OPINION: Why We Lost the War on Drugs

By Miranda Cavada

Owlfeed Journalist

You may have heard about the never-ending battle this country has fought against illicit drugs in an effort to keep those “cold-blooded criminals” that sell and use them behind bars. There’s a lot the public doesn’t know about what turned out to be one of the most embarrassing mistakes we’ve made since the advent of reefer madness: the War on Drugs.

Photo Credit: solidarity-us.org

So what has this infamous war accomplished so far? For one, it’s made drugs less safe to use by removing safety practices such as clean needles. It’s made criminals more violent and increased the number of cartels. It’s treatment has perpetuated untreated mental health problems.

Beginning in the 1970s, the War on Drugs was a government initiative that sought to prohibit illegal drug use. However, prior to this taking place, America had already indulged in previous prohibitions. The alcohol we glorify to this day was once prohibited by the 18th amendment until the 21st overturned it.

Harry Anslinger drafted the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which didn’t criminalize or prohibit weed until President Nixon came along, signing the Controlled Substances Act. Through this, the War on Drugs was officially declared.

Nixon left a precedent for educating the public, especially vulnerable children, about the dangers of drug abuse. While he had seemingly good intentions, the way he and future presidents went about it was deemed racist and ultimately ineffective.

The campaign targeted mostly African-Americans and incarcerated them disproportionally. Due to the use of crack cocaine in the 70s, “..people of color were targeted and arrested on suspicion of drug use at higher rates than whites,” even though whites partook in powder cocaine in similar frequencies, said an article from history.com.

Commondreams.org said the government’s efforts to eradicate crop yields for opium and coca were counterproductive, as “poppy production is up by 130% while coca production is up 34%.”

Prohibition has refused the taxation of safer drugs such as marijuana since it has been approved by voters numerous times for not only recreational use, but medicinal use in some states. This, in turn, leads to hazardous consumerism by allowing cartels to sell to minors in an unregulated and illegal fashion.

Addiction, nonetheless, is more of a health problem than a security problem. There are other ways to tackle the epidemic that’s taking numerous young lives besides outlawing it all together and labeling those who need help as criminals. Instead of sending them to prison, what must be done is something entirely different.

Drug abuse is inevitable for those who lack the support they need to stump their addiction; no matter how much our schools drill it into our heads that we shouldn’t partake, there will always be temptation.

The way to go about solving this issue isn’t misinforming the public with propaganda nor denying safe practices for those who choose to partake regardless. Rehabilitation will be there to help through the toughest of times. If you’re struggling with drug abuse, don’t lose hope.

Drug Abuse Hotline: 1-877-923-8624