History of the American Drug War
The first act of America's anti-drug laws was in 1875. It outlawed the smoking of opium in opium dens. This was a San Francisco ordinance. The basis on passing this law was that Chinese men had a way of luring white women to their dens and causing their "ruin", which was the association with Chinese men. Later, other Federal laws such, as trafficking in opium was illegal for anyone of Chinese origin. The opium laws were directed at the smoking of opium. The law didn't effect importation of the drug because opium was a common medical drug. This law was specifically targeted at the Chinese, for the smoking of opium was a Chinese custom.
The Harrison Act had started as a licensing law that required sellers to obtain a license if they were going to handle opiates or cocaine. The law contains a provision that nothing in the law would prohibit doctors from prescribing these drugs in the legitimate practice of medicine. The people who wrote the Harrison Act and Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 agreed that a prohibition on what people could put into their bodies was an unconstitutional infringement on personal liberties.
Marijuana was outlawed in 1937. The reason for it being outlawed was that the plant had a violent effect on the degenerate races. The American Medical Association testified that they were opposed to the law. The law would never have passed without the endorsement from the AMA, but when the supporters of the law were asked about the AMA's view on the floor of congress, they had stated that the AMA was all for it. When the law had passed, the AMA protested, but the law was never repealed.
It is difficult to determine how many people in the US use drugs. The Federal Government's Household Survey on Drug Abuse is the most common set of statistics on the use of drugs. According to the latest surveys, conducted by the DEA, there are about 12.7 million people who have used an illegal drug in the past month, and about 30 - 40 million people who have used an illegal drug in the past year. Among the 12.7 people who have used an illegal drug in the past month, about 10 million are casual drug users and about 2.7 million are drug addicts. The figures produced by the Household Survey on Drug Abuse are obtained over the phone. Therefore, there was a problem reaching those without phones, those who didn't answer their phones, and those who answered the question honestly. Other surveys put the figures at least twice as high. Currently, there are about 1.5 million people in state and Federal prisons and jails throughout the US At least 24 states are under Federal court orders to relieve prison overcrowding. Prison population had been relatively stable from about 1926 to about 1970.
From that point, Nixon's war against drugs, then the Reagan and Bush war against drugs, caused a dramatic increase in the number of prisoners. The estimated 30 - 40 million people, who have used an illegal drug in the past year, would fill a prison holding the populations of California, Arizona and New Mexico altogether. The cost of holding a single one of these persons would be about $450,000. The cost for the arrest and the conviction is about $150,000. The cost for an additional bed would be anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000, depending upon the jurisdiction. It costs about $30,000 per year to house a prisoner, with an average sentence of five years, adding up to be $150,000. The estimated $450,000 (out of taxpayers money), can provide treatment or education for about 200 people. Out of the percentage of people in prison, 59.6% are in prison for drug offenses.
The war on drugs could be won if we were successful in at least one of three areas: if we could stop drug production in other countries, if we could stop drugs at the border or if we could stop the sale of drugs within the United States. Stopping drug production in other countries has already been proven to fail. In 1993, ABC television aired a major special report on the drug war in Bolivia, which according to the Bush administration, is our "best hope" for winning the drug war in South America. They concluded that there was no hope, and that the war on drug production had already been lost.
According to the US Federal Government's estimates, the entire US consumption of illegal drugs could be supplied by one percent of the worldwide drug crop. The US Drug Enforcement Agents working together with foreign governments seized about one percent of the worldwide drug crop in their best year. Leaving 99% free to supply the US The US Government also states that if drug production was stopped in South America, several countries would suffer a major economic collapse.
The statistics regarding drug interdiction at the border have proven stopping drugs at the border is an expensive failure. In 1988, Sterling Johnson, Federal prosecutor for New York, under the assumption that there was no increase in drug production, stated that police would have to increase drug seizures by at least 1,400 percent to have any impact on the drug market. In 1990, the General Accounting office had completed a major study on border interdiction. They concluded that border interdiction was a waste of money and that no conceivable increase in funding or effort would make it better.
Johnson had made his statement before police had busted twenty tons of cocaine in a single location. This caused the Federal Government to increase all of their estimates of the cocaine market.
In most states, the law states that any distribution of illegal drugs is considered a sale. Regardless of whether there is a profit or monetary interest involved. Which, under the law, anyone who has ever passed a joint to the next person at a concert, is a drug dealer. Assuming these people are drug dealers, There are between 12 and 40 million drug dealers in the US Considering most of the prisons in the US are already far in excess of their planned capacity, there is no more room and no more tax dollars to house these "drug dealers". Stopping the sale of drugs in the US would be kind of hard without putting all these "drug dealers" into prison.
The use of drugs among teens has risen under the Clinton administration. Clinton states that not only he, but also everyone shares the responsibility for the increase in drug use. "This issue has been debated literally going back to the Johnson administration, states Clinton in attempt to deflect criticism from Republicans that claim he has not done enough to fight drugs. At the start of his presidency, Clinton had reduced the office of the drug policy director as a part of his effort to reduce government spending. Three years later, Clinton restored funds for the office and announced Barry McCaffrey, an army general, to lead it. "I appointed a four-star general, who led our efforts south of the border to keep drugs from coming into our country, as our nation's drug czar, the most heavily directed - decorated soldier in uniform when he retired. We submitted the biggest drug budget ever, we have dramatically increased control and enforcement at the border. We supported a crime bill that had 60 death penalties, including the penalty for drug kingpins, and I supported a big expansion of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program to support things like the DARE program because I thought all those things were very important.... I have consistently opposed the legalization of drugs all my public life and worked hard against them.