By Matthew Wolf
In 1971, President Richard Nixon identified drug abuse as “Public Enemy No. 1” and declared the War on Drugs, according to National Public Radio. During this timeframe, the psychedelic counterculture had been experimenting with LSD since the early 1960s and the rise of militant style groups became more popular across the United States. LSD wasn’t the only drug gaining popularity, Americans also started using cocaine and marijuana more frequently. Not only was Nixon calling for a National Anti-Drug policy, the Media vilified drug usage by biasing their coverage to reflect the negativity surrounding drugs and leaving out any of the possible positive outcomes from them. Fast forward to 2019 and it is obvious that the United States is losing the War on Drugs. The War on Drugs has not only increased crime, and increased addiction to drugs, but has cost the country billions of dollars.
Trying to win the War on Drugs, the Federal Government has spent an enormous amount of money on administration, operations, and detaining criminals. A 2008 study conducted by Jeffrey A. Miron, a Harvard economist, estimated that if drugs were legalized, the Federal Government would see an annual savings of $15.6 billion a year and the States would see an even greater savings of $25.7 billion in overhead. Not only would the United States see a savings just from ceasing the War on Drugs but would then see additional tax revenue from the legal sale of these new controlled substances. Some states are already reaping the benefits of legal marijuana operations in their states, like Colorado. According to Colorado’s Department of Revenue, the state received approximately $266 million in 2018. Also keep in mind that this is only the legalization of one drug. There are other drugs on the Schedule, that if legalized, would bring in additional revenue for the States.
Like anything else in life, when something is illegal, the birth of black markets and criminals follow. The illegal distribution of drugs, otherwise known as drug trafficking, is one of the largest industries on the planet. Due to the illegal environment, many of the traffickers use violence as a necessity to transport the drugs. This has caused tension amongst countries, especially to the southern border of the United States, where Mexican cartels perform whatever is necessary to keep up with the demand. Outside of the trafficking issue, many of the arrests that happen in the United States are for possession only. According to drugpolicy.org, in 2017 there were 1,632,921 total arrests for U.S. drug law violations. Out of the 1.6 million, 85.4 percent of the arrests were for possession only. Many of those arrested for possession have no history of violence either.
More recent data and events has shown opioid misuse that has exploded into a full-on crisis across the country. Americanprogress.org reported that in 2016, every 16 minutes an American died from opioid overdose, which added up to 42,249 dying that year. Another astronomical statistic from the same source states that Americans only account for 5 percent of the world’s population but consume 80 percent of all opioids produced globally. Many doctors and big pharmacy have come under attack over their contribution to the opioid crisis. Christopher Ingraham, of The Washington Post, stated that in 2012, Doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioids. That is enough for every adult to have their own prescription with 19 million to spare.
Many Americans are calling for action to seek alternative solutions to the War on Drugs. Other countries around the world have already started adopting progressive drug reform to combat the problems that occur from criminalizing drugs. In 2018, Canada federally legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Other countries, such as Portugal, identify addiction as a disease and feel that it does not make sense to criminalize or arrest sick people says Desert Hope Treatment. America needs to reverse the negative stigma that surrounds drug usage and put resources towards rehabilitation and responsible drug use. The legalization would decrease drug trafficking and introduce a stable supply of controlled, regulated drugs. Caffeine is a dangerous drug in high doses, but many Americans use it daily. How many overdoses are reported on caffeine each year? Medicalnewstoday.com reported that there were 92 reported deaths from caffeine overdose in 2018. This proves that any drug can be dangerous if improperly used and those who are sick should be offered help, not a jail cell. The resources put towards the War on Drugs have only increased since the ’70s, yet addiction is at an all-time high. Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”
Matthew Wolf a Laura resident and an Edison State Community College student.