Origins Of The Drug War

2037 Words 9 Pages
The origins of such a conflict are cloudy. The first anti-drug laws were passed well before Richard Nixon declared drugs public enemy number one, but for a completely different reason then what you may think. The earliest anti-opium laws were passed in the 1870s. You may ask yourself why they would only target opium, and the answer to this question has everything to do with race. These early drug laws were aimed more towards the Chinese immigrants entering the country than the opium that they smoked. Anti-cocaine and marijuana laws followed in the 1900s, this time targeting African Americans (“A brief history of the Drug War”). Then, in 1971, Nixon decided to take drugs on as a whole. He formed the DEA to help combat the drug problem, asking …show more content…
The United States of America, land of the free, is also ironically the world’s largest jailer, with 2,220,300 people behind bars, or 1 in every 110 adults (“Drug War Statistics”). Ronald Regan’s Presidency signaled the beginning of an out of control spike in prison populations, rising from 50,000 in 1980 to as many as 400,000 by 1997, the majority of those incarcerated due to simple possession (“A Brief History of the Drug War”). The cost to the Federal and state government is also overwhelming. It costs the government a whopping $450 Billion a year to house the number of prisoners it currently holds. This comes out to roughly $30,000 a year on one prisoner, yet the federal government only spends $11,665 per student a year to keep our children in school. Is keeping Americans behind bars more important than keeping our children behind their desks? Another shocking statistic involving children is that 1 in 28 children today have at least one parent in the prison system, with 2/3rds of the parents in prison being incarcerated due to nonviolent drug crimes (“Scherker”). There are so many people being booked and processed for drug possession that some people aren’t even tried at all due to an overwhelmed justice system. 7,482 drug cases last year didn’t get filed simply because the prosecutors lack the time to do so, which is about a fourth of all the …show more content…
While the War on Drugs may be a more recent problem, the idea of outlawing a particular substance is nothing new to Americans. The 18th amendment to our constitution effetely made alcohol illegal, but it also gave organized crime a major foot hold in American culture. Chicago in the 20’s can be compared to modern day Juarez, Mexico, a place where organized crime operated with little repercussions to their actions. The St. Valentine’s Day massacre is a perfect example of this. Al Capone, head of the Chicago outfit, order the murder of 7 members of the rival North side gang, with the shooters being dressed as police officers. This kind of activity is a daily occurrence in cities such as Juarez, often with the deaths being more brutal than simply being shot. Just like prohibition, the drug war has accomplished none of its goals, but instead drug use, production, and availability have all went up in a similar way to that of alcohol during prohibition. Making drugs illegal did not stop people from using them, but stopped them from being a law abiding citizen, just as it did with alcohol. You would think those fueling this War on Drugs would look at just how unsuccessful prohibition was and realize a different approach is needed, but instead they are too caught up in ignoring

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