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Essay on America’s Drug War

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The War on Drugs, like the war on Terrorism, is a war that America may not be able to afford to win. For over forty years the United States has been fighting the War on Drugs and there is no end in sight. It has turned into a war that is about politics and economics rather than about drugs and criminals. The victims of this war are numerous; but perhaps they are not as numerous as those who benefit from the war itself.

History of U.S Drug Policy:
While laws prohibiting the use of drugs, in one form or another, can be traced back to the 1870s, it was not until 1968, when Richard M. Nixon was elected President, that our current drug war was conceived. In 1970 Congress passed the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act.(2) With an emphasis on law enforcement, the act replaced and updated all previous laws concerning narcotics and other drugs. When Nixon officially declared the “War on Drugs” in 1971, his administration claimed that heroin use was responsible for 18 billion dollars in property crime a year and that there were upwards of 315,000 addicts in the United States. (2)

These figures helped garner support for the new drug war but in reality they were greatly inflated. In fact, the total of all property crime in the United States in 1971 was 1.3 billion dollars and the estimated number of heroin addicts was somewhere around 68,000.(2) Despite these facts, Nixon’s drug war took hold in the public imagination. This allowed Nixon enough freedom with law enforcement that he was able to create his own agency. On January 28, 1972 under Executive Order 11641, the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement was established.(14) Headed by John Ehrlichman and Egil Krogh, this agency would be short lived but would serve as Nixon’s own pr...


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12. The Rand Corporation, Are Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences Cost-Effective?,
www.rand.org
13. Johnson, Joan J., “America’s War on Drugs,” Franklin Watts/New York/
London/Toronto/Sydney (1990)
14. Duke, Steven B., & Gross, Albert C., “America’s Longest War: Rethinking Our Tragic Crusade Against Drugs,” G.P. Putnam and Sons (1993)
15. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, www.usdoj.gov/dea/
16. Susan Brumbaugh, Ph.D., Ameila Rouse, Ph.D., and Chris Birkbeck, Ph.D., An Estimation of
Drug-Related Criminal Justice Costs in New Mexico, 1997, www.unm.edu/~isrnet/
17. U.S Congress, Hearings on Federal Drug Enforcement before the Senate Committee on
Investigations, 1975 and 1976 (1976); Office of National Drug Control Policy, National
Drug Control Strategy, 1992: Budget Summary (Washington DC: US Government
Printing Office, 1992), p. 214


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