A Problem of War on Drugs

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War on Drugs

War on drugs is not a war that's been fought on the other side of the nation. This is a war that's been in the backyards of ALL Americans, every day. This is a tough war that has been impacting America in many ways. This can't be controlled by the heavy aid of nuclear weapons or even heavy artillery. They way legalization of a drug occurs is determining the number of MIA's. Many will be murder, just like the same outcome of these soldiers getting killed out in the battlefield if drugs became legal. This war has been going on for decades, even before 1971, when President Nixon declared the War on Drugs. The goal of the campaign was to seize and control the prohibition of the illegal drug trade. How so? Tactics were used but done little to solve the problem in the United States. According to the website, Since Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs back in the 1970s the United States Government has spent nearly $1 trillion towards eradicating the drug problem in this country, (Admin 2016). From that one trillion, a billion tax dollars were spent on military training but still little was done. A year later the addiction rate was consistent throughout the years with also tremendous spending.

The war on drugs became a problem. It produced a lot of inequality on the street between racial groups. Communities of color, mostly African American and Latino, were manifested through racial profiling and discrimination between Law Enforcement officials. In 1990, incarceration rates were blooming, among other countries, like China, Russia, etc. In the middle to the late 1900s, judges were forced to give out mandatory life sentences, from the Rockefeller Drug Laws, for simple drug possessions and even low-level drug sales. Then the FBI made distinctions between powder cocaine and crack cocaine, even though they were both the same drug, just used differently. According to drugpolicy.com, Nearly 80% of people in federal prisons and almost 60% of people in state prisons for drug offenses were nearly black or Latino, (Race and the Drug War). Even though white people were also drug users and sellers, somehow colored people were sent to prison.

The war on drugs is a broad case that affects the Criminal Justice System as a whole, from policing, through the courts, and lastly corrections. People of color experience discrimination on the streets. They were more likely to be pulled over, searched and arrested, harsh sentencing, and many more. The problem on policing was that colored civilians had a higher chance of being racial profiled and also killed by Law Enforcement than any other race. This impacted the courts because according to drugpolicy.com, Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for black people as for white people charged with the same offense. Among people who received a mandatory minimum sentence in 2011, 38% were Latino and 31% were black, (Race and the Drug War).

With the policing hitting the streets extremely and the court giving out harsh and long sentencing, this led to overcrowded prisons. The war on drugs had a huge increase in the prison systems due to the failed drug war policies locking up black and Latinos. According to politifact.com, The state and federal prison population grew from 218,466 in 1974 to 1,508,636 in 2014, which is a nearly 600 percent increase. For comparison, the overall United States population has increased just 51 percent since 1974, this is only through the years of 1974-2014 (War on Drugs and Incarceration Rates).

Drugs emerged the street of the United States in the early 1800s. Opium, Cocaine, Marijuana, Morphine, and the worst drug of all, Heroin were all legal and used for specific medically and recreational purposes. Opium and Cocaine were the most popular drug after the American Civil War. Coca-Cola companies around the world used cocaine as an ingredient to manufacture health drinks and remedies. One year later, morphine was created for medical purposes. Hard drugs like Heroin were used to treat people who had respiratory illnesses. Things started to change when psychotropic drugs, like opium and cocaine, were being abused causing addiction as well as an epidemic. Local governments were banding anything that had to do with opium, from dens to importations. In 1960, the FDA created the Pure Food and Drug Act, which were mandatory for all physicians to correctly label all medicines. This act made it seem like drugs weren't a harmless treatment for aches and pains. According to history.com, In 1914, Congress passed the Harrison Act, which regulated and taxed the production, importation, and distribution of opiates and cocaine, (History.com Staff 2017).

This act was an enforcement of physicians because they were the ones prescribing the drugs to the addicts that were on maintenance programs. Under the authority of Harry J. Anslinger, who is in charge of the FBI department of narcotics, drugs were increasing criminalized. History.com Staff, in 2017, wrote down, In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed. This federal law placed a tax on the sale of cannabis, hemp, or marijuana (2017). This act was drafted by Anslinger, even though it didn't criminalize the usage and possession of marijuana, it did include massive penalties and fines which were two grand and five years in the penitentiary. Marijuana was to blame for many violent crimes causing the government to send out warnings about these drugs, but many continued to ignore the fact about it. Marijuana hit the streets of college campuses. Others were trying other drugs like LSD, which is a hallucinating drug. It wasn't surprising for veterans to come home and smoke marijuana and shoot up heroin. Under the Johnson administration, they passed and sign the Addict Rehabilitation Act of 1966. Which was the act that confirmed narcotics addiction was a mental disease or illness, and alcoholism was also appealed for drug addiction.

In 1971, the war on drugs was finally declared by President Richard Nixon. According to Vulliamy (2011), Drug Abuse, said President, was Public enemy number one (Vulliamy 2011). Nixon wanted to fight the war on drugs on both perspectives of the economy, the supply and demand of it. Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency to launch an interdiction against Mexico. According to history.com staffs, The DEA was given 1,470 special agents and a budget of less than $75 million. Today, the agency has nearly 5,000 agents and a budget of $2.03 billion (history.com 2017). Nixon wanted Mexico to be pressured into regulating it marijuana growers. It came to the point where the government put money into improving and closing up the doors to the border. With the success of cutting down the supply of Mexican marijuana from Mexico, the Columbians took Mexico's place as Americas marijuana supplier.

Drugs were being smuggled through the air, sea, and land, leading the closing of the borders. In the mid-1970s, the War on Drugs took a slight hiatus. Between 1973 and 1977, eleven states decriminalized marijuana possession (history.com staff, 2017). Cocaine was and still is rapidly increasing when President Carter was in office. The increase of cocaine consumption, made it seem like there were ties between marijuana being the feeder drug for cocaine.

Ronald Reagan took office to reinforce and expand former President Nixon War on Drug Policies. At the beginning of his presidential term, the incarceration rates were insanely high due to the drug war. According to drugpolicy.org, The number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law offenses increased from 50,000 in 1980 to over 400,000 by 1997 (Race and Drug War).

President Reagan declared the war on drugs in 1982. He believed that illicit drugs were a threat to the U.S National Security and the series of legislations. His focus was giving out tough sentences for mostly crack cocaine convictions and not powder cocaine, resulting the African American and Latino population to be incarcerated. The media was portraying the fact of racism being played out the ignorance of powder cocaine were used among whites and the crack problems were coming from inner black communities. While Pres. Reagan was in office, his wife, Nancy Reagan, began the Just Say No campaign. This campaign was to educate the children the issues in drug usage. This was to start up the zero tolerance policies, which led to the DARE drug education program.

According to drugpolicies.org, which was quickly adopted nationwide despite the lack of evidence of its effectiveness (Race and Drug War). Many Americans and policymakers felt that the campaign was showing that people of color were being targeted and also being ineffective. Since incarcerating rates were skyrocketing mostly over cocaine, the Congress passed and signed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010, which reduced the sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses. The legalization in many states as well as the District of Colombia has led to the conversations on the view of recreational drug use. The War on Drugs is still being fought to this day, but with less intensity and publicity than what it was back in the 1900s.

Many say the war on drugs was a failure because it ruined many lives, and overcrowded prisons which cost a fortune. The question is, is the war on drugs succeeding? The main goal of the war on drugs is to reduce drug use. There's always going to be drugs, you can't fully stop the flow on drugs on the streets. According to Lopez (2014), The prices of most drugs, as tracked by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, have plummeted. Between 1981 and 2007, the median bulk price of heroin is down by roughly 93 percent, and the median bulk price of powder cocaine is down by about 87 percent. Between 1986 and 2007, the median bulk price of crack cocaine fell by around 54 percent. The prices of meth and marijuana, meanwhile, have remained largely stable since the 1980s (Lopez 2014).

There are majors' steps we need to consider. We need to show the administration that the current system is failing. What we should do is get the opinion of the schools and streets to see what we should do. We should think as a kid, we need to know what drives them to buy drugs, what's the biggest influence on the kid, etc. The next step is looking at other countries to see how they do it. We can't be changing our drug policies and think it's a failure. The last major thing is the drug use needs to be reduced, if we can get rehab center to become more affordable, that would be a great change. We need to focus on bringing down the murderers and making sure the incarceration rates are decreasing. We need to educate the kids and spend more money onto programs so kids get the idea that drugs are a huge problem in society. Preaching it is the key.

Money is a situation in the US. We need to focus on spending money on making it harder to get a hold of drug ingredients. Looks like the US forgot the purpose of the drug war, instead spending millions of dollars putting people in jail. Money should be spent on rehabilitation and addiction treatments. It's time to rethink our policies and laws because the war on drugs is an epic failure. The Us attempted to end the war on drugs by sending many civilians in jail for low-level offenses. That's why the US became the world largest incarcerator, putting 2.3 million people in jail. Out of all the attempts the US has tried, fighting drug addiction and providing treat is far more effective than incarceration.


  1. Admin. (2016, November 29). The Alarming Annual Cost of the War on Drugs and Why It's a Failure. Retrieved from https://elevationshealth.com/annual-cost-war-on-drugs/
  2. History.com Staff. (2017). War on Drugs. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/the-war-on-drugs
  3. Lopez. (2014, August 21). Is the war on drugs succeeding? Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/cards/war-on-drugs-marijuana-cocaine-heroin-meth/war-on-drugs-success-failure-working.
  4. Race and the Drug War. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/race-and-drug-war
  5. The War on Drugs and Incarceration Rates. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2016/jul/10/cory-booker/how-war-drugs-affected-incarceration-rates/
  6. Vulliamy, E. (2011, July 23). Nixon's ?war on drugs began 40 years ago, and the battle is still raging. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/jul/24/war-on-drugs-40-years.
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A Problem Of War On Drugs. (2019, Jul 26). Retrieved May 20, 2024 , from

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