Why War on Drugs Failed?

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Many Americans don't realize that the War on drugs in America isn't just a failed war but it was never meant to be won. During the Nixon presidency, Nixon sparked America's war on drugs in 1971 and created the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration two years later. As part of the initiative, President Nixon increased funding for drug- control agencies, mandatory prison sentencing and strict measures for drug-related crimes.Nixon had other motives for why he started the war on drugs, one in particularly was to keep his job. His policy chief John Ehrlichman said Nixon's two enemies during his campaign was antiwar supporters and blacks. According to the article by History, John Ehrlichman stated  We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did ( War on Drugs, n.d.). 


This was a real attempt by the government to demonize and criminalize a race of people. Nixon knew that lying to the public about drugs and putting his enemies in a bad light, it would allow him to his job and use the war on drugs as a political tool.In the midst of 1980, President Reagan expanded many of Nixon's War on drugs policies. In 1984, his wife launched the campaign Just Say No which was an effort to educate children on the dangers of drug usage. President Reagan's focus on drugs led to an increase in incarcerations for nonviolent drug crimes. A large sum of people believes the War on Drugs has failed in America. Our government spends more tax dollar money on the drug war of instead improving people's' lives each year.


The War on drugs has failed to prevent the usage and distribution of drugs or lower the incarceration of drug-related crime. As much money the government spends to fight the war, nothing has changed.The overall goal for the war on drugs is to eliminate and naturally reduce the use of illegal drugs. Instead drug markets have broadened and use continues to rise. By compressing the supply of drug products for which there is a high and growing demand force their prices to increase,which creates opportunity and profit move for criminals entrepreneurs in the trade business. This fix on supply reduction has failed to reduce drug use, while disturbing drug trade-related violence which increases the demand for drugs. The vast resources the federal government carries into the trivial  criminal justice and penalty policies to cut the supply of drugs although it omits other strategies that could help reduce drug demand. The black-market for illegal drugs has generated a large sum of profits for the groups that produce and sell them. That income is then invested in buying state of the art weapon , hiring gangs to defend their trade,paying off public official and making drugs regularly available to children (Shultz, 2018).


Drug gangs equipped with money and guns original in the United States have caused crimson chaos in other places like Mexico, El Salvador and other Central American countries. Accrue from the productivity and economic activity that forfeited as a result of the mass incarceration of drug offenders. According to Britannica, in 1986, when Congress established the Anti-Drug Act which passed a series of  mandatory minimum prison sentences for assorted number of drug offenses( War on Drugs, 2018).  The Anti-Drug Act created distinction between offenders who own powder cocaine and those who possess crack cocaine for minimum sentencing. If someone possessed five grams of crack would  get the automatic five-year sentence while possessing 500 grams of powder cocaine sparks that same sentence. Most crack users were African Americans which led to an unequal increase of incarceration rates who are non-violent first-time offenders.


People of color were targeted and arrested on suspicion of drug use at a higher rate than white which caused disproportionate incarceration rates among without evidence. This leads to racial disparities within the criminal justice system and the  war on drugs has significantly caused racial disparities.The legalization and criminalization of certain drugs had much to do with who uses, who is perceived to use particular drugs. Prohibition makes all drug users criminals which then corrupts the influence on the law enforcement personnel and fuels the mass incarceration rates. African Americans make up fifty percent of the state and local prisoners that are arrested for drug-related crimes(huffpost). According to the HuffingPost, young black kids are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than white kids even though whites are more likely to abuse drugs(politics).


Due to racial profiling,there is a divide between targeted minorities and local drug enforcement in urban cities. Communities in cities suffer the most from both the problems of drug abuse and the consequences of drug prohibition. Inner cities suffer disputes between drug enterprises, making our inner cities war zones and their citizens the war primary casualties( aclu).  The mass of  number of people who deal and use drugs are in or below the poverty line. Those who are addicted to drugs also illicit substances are ill and need medical attention for their conditions(utah drug rehab). You can't expect someone with an addiction to  just to get better on their own, they need medical attention and treatments to help them recover. Some critics say the war on drug is the second Jim Crow laws between whites and other minorities.


Drug law enforcement budget trickles down to reduced options for the other fields of expenditure like proactive and reactive. The proactive field of expenditure to fight the war on drugs is enforcement, harm reduction, prevention and education. The reactive part of expenditure is the criminal justice system, to deal with drug offenders and drug-related crime. Instead of funding money to finance arrest and incarceration, we could make drug treatments more readily available to the public and improve social services along with education. By providing money for the law enforcement to crack down on illegal drug use of leads to  funding schemes. Funding schemes allow local police officers to increase their pay based on the number of arrests they've made and the amount of property that was confiscated. It's a easy way for local officers to boost their pay and career opportunities by targeting low- level drug offenders. This results in police consistently relying on false informants, and handling dangerous home invasions on frail evidence ( Making Economic Sense, n.d.). 


Unfortunately, tax dollar money hasn't been able to solve the problem but instead has made things worse. Some examples of the fiscal costs on the war on drugs:  In 1980, 50,000 Americans are behind bars for drug law violations--  now we have half a million in jail. Money channeled into the law enforcement has implied very little funding to improve public safety which has neglected essential education, health, social service and public safety programs leaving them struggling to operate on a meager funding (Making Economic Sense,n.d.). The money funded for the war on drugs has been closed to the reactive expenditure instead of proactive expenditure. The war on drugs has done little to shrink the number of incarcerations of drug-related crime along with the demand for certain illegal drugs such as marijuana, heroin and cocaine.


 More money is being put into building prisons than into building schools.  If more money is spent on prisons instead of providing education and the number of incarceration continues to rise, then an alternate solution must be used. The government needs to shift its large funding from inefficient drug eradication programs to meet treatment demands (The United States War on Drugs,n.d.). The government should invest more money on treatments and education because its reduces the number of incarcerations and helping addicts overcome their addiction. When addicts go to federal funded rehabs, they tend to do better than those who didn't go to rehab. Addicts that go to rehab become sober and try to re-enter society while becoming productive workers (The United States War on Drugs, n.d.).

Recovering addicts can parent their children and which makes them positive and powerful lessons in their local community by showing recovering addicts can improve their lives. These may be small victories in the drug war there are still some problems. After being labeled as a felon, you lose some of the rights such as voting, employment, housing, public benefits, and education when trying to integrate back to society but also the economy. You're forced to check the box indicating a felony conviction on employment applications for almost ever job and you find yourself locked out of the mainstream of society and the economy. Checking the box on any job application denies you any licenses for a wide range of jobs. This leaves the felon unable to find a job or merger back into society.  Racial stereotypes are embraced and internalized by all people of color, as well as every major political party. They are branded criminals for life, by the criminal justice system. The war on drugs has increased incarceration rates and created conflicts with minorities. Some of the unintended consequences on drug war are racial profiling, limitations on civil rights, and increased stigma of use also addiction.

Even though it has problems there are still benefits within the war on drugs. It allows the tax dollars to be used for funding new equipment for local drug enforcement.

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Why War On Drugs Failed?. (2019, Nov 07). Retrieved May 20, 2024 , from

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