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The War on Drugs Leave a comment

The WAR on drugs

Over four decades ago, US President Richard Nixon made a bold declaration, labeling drug abuse as the primary enemy of the public and initiating an unparalleled worldwide endeavor known as the War on Drugs. Presently, the evidence speaks for itself. The War on Drugs has proven to be a monumental failure, resulting in detrimental and unintended outcomes. It has fueled rampant mass incarceration within the United States, while also fostering corruption, political upheaval, and widespread violence in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The consequences of the War on Drugs have extended to systemic human rights abuses worldwide, casting a dark shadow over the lives of millions of individuals. Astonishingly, as we continue to pour billions of dollars into this endeavor each year, the unintended result has been the creation and empowerment of powerful drug cartels. Meanwhile, the original goal of achieving a drug-free world appears more elusive than ever. How did we find ourselves in this situation?

Why it doesn't work

The fundamental principle driving the War on Drugs is the notion of “no drugs, no problems.” Consequently, the majority of efforts over the past few decades have been concentrated on eradicating drug supplies and imprisoning drug traffickers. However, this approach overlooks a basic economic principle: the interplay of supply and demand. When the supply of a commodity is reduced without addressing the underlying demand, the consequences can be problematic.

When the price of a commodity increases, it typically leads to decreased sales for various products. However, drugs operate differently in the market. The drug market exhibits low price-sensitivity, as drugs continue to be consumed regardless of their cost. Consequently, this dynamic fosters the growth of drug production and the recruitment of more traffickers, ultimately resulting in an increased availability of drugs. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as the “balloon effect,” wherein even if drug production or a significant supply route is disrupted or destroyed, the overall supply for end-users remains largely unaffected.

An excellent illustration of this phenomenon is crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as crystal meth. In an attempt to curb its production, the US Government implemented strict regulations on the sale of chemicals used in the drug’s manufacturing process. While this approach did succeed in shutting down large-scale meth producers, it unintentionally gave rise to thousands of small-scale operations throughout the country, predominantly in small towns and rural communities. In response to this situation, certain US states attempted to address the issue of domestically produced meth by imposing further regulations on additional chemicals. As a result, there was a significant decline in small-scale meth production. However, despite these efforts, the overall supply of meth remained unchanged. Exploiting the opportunity, Mexican drug cartels swiftly stepped in and established large-scale production operations. Surprisingly, the quality of their meth surpassed the previous standards, making it even more potent than before. Furthermore, the involvement of Mexican drug cartels brought a wealth of experience in smuggling operations. Consequently, all the aforementioned efforts unintentionally resulted in a more professionalized production of meth, leading to an even more potent drug, without any significant reduction in supply. It becomes evident that attempting to win the war on drugs solely through supply-side measures is a futile endeavor.

Despite drugs being widely accessible, demand remaining unaltered, and some drugs becoming purer than before, the budget of approximately $30 billion allocated to the US Drug Enforcement Agency has yielded an efficiency rate of less than 1% in halting the influx of drugs into and within the United States.

The war on drugs: a devastating public-policy disaster – The Lancet

The bill

It is perplexing to consider how a country possessing cutting-edge technology, military intelligence, and global influence could spend billions upon billions of dollars in attempts to dismantle gangs and drug smuggling networks in developing nations. Investigative work by the Associated Press uncovered a troubling pattern: government budgets were augmented for programs that proved to be ineffective in curbing the inflow of drugs into the country. Over the past four decades, the allocated funds have been dispersed in various directions, yielding questionable outcomes.

  • Approximately $33 billion was allocated to domestic marketing initiatives, including Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign. While this campaign did contribute to a decline in teenage drug use rates, it faced criticism for oversimplifying a complex public health crisis into a mere slogan.
  • $20 billion was dedicated to combating drug cartels on their own territory. Out of this amount, $6 billion was spent on dismantling operations in Colombia. However, this strategy prompted a shift in trafficking activities to Mexico, resulting in the Mexican government’s struggle to control the powerful organized crime syndicates within its borders. Ciudad Juarez, once dubbed the “murder capital of the world,” experienced the devastating consequences, with drug cartels engaged in a violent struggle for power and dominance, leading to the deaths of approximately 2,600 people in 2009 alone.
  • $49 billion was allocated to support law enforcement and border control missions along the southern border, covering a span of nearly 2,000 miles from California to Texas. These funds were utilized for various purposes, including the provision of resources such as patrols, sniffer dogs, checkpoints, cameras, motion detectors, heat sensors, drone aircraft, as well as the construction of over 1,000 miles of steel beam, concrete walls, and heavy mesh along the border. However, despite these efforts, the unfortunate reality remains that the majority of the 330 tons of cocaine, 20 tons of heroin, and 110 tons of methamphetamine consumed by 25 million Americans each year are still smuggled over the Mexican border.
  • $121 billion was dedicated to the arrest of over 37 million individuals involved in low-level, nonviolent drug offenses. Additionally, a staggering $450 billion was expended on processing these offenders within federal prisons. Despite The Washington Post highlighting the misguided approach of incarcerating drug users, which overlooks the reality of drug addiction within prison walls, hundreds of billions of dollars have been allocated to sustain these endeavors in the failed war on drugs.

For numerous young individuals worldwide, acquiring illegal drugs is just as accessible as obtaining alcohol. However, the consequences extend beyond this aspect. Prohibition measures may deter some individuals from using drugs, but in the process, they inflict significant harm on society as a whole. Many of the issues commonly associated with drug use are, in fact, a byproduct of the war waged against them. One notable consequence of prohibition is the amplification of drug potency.

When drugs can be stored in small quantities yet retain high potency, it becomes more lucrative for sellers. This phenomenon mirrors what occurred during alcohol prohibition, which resulted in an upsurge in the consumption of strong liquor rather than beer. The prohibition of drugs has also been associated with a rise in violence and homicides on a global scale. Gangs and cartels, lacking access to legal avenues for conflict resolution, resort to violence as a means to settle disputes. This grim reality has triggered a distressing cycle of escalating brutality. Shockingly, according to certain estimates, the homicide rate in the United States is believed to be 25-75% higher as a direct consequence of the War on Drugs. In Mexico, the nation at the forefront of the drug war, a staggering estimate reveals that approximately 164,000 individuals lost their lives to violence between 2007 and 2014. Shockingly, this number surpasses the combined casualties of the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq during the same period.

One of the most detrimental impacts of the War on Drugs is the imprisonment of non-violent drug offenders. A prime example of this can be seen in the United States, a major proponent of the war. Despite having only 5% of the global population, the US accounts for a staggering 25% of the world’s prison population. Harsh penalties and mandatory minimum sentences contribute significantly to this disparity. Regrettably, minority communities bear a disproportionate burden as a result of these policies. 

Is there a solution?

During the 1980s, Switzerland faced a severe public health crisis stemming from widespread heroin use. The surge in heroin addiction led to skyrocketing HIV rates and an increase in street crime. In response, Swiss authorities adopted a novel approach: harm reduction. They established free heroin maintenance centers, providing addicts with treatment and stabilization services.

In these specialized centers, individuals were provided with high-quality heroin at no cost. Additionally, they were supplied with clean needles and granted access to safe injection rooms equipped with showers, beds, and medical supervision. Social workers were also available to assist them in finding housing and addressing other challenges they faced in their lives. The outcomes were remarkable, with a significant reduction in drug-related criminal activities observed. Moreover, two-thirds of the individuals utilizing these centers were able to secure steady employment since they could now concentrate on their recovery instead of financing their addiction. Presently, more than 70% of all heroin addicts in Switzerland receive treatment through these programs. Notably, there has been a drastic decline in HIV infections as a direct result of these measures. Heroin overdose fatalities have plummeted by 50%, showcasing the effectiveness of alternative approaches. Additionally, drug-related street sex work and crime have experienced significant reductions. These methods not only prove to be more cost-effective but also yield tangible results, unlike the counterproductive consequences of drug prohibition. The current system of prohibition tramples upon human rights, drains enormous financial resources, and engenders substantial human suffering, all in the pursuit of an unattainable objective. After four decades of relentless battle, the time has come to bring an end to the War on Drugs and transition towards a more progressive and effective approach. It is time to embrace alternative strategies that offer greater promise and yield better outcomes.

Cannabis Prohibition

The story of Cannabis prohibition is intricate, as various categorizations of Cannabis and cultural beliefs have influenced the legislation surrounding it over the course of history. 

1900's

1937

1951-1956

1970

1980's


The recreational utilization of marijuana was introduced

In the early 1900s, Mexican immigrants introduced recreational marijuana use in the United States, marking one of the initial instances of its occurrence.


Federal Regulations

The enactment of the Marijuana Tax Act establishes federal prohibition of marijuana while still allowing for medicinal use. (Around the same time as Alcohol Prohibition)



Criminalization

The Boggs Act (1952) and Narcotics Control Act (1956) are passed, imposing mandatory sentences for drug-related offenses, including the possession of marijuana.

The implementation of the Controlled Substances Act categorizes cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, alongside substances like heroin. This classification denotes its perceived high potential for abuse and lack of acknowledged medical benefits. (A first offence Marijuana possession conviction resulted in a minimum sentence of 2-10 years with a fine up to $20,000.)

Decriminalization

During the 1970s, several states initiated the process of decriminalizing marijuana. By the 1980s, although the possession of marijuana remained illegal, individuals were no longer at risk of prosecution or imprisonment for specific quantities.

Australia TODAY

In February 2016, Australia legalised medicinal cannabis at the federal level and from January 2020, the Australia Capital Territory stated it was now legal to possess small amounts of cannabis for personal use (even though this conflicted with the federal laws). Now, over 21 countries worldwide have began to decriminalise cannabis.

Cannabis Growing main logo

Our deep love of plants and fascination with Cannabis has enabled over 25 years of successful small scale Marijuana cultivation from indoor hydroponics, greenhouses and outdoor growing set-ups.

As Cannabis laws around the world change, *we support the movement toward freedom of choice for responsible, consenting adults who wish to experience the joy and wonder of growing a Cannabis plant.

*All info is for entertainment purposes only.  We do not condone illegal growing of Cannabis.   Consult your state laws accordingly. 

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