Drugs is that the costs are very immoderate. It is estimated that the U.S. Government spent over $13 billion this year while remaining in over $14 trillion in debt. The War on Drugs is also ineffective to justify its cost as many other countries are still mass producing many illegal drugs like Latin America. On top of these costs, the War on Drugs is failing as illegal drugs are still easy to be obtained as stated earlier. Costs of the Drug War are way greater than the costs of the legalization of many illegal drugs. The legalization of many drugs would result in higher tax revenues by the sale of these products in the open marketplace, but the Costs on the War on Drugs is still to great and it continues to rise. Theories: Social-Conflict, Symbolic Interaction, and Structural-Functionalism The War on Drugs can apply to the three paradigms in sociology in different and similar ways. The Symbolic-Interaction Approach is a framework for building theory that sees society as a product of the everyday interactions of individuals. In a symbolic interaction viewpoint, the war on drugs can be viewed a way many government officials, executives, and the government interact with one another to reach their goal of stopping the distribution, manufacturing, sale, and use of illegal drugs. The War on Drugs is not an official war, but it is a rhetorical convention in which many executives, politicians, government officials, politicians come together to enforce the drug policy. In order for their goal to succeed, they need to interact with one another to make policies that will discourage the use of these drugs. For example, in 1971 President Nixon and his administration interacted with the community to push the fact that drug abuse is “public enemy number one.” They pushed for the treatment of drug addicts and in particular heroin addicts.
As the War on Drugs proved effective in spreading the message that drugs are bad, many adults of today’s youth will tell their kids about how drugs are and to stay away from them. This is a form on interaction as older generation is creating this symbol of drugs as bad, unacceptable, and unsatisfactory. As a result, the future generations will see the drugs as that symbol and will steer away from it. An example of this is when Nancy Reagen toured elementary schools warning students about the dangers of illegal drug use.
The structural-functional approach is a framework for building theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. A structural-functionalist can see the War on Drugs in two main viewpoints. They can see it as a necessity as its aim is to prevent the use of illegal drugs which will keep society healthy and continue to operate. Another viewpoint is that it can be viewed as an ineffective war because drugs will always exist in a society and so will deviance. The first viewpoint can look past the war and only see the goal of the war which is to prevent the use, distribution, and manufacturing of illegal drugs. In a certain extent, the war did that by showing society that drugs are really bad and should not be used.
The second viewpoint views that the War on Drugs cannot win because drugs will always exist within a society. People will continue to use drugs for recreational and other purposes as well. Many people rely on their need of caffeine as a stimulant or nicotine or even marijuana for medical purposes. Deviance will always be present in a society as Emile Durkheim stated that “deviance is a necessary element of social organization.” In terms of the War on Drugs, many found it ineffective because teens and people will continue to use drugs as a form of deviance. They might use it to feel how it is like to get high or because they are a direct result of the labeling theory. An example is how people viewed a person as someone who is bad and will due drug which later influenced that persons choices of doing the illicit drugs.
The Social-Conflict approach is a framework for building theory that sees society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and change. It also sees how society is held together by power and constraint for the benefit of those in power, based on social class, gender, race, or ethnicity. According to an article “The War on Drugs: A problem, not a solution” minorities especially blacks and Hispanics were more likely to be arrested on drug related charges than whites. This is a clear depiction of the racial inequality minorities’ face in terms of drug prohibition. Another application of the social conflict theory has to the war on drugs is the inequality of power that exists within the government when dealing with the information on war on drugs. For example, the authorization of the War on Drugs is often spread through disinformation and support of non-government groups. In a 2000 article, sales.com exposed that the Office of National Drug Control Policy began rewarding networks on television for inputting anti-drug themes and restating drug-related stereotypes in television programs themselves. Conclusion I believe we should learn to live with drugs in a way that they will do us the least possible harm. I believe there should still be laws enforced in using certain illegal drugs, but to restrain the focus of always using enforcement but instead in rehabilitation. I believe in educating the new generation in a way that they can view drugs as a damaging hazard to your brain and your future. I also believe that we have been spending too much money on a war that is continuing to prove ineffective as teens and people are able to easily obtain drugs. Instead of spending a huge amount of money on law enforcement, we should have a balance between the enforcement, educating today’s youth about the dangers of drugs, and on rehabilitation centers for the recovery of those who used these illegal drugs. The rehabilitation centers should educate those who used illegal drugs more effectively to prevent them from using it again. By educating the new generation and those who have been victims of drug addiction, it will prevent drug usage more effectively than just putting them into a prison. In addition, I also believe in allowing certain drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroine to continue to be used as a medication for physical and emotional pain, but only in a set amount to prevent addiction. Educating is only one way we can control drug usage through the community, but it will prove to be more effective than imprisonment. Instead of focusing on how to make new policies to enforce these laws against illegal drugs, we should learn ways on how to live with powerful drugs like alcohol and narcotics.

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