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The War On Drug: Reasons Behind The Criminalisation of Drugs and Functions of Crime In Society

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The War On Drug: Reasons Behind The Criminalisation of Drugs and Functions of Crime In Society

The history of the War on Drugs in the United States can be traced back to 1914 with the Harrison Act, the first recorded law to ban the domestic distribution of drugs, as the cornerstone of the criminalisation of drugs in America (McNamara, 2011). However the popularisation of the criminality of drug use was when President Richard Nixon coined the term ‘War on Drugs’ in 1971 (Provine, 2011, p.45). This essay focuses on the disproportionality of incarceration rates between African and Anglo Americans, and illustrates the unequal operation of law enforcement on African-Americans (Provine, 2011). This essay applies Marxist criminology to argue that the drug war is a manipulation of the law and system by the upper class to maintain their status and power over the lower class (Bradley & Walters, 2012). Therefore the drug war is not essentially focused on ‘illicit’ drugs, but focuses on controlling, labelling and marginalising racial minorities, especially African-Americans (Provine, 2011). Since drug use is a universal phenomenon, this essay will apply Emile Durkheim’s theory to explore the failures of the drug war that lead to the questioning of moral boundaries in society, and challenges the conventional views and law enforcement of drugs. By exploring therapeutic drug usage in pre-modern societies, this essay suggests the normality of drug use in societies.

Marxist criminology, a theory under Critical criminology, emerged from Britain in the late 1960s and early 1970s during critical social and political changes (Bradley & Walters, 2012). It assumes crime as the result of the system of exploitation and structured inequality in power di...


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...ative approaches. Current Issues in Criminal Justice, 24(2),

Johnson, W., & Jones, M. (1998). Probation, race, and the war on drugs: an empirical analysis of drug and non-drug felony probation outcomes. Journal of Drug Issues, 28(4), p.985-1004.

Provine, D. (2011). Race and Inequality in the War on Drugs. Annual Review of Law and Social Science 7, P. 41-60.


Wood, E., Werb, D., Marshall, B., Montaner, J., & Kerr, T. (2009). The war on drugs: a devastating public-policy disaster. The Lancet, 373(9668), p.989-990.
Miron, J., & Waldock, K. (2010). The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition. Washington D.C, United States: CATO INSTITUTE

McNamara, J. (2011). The Hidden Costs of America’s War on Drugs. The
Journal of Hidden Enterprise, 26(2).


Bradley T., & Walters, R. (2012). Introduction To Criminological Thought (2nd. Edition). New Zealand: Pearson



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