In the book Multitude, authors Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri suggest that the term “war” on drugs is a very real war waged by the American Government against its own people. Illegal drug use in general has been blamed for creating a permanent underclass of people in the United States. When actually, the drug war itself may be helping to contribute to the cycle of the underclass, by punishing drug violators with removal from educational, career, and social opportunities. This process severely hinders their ability to overcome and succeed in life. The American Civil Liberties Union criticizes the drug war for its social effects of strong racial disparities within the judicial system and for being disproportionately responsible for the exploding prison population in our country.
I propose that we do two things to address these issues. The first thing we should do is decriminalize marijuana. There are too many people going to jail or prison, and too much money and resources being wasted in this area. Marijuana is generally viewed as less dangerous, than say crack or crystal meth. So marijuana tends to be more popular, especially for those who are experimenting. Since all of these drugs are illegal though, they all require the black market infrastructure for distribution. Therefore marijuana itself traffics a larger infrastructure for harsher drugs than would exist if marijuana were decriminalized. As of 2005, marijuana is America’s biggest cash crop. We should put that money into our national economy and use it to help with prison reform. The government already collects money from cigarettes and the state lottery to help with education costs; we could just use that same system. The scientific community claims that the drug war is outdated and hinders real scientific research. They claim marijuana may have some powerful medical use, especially for pain management.
The second thing we should do is reconsider this prohibition on any drugs. People fear that crime comes from drugs, when really the fact that these drugs are illegal, causes crime. It gives power to the drug lords and causes violence between them, as well as the violence that can erupt as a result of a drug user trying to obtain drugs. In the end, an addict is an addict, whether it is marijuana, crack, alcohol, or even cigarettes. It appears to me that our efforts have went into choosing which drugs are socially acceptable to be addicted to, as oppose to addressing the problem of addiction. We should change the drug war to an Addiction War, a war that isn’t primarily solved by law enforcement.
In conclusion, the attitude and way in which we attack these problems of drugs and prisons, is the problem. We need to focus on the bigger picture of having a healthy and strong society. Prisoners and drug addicts alike, are still United States citizens and human beings. If someone is a drug addict and not a violent individual, maybe we should reconsider what we are punishing them for, and how we are punishing them.