War on Drugs | PART I

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The U.S. has waged a global war on drugs for decades. But as prison populations and financial costs rise and drug-related violence continues around the world, lawmakers and experts are reconsidering whether the potential benefits of the war on drugs are really worth its many drawbacks.

What is the war on drugs?
In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon declared an official war on drugs aimed at eradicating the illegal use of psychoactive substances in the United States. In his 1971 address to Congress, Nixon asserted: «If we do not eliminate the drug menace in America, it will surely destroy us».

The following decades, especially during the Reagan administration, saw an escalation of international military and law enforcement actions against drugs. However, this crusade had unintended consequences: the spread of violence globally and mass incarceration in the United States. Despite this, the War on Drugs partially achieved the goal of reducing drug availability and abuse.

Nixon launched the War on Drugs in the context of heightened public concern about rising drug use. In the 1960s, drug use became more widespread, in part due to the counterculture movement. Many Americans believed that drug use posed a serious threat to the country's national security and morals.

Over the past four decades, the U.S. has devoted more than
$1 trillion dollars to the war on drugs. But the harsh measures have in some ways failed to produce the desired results: drug use remains a very serious problem in the United States, even though the war on drugs has made these substances less available. The war on drugs has also had several (some of them unintended) negative consequences, including a greater strain on the U.S. criminal justice system and the spread of drug-related violence around the world.

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Until Nixon's aggressive substance policy, the United States had faced the problem of drug control throughout its history. In the early 20th century, laws were intended to limit the production and sale of drugs, but often had racial overtones. As a result of Nixon's modern war on drugs, minority groups have come under attack.

Drug policy experts and historians are calling for reforms in light of the failures and
negative consequences of this war. Proposed solutions include an emphasis on rehabilitation, decriminalization, and even legalization of drugs.

Adopting such measures entails a complex calculation of benefits and risks.
Drug policy often appears to be a choice among several unattractive options rather than a search for the perfect solution. In the case of the war on drugs, one must weigh the cost of prohibition (disproportionate arrests of minorities, drug-related international violence, and financial costs) against the speculative benefits of curbing drug abuse in the United States.

Can the war on drugs be called a success?
The main objective of the war on drugs is to reduce the use of narcotic substances. Specifically, it aims to disrupt and disrupt the international trade in drugs, which should lead to shortages and higher prices, making them less accessible to consumers. Despite some evidence that drug prices are falling, experts believe that the war on drugs is still curbing drug abuse by limiting access to drugs.

Data from the Office of National Drug Control Policy shows significant price declines for most drugs. From 1981 to 2007, the average wholesale price of heroin fell by about 93% and the average wholesale price of powder cocaine fell by 87%. From 1986 to 2007, the average wholesale price of crack cocaine fell 54%. In contrast, the prices of methamphetamine and marijuana have remained relatively stable since the 1980s.
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In many cases, a balloon effect has been observed, whereby the fight against drugs in a particular region does not necessarily lead to a reduction in the overall supply of drugs. Instead, drug production and trafficking simply move to other areas because of the high profitability of the business. This is especially true in countries where drug trafficking may be one of the few ways to make a living and governments are not strong enough to crack down on this type of activity.

The balloon effect has been seen in cases ranging from Peru and Bolivia to Colombia in the 1990s, and from the Netherlands Antilles to West Africa in the early 2000s, and from Colombia and Mexico to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in the 2000s and 2010s.

Sometimes the fight against drugs does not lead to a complete reduction in production, as has happened, for example, in Afghanistan.
From 2002 to 2014, the U.S. spent $7.6 billion to fight opium in that country, where most of the world's heroin supply comes from. Despite all efforts, opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record high in 2013.

Demand for illegal drugs has changed significantly since the War on Drugs began.
The Monitoring the Future study, which tracks illegal drug use among high school students, offers an interesting proxy: In 1975, four years after the drug war began under President Richard Nixon, 30.7 percent of high school seniors were reported to have used drugs in the previous month. In 1992, the figure was 14.4 percent. In 2013, it rose again to 25.5%.

However, prohibition is likely to make drugs less available than they would be if they were legal.
A 2014 study by John Caulkins, a drug policy expert at Carnegie Mellon University, found that prohibition increases the price of hard drugs like cocaine by a factor of 10. And illegal drugs obviously can't be gotten the easy way — you can't just walk into a CVS and buy heroin. So the war on drugs is likely to stop the use of some drugs: Caulkins estimates that legalization could triple the abuse of hard drugs, though he told me it could rise much more.

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There is evidence that the drug strategy is overly punitive. A 2014 study by Peter Reiter of the University of Maryland and Harold Pollack of the University of Chicago found that there was no convincing evidence to support that stricter penalties or harsh supply elimination measures were more effective. Limiting access to drugs and preventing substance abuse seem to be more effective when penalties are lighter. Consequently, increased penalties do not significantly slow the flow of drugs.

Instead, much of the reduction in the availability of
drugs is probably the result of the fact that they are illegal, making them more expensive and less available, blocking opportunities for mass production and distribution.

The question arises whether
potential reductions in drug use are worth the disadvantages that arise in other areas, including an overburdened criminal justice system and the global spread of violence fueled by illicit drug markets. If the war on drugs has not significantly reduced drug use, production and trafficking, then perhaps it is not worth the cost and a new approach is preferable.

How does the U.S. regulate it?
The United States uses what is known as the medication scheduling system. Under the Controlled Substances Act, there are five categories of controlled substances, known as schedules, which weigh the medical value of a drug against the potential for abuse.

The assessment of medical value usually occurs through scientific research, mostly through large-scale clinical trials such as those conducted by the Food and Drug Administration for pharmaceuticals. The Controlled Substances Act does not clearly define abuse potential, but for the federal government, abuse means that people are using a substance on their own initiative, which poses a risk to their health or the public at large.

Under this system,
Schedule 1 drugs have no medical value and have a high potential for abuse. Schedule 2 drugs have a high potential for abuse but have some medical value. As the rating is downgraded to Schedule 5, the likelihood of drug abuse generally decreases.

It may be useful to view the scheduling system as two separate groups: non-medical and medical. The non-medical group includes Schedule 1 drugs that lack medical value and have a high potential for abuse. The medical group includes Schedule 2-5 preparations that have some medical value and are categorized according to their potential for abuse (from high to low).
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Marijuana and heroin are Schedule 1 drugs, so the federal government states that they have no medical value and a high potential for abuse. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioid painkillers are Schedule 2 drugs, so they are considered to have some medical value and high abuse potential. Steroids and testosterone products are Schedule 3, Xanax and Valium are Schedule 4, and cough medicines with limited amounts of codeine are Schedule 5. Congress specifically removed alcohol and tobacco from the schedules in 1970.

While these schedules help shape criminal penalties for illegal drug possession and sale, they are not always the final word. Congress, for example,
significantly increased penalties for crack cocaine in 1986 in response to concerns about the crack epidemic and its potential connection to crime. State governments can also set their own criminal penalties and schedules for drugs.

Other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, use similar systems as the United States, although their specific ratings for some drugs differ.

How will states implement the war on drugs?
The U.S. is waging a war on drugs both at home and abroad. On the domestic front, the federal government provides local and state police departments with funds, legal flexibility, and specialized equipment to combat drug trafficking. Local and state police then use this funding to go after drug trafficking organizations.

«Federal aid has helped us take down major drug organizations, and we've taken down several in Baltimore»said Neal Franklin, a retired police major and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. which opposes the war on drugs. «But to do that, we pulled out the low-hanging fruit and moved up the chain to find out who was at the top of the pyramid. right down to the authority figures».

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Some of the funding, especially from the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, provides an incentive for local and state police to participate in counterdrug operations. If police do not utilize allocated funds to combat illegal substances, they may be deprived of those funds, creating a financial incentive for law enforcement officers to continue to fight drugs.

Although the focus is on criminal gangs, casual users still fall under the criminal law. Between 1999 and 2007,
Human Rights Watch found that at least 80 percent of drug-related arrests involved possession rather than trafficking.

However, it seems that arrests for possession do not usually result in conviction and incarceration. According to
federal statistics, only 5.3 percent of drug offenders were in federal prisons in 2004, while 27.9% of such offenders served time in state prisons for drug possession. Most of those convicted were caught for human trafficking, while few were convicted under the undefined category of «other crimes».

At the international level, the U.S. actively supports other countries in the fight against drugs. For example, in the 2000s, they assisted Colombia by providing military support and training under the
Plan Colombia initiative. The goal was to help that country prosecute criminal groups and armed groups funded by drug trafficking.

Federal officials argue that aid to countries like Colombia targets the sources of drug trafficking because most of the substances are produced in Latin America and shipped north to the United States. However, international efforts have not completely eliminated the problem of drug trafficking and related violence in other countries, but have only temporarily displaced it.

In light of the difficulty of combating drugs to accomplish goals, federal and state officials have begun to move away from harsh enforcement methods and strict positions on crime. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy now calls for a greater emphasis on rehabilitation, not just law enforcement. Even some conservatives, including former Texas Governor Rick Perry, support drug court rulings aimed at putting drug offenders into rehabilitation programs rather than prison.

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The idea behind these reforms is to find a better balance between incarcerating more people for drug trafficking and directing truly problematic drug users to rehabilitation and treatment services that can help them. «We can't stop our way out of the problem and we really need to focus our attention on proven public health strategies to make a significant difference when it comes to drug use and consequences» — said Michael Botticelli, U.S. Drug Czar.

The impact of the war on drugs on the US justice system
The escalating influence of the criminal justice system over the past several decades, from increased incarceration rates to private property confiscation and militarization, can be attributed to the war on drugs.

After the U.S. intensified its war on drugs in the 1970s and 1980s, tougher sentences for drug offenses played a role in making the country the world leader in incarceration rates. (But drug offenders still make up a small portion of the prison population: about 54% of people in state prisons, home to more than 86 percent of the U.S. prison population, were violent criminals in 2012, and 16% were drug offenders, according to data in the Bureau of Justice Statistics).

However, mass incarceration has placed a serious strain on the criminal justice system and has led to prison overcrowding in the US. As a result, some states, including California, have eliminated penalties for non-violent drug users and sellers in order to reduce the prison population.

In terms of police powers, civil asset forfeiture has been justified as a method of combating drugs and drug trafficking organizations. These actions allow law enforcement to seize the assets of organizations, including cash, and use the proceeds to fund new counter-drug operations. The main objective is to use the proceeds from the illicit sources of drug traffickers against the traffickers themselves.

Nevertheless, many cases of police abuse of civil asset forfeiture have been documented. In some cases, police have seized cars and money from people based on mere suspicions that are not supported by facts. In such situations, the burden of proving their innocence lies with the owners of the confiscated private property themselves, rather than with the police, who usually need to prove the existence of an offense or reasonable suspicion before taking action.

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The federal government has also supported local and state police departments in directing efforts to more effectively fight drugs. The Pentagon's 1033 program, which began in the 1990s during the presidency of George Bush Sr. provides police with surplus military equipment as part of the drug campaign. SWAT operations have also increased significantly over the past few decades, with 62 percent of SWAT raids in 2011 and 2012 involving drug searches, according to the ACLU.

Various groups have raised concerns about possible abuses and excesses of police powers. For example, the
ACLU argues that seizures of private property pose a threat to Americans' civil liberties and rights because police can seize property even without filing charges. Such seizures may also incentivize police to focus their efforts on drug offenses, as they may result in the seizure of real funds that would later go back into police departments' budgets, while investigating crimes of violence likely would not. The libertarian Cato Institute has also criticized the drug campaign for years, pointing out that anti-drug efforts have become a pretext for greatly expanding law enforcement surveillance capabilities, including wiretaps and searches of the U.S. mail.

Police militarization became a stumbling block during the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri over the police shooting of Michael Brown. After heavily armed police responded to mostly peaceful protesters with tank-like armored vehicles, tear gas, and sound cannons, law enforcement experts and journalists criticized the tactics.


Since the War on Drugs began, the general trend has been to greatly expand police powers and expand the criminal justice system as a means of combating drug use. But as the War on Drugs attempts to stop drug use and trafficking, the harsh policies that many have called draconian have come into question. If the war on drugs does not achieve its goals, critics say this expansion of the criminal justice system is not worth the financial strain and cost to freedom in the United States.
 
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miner21

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Have you ever talked to anyone about writing an article for TorTimes? I dont know if youd be interested but, I know they were looking for writers not long ago
 
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