|Type of paper:||Research paper|
|Categories:||Race Public policy Drug abuse|
The war on drugs is a challenge facing the United States. The phrase war on drugs refers to the United States government policy of stopping illicit drugs trade and use (Hari, 2016). Since the 1970s, the U.S government has embarked on campaigns towards effective control of drugs use and trade in the country. The drugs policy faces support from some citizens though there is massive opposition to the war on drugs based on political and racist agendas. The authorities employ several strategies to prevent the usage and trade of drugs and substances in the United States. The trade on the drugs was highly scrutinized and offenders were highly penalized. This research paper discusses the process of the war on drugs as directed at the colored persons in the United States.
Causes of the War on Drugs
Drugs and substances such as opium, cocaine, and psychedelics were traditionally used for spiritual, medicinal, and recreational purposes. In the U.S, possession of some drugs is legal, and for others, it is illegal based on the race of the user. The availability and use of drugs in the United States started in 1600. Due to the enormous side effects of the drugs and substances to the individuals and the society, the government started controlling their availability and usage. Many drugs related ailments were reported in the country (Hari, 2016). Long-term usage of drugs and substances particularly when combined with malnutrition caused permanent destruction to significant body organs such as the kidney, lungs, pancreas, brain and the liver. Pregnant females who misused and abused drugs gave birth to infants with lethal alcohol syndrome. The newly born babies had irreversible physical and psychological abnormalities and mental breakdowns. Long-term drugs users contracted various heart diseases. Drug abusers also suffered from various forms of cancer such as Lungs, larynx, esophagus, bladder, pancreatic and kidney cancer. Cases of drug and alcohol abuse attributed to anti-social behavior which was a matter of concern to the U.S government, parents, teachers, Non-governmental organizations and other related institutions.
Pioneer War on Drugs
The pioneer drug control legislation in America was targeted at minority groups. The 1890s anti-drugs legislations were directed at the Chinese immigrants. In the 1880s, several states started enacting legislation aimed at regulating drugs use, distribution, and trade. According to government reports, some states started levying taxes on some drugs such as morphine and opium. The Smoking Opium Exclusion Act of 1909 illegalized the trade and smoking of opium. The Act was directed at the Mexican migrants and Mexican citizens in America. Nevertheless, the drug was widely used for medicinal purposes. In 1914, the Congress passed the Harrison Act; a statute that controlled trade on opiates and cocaine. According to sociologists, the Act was directed at the black populations of South America (Hari, 2016).
The Prohibition Act of 1919 banned the sale, trade on alcohol and related alcoholic products. The Act illegalized the production, distribution, and sale of all related alcoholic products. The legal framework of the Act was guided by the National Prohibition Act of the same year. The Act had provisions on how to enforce the Prohibition Laws. The prohibition era ended in December 1933. Use and sale of some drugs existed for hundreds of years. Marijuana was sold over the counter for hundreds of years till 1937 when its sale was prohibited.
Racial discrimination is a phenomenon in the application of drugs statutes in the U.S. The black communities particularly the Latino were and are victims of unfair discrimination in the drugs law enforcement mechanisms. The Hemp Tax Act of 1937 placed a levy on trade in cannabis. Nevertheless, the law failed to ban the possession or use of marijuana. However, heavy taxes were levied, and hefty penalties levied on tax payment defaulters. According to the Act, tax payment defaulters were to be fined up to $2000 and/or a maximum of five years in jail.
President Nixon and the War on Drugs
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 controlled the use of several drugs and substances. According to the Act, drugs and substances were classified into five categories; according to their medical value and potentiality for abuse and misuse (Hari, 2016). Schedule, one drug comprised of drugs which were considered to be most dangerous but posed little scientific based medical significance to the users. Drugs in this category included cannabis, Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), heroin, MDMA among others. According to CSA, the drugs in Schedules two, three and four had decreasing addictive values. Schedule five drugs comprised of drugs and substances which were less addictive; such as cough medications comprising little amounts of codeine.
According to professional researchers, drugs and substance abuse increased in the 1960s. The drugs were widely used by the majority of the minority groups in America particularly the youth and they acted as indicators of social change, resistance, and political opposition. The Gallup poll findings indicated that 48% of the Americans considered drugs as a national social threat (Hari, 2016). Due to increased abuse and misuse of drugs in the 1960s, there was a lot of political dissents. As a consequence, the U.S government led by President Richard Nixon legalized the war on drugs in 1971. The war on drugs was declared as a national disaster, and the President stated that drug and substance abuse was "a public enemy one." As a result, the government increased funding for drugs control institutions. Drug offenders were heavily fined. A special department entitled Special Action Office for Drug Abuse Prevention led by Dr. Jerome Jaffe was established. Drugs and substances smuggling was a major issue in the U.S. The government established the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for dealing with drug and substance use and smuggling.
According to John Ehrlichman, the domestic government chief in the president Nixon`s administration, the war on drugs had ulterior political and racist motives. The drugs reforms aimed at keeping the government in power. According to Ehrlichman, the government had two major challenges: "the ant-war and black people" (Hari, 2016). The remarks contributed to widespread criticism of the drugs reform agenda. According to public opinion, racism was behind the drug and substances control.
The work of President Nixon laid the foundation for the war on drugs by the other presidential candidates. The hiatus of war on drugs declined between 1973 and 1977 (Hari, 2016). In 1977 Jimmy Carter became the U.S President after campaigning on decriminalization of hemp. In his tenure, the Senate Judiciary Committee decriminalized a maximum of one ounce of cannabis. As a result, several states decriminalized the possession of cannabis. After a few years, the government, parents and non- governmental organizations were concerned about the widespread use of the cannabis by the youthful populations.
Legal Disparities in Drug Offences
During the reign of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, the various drugs policies were affected. The administration started measures to enlighten the masses on the dangers of drugs and substance abuse. The U.S First Lady, Nancy Reagan started "Just No Campaign" aimed at educating the children on the side-effects of drugs and substances abuse (Hari, 2016). In 1986 the government passed a drugs control legislation viewed by many Americans as racist. The Anti-drugs Abuse Act set compulsory jail terms for specific drug offenses. The black communities and white Americans were sentenced differently for the same drug offenses. The law allocated heavy penalties for crack cocaine commonly used by the black populations as opposed to powdered cocaine mostly used by the white Americans. The legislation was later amended in 2010. The Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) which reduced the differences between the various forms of cocaine. The discrepancy between crack cocaine and powder cocaine was reduced from 100: I to 18:1.
According to National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, black populations are convicted for drugs related offenses more than the white drug users (Hari, 2016). The figures are ironical in that the white persons who use drugs are five times more than black populations. There is a well-established drugs market in the minority community`s neighborhood.
Zero tolerance legislations on illegal drugs usage and trade were implemented in the 1980s. The American State legislatures passed statutes which accorded hefty penalties to offenders of drugs crimes. As a consequence, the persons jailed for drug offenses greatly increased. According to research, the prisoners increased from 50,000 in 1997 to over 400,000 in 1980 (Hari, 2016). Furthermore, statistics indicate that colored persons were incarcerated on suspicion of drugs usage more than the white populations. There was the widespread rise of disproportionate incarceration of the black communities as opposed to the white populations. The draconian legislation led to increasing the number of people arrested and high level of prison populations. According to statistics, America has the largest number of convicts in the world; the majority of whom are drug issues related offenders.
President Bill Clinton followed the footsteps of his predecessors through the escalation of the war on drugs. The Clinton regime declined to implement the recommendations of the U.S Sentencing Commission. The government failed to end the disparity on the sentences pertaining to crack and powdered cocaine. The authorities also rejected the proposal to ban funding for syringe access avenues. However, at the end of his reign, President Clinton recognized the need to reform the imprisonment policy and decriminalization of hemp. Recently, some states legalized use and trade on cannabis for legally mature persons. Examples of such states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Washing ton D.C among others.
President Barrack Obama supported numerous policy amendments. The regime reduced the crack and powdered cocaine sentencing policy. The authorities also ended the ban on government funding for syringe availability programs. The war on drugs has been a costly endeavor. Since the 1970s, the war on drugs has cost over one trillion dollars though not still successful but use of drugs has greatly decreased.
The war on drugs has recently waned. Public opinion in America calls for health-based reforms to minimize criminalization on drug and substance use. The American citizens view the war on drugs as ineffective. The drugs policies give room to racial discrimination in America. The war on drugs in America has had ulterior objectives. Technically, the government and non- governmental organizations are still involved in the crackdown on the illegal drugs and substances. Nevertheless, the intensity and publicity have waned as compared to the earlier decades.
Hari, J., (2016), Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, Bloomsbury, U.S.A
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