Drugs in America. Everyone knows someone that is either directly or indirectly involved in the drug trade. Everyone knows at least one user or at least one police officer. What to do with this one hundred twenty seven year old war? It has cost us billions and destroyed countless lives, on both sides of the law. Let us explore a brief history of the War on Drugs, what’s worked and what hasn’t. Let us also step outside of the box and view the problem as it really is. Only then can we truly create a workable solution.
The War on Drugs started in the 1880’s when the United States and China made an agreement to stop the transportation of Opium between them. Thirty four years later the Federal Government passed the Harrison Act. The Harrison Act was to control the use of opiate containing substances. Six years later, Prohibition was enacted. Eighteen years later, in 1937, came the Marijuana Tax Act. This was followed by the Boggs Act (1951) and the Daniel Act (1956). Finally, eighty nine years later in 1969, the man who would would coin the term ‘The War on Drugs’ came into office. Richard Nixon began an aggressive campaign against drug use. In 1970 Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act. In ninety years, the United States has never stopped the drug trade. We have imprisoned millions, spent billions and made a few rich. We’ve made some poor more poor. We have stolen fathers and mothers from their children. And yet, it never stops. Smugglers continue to smuggle, producers continue to produce, and users continue to use. The only thing we have done is proven that prohibition does not work. If it did, the Eighteenth Amendment never would have been repealed.
So where does that leave us? The continued treatment of drug addiction as a crime only increases the inmate population and pours billions of dollars down the drain. Obesity is viewed as a disease. Alcohol addiction is viewed as a disease. Why isn’t addiction to drugs a disease? A couple of reasons explain this. First, archaic thinking by the majority of the voting and law making citizens. Secondly, the War on Drugs is a huge money maker. The number of grants available for law enforcement agencies to fund the fight in the War on Drugs is astounding. Many law enforcement agencies completely fund entire units through this money. That’s what it is really about, then, isn’t it. The money. Users commit crimes to fund their addiction because they do not have the money to do it. Law enforcement uses the money to pad their budgets. Dealers and producers make product because the demand is so high and they can make unbelievable money.
So, there is the key; supply and demand. Rather than criminalizing the act, lets move it into the realm of the doctors. Then, let us legalize the drugs and allow doctors to prescribe them, any of them. I do not propose that the drugs should be given out freely, however. As with anything, there need to be controls. Those controls would be our present narcotics agents. We must begin to attack the supply. We have been attacking the demand for years, with increasing fines and sentences. We have accomplished nothing, save for creating a nation of criminals. Let us prescribe the needed amount, on a daily basis, that allows these addicted individuals to function. Let’s bring them back into functional society slowly. Once the supply is gone and there no money to be made by the street dealer, they will change. Once the demand is met, the associated crimes will diminish. No longer will the user steal, rob, and prostitute themselves for their drug. Only through regulated legalization can we reverse our present course.