America's Drug War Term Paper

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America's War at Home: Who's in Prison (A Brief History)

The article features a timeline depicting the history of the United States Government's involvement in its attempt to prohibit harmful substances in the country. Interestingly, it is noted that the federal government had no role in any sort of substance prohibition before 1919. This is the year during which the 18th Amendment made the use of alcohol illegal. The corruption and violence ensuing during the following decade ended with the 21st Amendment, which put a stop to the Prohibition period. This however did not stop other drug laws from taking effect. According to the article, the government began a war on drugs that escalated through the years and with the advancement of the different American presidents. The war in Vietnam exacerbated the problem, as this resulted in an increased inflow of heroin to the United States. The reaction of the government was increasingly severe, and the phrase "War on Drugs" was first declared by President Nixon in 1972. After being defeated by corruption, Jimmy Carter once again, although in secret, brought the war on drugs back to the public, while openly declaring decriminalizations on substances such as marijuana. With the inauguration of President Reagan, the drug war became even more serious and public. Indeed, military action became part of this war, and more severe prison sentences were implemented. At its worst point, the 1994 Federal Crime Bill included the death penalty merely for growing marijuana. Worse still, the drug war came to include medical practitioners and users of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The article shows how scientific evidence was disregarded in the government's zeal to prohibit the use of all drugs. It is little wonder then that the final point in the article declares open public revulsion for the hypocrisy of the federal government.

It appears that the federal government has learned very little from the fiasco in the twenties. Indeed, the timeline only demonstrate that history, when not learned from, simply repeats itself. In the case of the drug war, this has been the case in increasing degrees. It seems that the government is operating in a blinding bubble of bureaucratic deceit and corruption, blissfully unaware of the public's disapproval and even hostility.

The twenties should have demonstrated the effect of legal prohibitions on mind-altering substances. The only reaction is public outrage and extremism, as well as an increase in crime and violence. But the government simply seems to seek different ways of oppressing its public. The war on drugs has been ineffective because the government has shown itself so inefficient at fighting it.

Obviously using drugs is dangerous. So is drinking and smoking tobacco. These two substances are however legal. The government seems to be incorrectly focused on the problem itself rather than its root cause. The root cause is the tendency of young people to begin using drugs at earlier and earlier ages as a result of factors such as peer pressure, as well as stress factors at home and school. These problems, rather than severe punishments such as the death penalty, should be the target of tax dollars.

The public should thus be much more thoroughly be educated regarding the dangers of using not only drugs, but also alcohol and cigarettes. Aggressive and severe methods are obviously not working. It is time that the government takes notice of its public and the true problems facing society. However, it appears that especially the current Bush administration is focused much more on spectacular victories than facing and dealing with the everyday, common problems facing its public. The "war on terrorism" is a case in point.

Intelligence Alert

Opium-"Starched" Blanket in Fitchburg, Massachusetts

This is the first of a three-part article consisting of "intelligence alerts." The first two concern smuggling and growing methods of opium, while the third is focused on cocaine. The first concerns a sheet into which opium had apparently been starched for the purposes of smuggling. This is not a regular occurrence, as opium has a distinct odor, which is not easily disguised. Nonetheless, on this attempt the blanket was to be delivered to an elderly person in Southeast Asia.

California Opium Field Discovered in National Forest

From the Forensic Drug Abuse Advisor 2003; 15(7):53

This section reports a large opium field discovered in California, and continues to name a variety of statistics regarding the profit that may be made from such a crop. It also mentions that opium production has been on the rise in the United States since the ouster of the Taliban. Apart from the obvious dangers to the health of the community, these fields also pose a threat to the lives of hikers like the one who stumbled onto the opium field in the first place. These hikers are for example in danger of being shot by armed guards living on these fields.

Cocaine Inside a Large Candle in Norfolk, Virginia

This section reports the recovery of cocaine in the shape of a brick hidden inside a large scented, rectangular candle. This candle was kept in a metal tin, and the only indication that the drug was hidden inside was its three wicks and very strong scent. It also took considerable effort to remove the drug from the candle, including cutting the metal container away from the candle, and chiseling the wax away from the package inside.

This article shows that the war on drugs, despite claims to the contrary, has been failing. The above three cases are obviously instances where drugs were successfully intercepted. They also however show that drug traffickers and smugglers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their measures to smuggle drugs.

The first case for example was of drugs discovered only by chance. If the hiker had not happened to see the plants, there would never have been any confiscation. It is also in an area that was not previously assumed to be a common drug-growing region. The conclusion from this could be only that there are many more like it in the United States. This is hardly evident of a successful war on drugs.

Again, I do not feel that the severe measures implemented by the government has been particularly successful or even prohibitive. If they were, surely the impressive drug cartels smuggling and producing both inside and outside of the borders of the States would not be as impressive. The reason for this can only be that there is a large market for the sale of these drugs. Drug users in the United States are enabled by the low prices and high availability of substances, but also at times by ignorance or a mere wish to be "cool" or to fit in with their peers.

I don't think therefore that it is any wonder that the public has been outraged at the huge spending sprees of the government on its war. The war is highly ineffective and should be fought within homes and schools rather than outside on a huge scale where everyone can see how much the United States "cares" about its young and their poor, drug-infested bodies.

It would be much more effective to shrink the market through education than it currently is to attempt to curb smuggling and production levels. When the drug market shrinks, drug production and smuggling will also diminish.

Otis, John. Drug War in Colombia: Is there any Progress? Houston Chronicle, 22 June 2005.

This article reveals some discrepancies between White House estimates on the drug trade in Colombia, and counternarcotics officials and analysts' estimates of the same region. According to the government, of course, the war on drugs has resulted in a much lower production of cocaine in the Colombia, which has earned the reputation of being one of the largest worldwide suppliers of cocaine. The methods of the government to reduce the inflow of cocaine to the country include seizure of cocaine shipments and eradicating coca plants. The aim is create a shortage to increase prices and decrease purity, which would result in Americans being convinced to stop using the drug. According to government reports then, these methods have been extremely effective and well worth tax payers' money. Many discrepancies in government estimates are however revealed by counterdrug officials. The satellite observation method is for example shown to be potentially inaccurate as a result of various factors. These include cloud cover, expansion of crops into new regions, and number of analysts able to scrutinize satellite images. All these factors obscure the actual numbers and create wide discrepancies with estimated numbers claimed by the CIA and U.S. government. This is substantiated by the fact that the CIA nearly tripled its 1990's estimate of Colombian cocaine production during 2001. Thus the numbers so liberally quoted as fact by the government are actually no more than estimates at best and blatant misleading lies at worst. Different numbers from different sources serve to undermine the public confidence in the government, and eventually undermines the war on drugs. The premise of the article thus…[continue]

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