Impact of the Government’s War on Drugs

3505 words (14 pages) Essay in Criminology

08/02/20 Criminology Reference this

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 One of the biggest questions that we Americans have to ask ourselves is: What can be done to improve the environment on a nationwide level? How can we help ensure that our kids, as well as their kids, will grow up in a country that they can feel safe enough to call it their home? Those questions are what this paper shall help readers understand, through the drug aspect of the American life. The plan for this paper to use really thorough research and past experiences to help my readers understand how drugs are affecting the country, what the government think it is doing to slow the drug trade down versus what is actually being done, and if it is actually creating a larger issue for American citizens. So now, let’s ask the “question of the day”: What has the government actually done to slow down the drug trade and be more successful with the war on drugs?

As a country in this day and age, we often forget that there is always a large amount of history regarding most of the American issues that the common American household faces now, regardless of race or gender. Drugs are just the same as other problems we face, it has a longer history than most realize. Starting around the early 1800’s, drugs that are illegal now such as: psychedelics marijuana, opium, coca (leaf/main ingredient of cocaine), etc., were used for spiritual purposes. It wasn’t until the 1870’s that the drug issue became a problem for America. Well, what changed? In this day and age, racism was a massive problem. Especially since so many different races were immigrating from their countries to Northern America, as well as slavery just being ruled unconstitutional resulting in slaves being freed from their plantations. With this information, we are only to believe that drugs weren’t ruled illegal during this time because they were found to be unsafe or unhealthy but because of the government being aware of who was partaking in the use of certain drugs.

 The first drug law that was put into place was the law banning the use of the poppy plant which was used mostly to create an addictive drug, commonly known as opium. This addictive drug has many ways of use such as smoking, snorting, and/or orally ingesting. This law was directed towards Chinese immigrants. Another law that was created to single out a race/group was the anti-coca/anti-cocaine laws which were targeted towards the large group of African Americans who either used or distributed because it was still tremendously hard for them to find jobs, more specifically the blacks that were still in the south after slavery was made illegal. They did this to find a way to get more blacks “out of their way” and off their streets. But one of the laws that government still has a tremendous problem with today, was originally directed primarily at the Mexican immigrant group as well as the Mexican Americans.

These drug laws can be recognized as the basis for modern which and being used as a guide to make laws that were set to prevent any recreational and/or medicinal use of marijuana (which has obviously changed since then, now that we have laws that make this drug legal now in certain states

Where the US, as well as other countries, is still struggling to win this fight versus drugs. To create a complete argument of whether or not the government is actually doing something or not you have to completely look at what the government has actually done for us every day citizens. Earlier we talked about how the war on drugs started and who the government was targeting with each new law, but there is one act that was put in place, and it changed the “game”, this act is known as the Harrison Narcotics Act.

 In 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Act was passed, under the  W. Wilson presidency. According to Stanford University, this act consisted of bans against marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and morphine and later on between 1915 and 1938. Over 5,000 physicians that had wrote prescriptions to people who were considered to be addicts, were fined and sent to jail. These same doctors and physicians continued to be targeted by officials only because it was seen and made clear by the government that addiction to these drugs is not a disease whatsoever (Lesser). Although this bill against opioid based drugs was made out to bring out the best of America, it did the exact opposite and it actually led to a rise of American criminal activity, especially since this was one of the biggest reasons for the formations of underground markets for the producers and users of opioids and other banned drugs (Lesser ‘Emphasis Added’).  All of this ties back into the general question of what has the government actually done to rid America of these drugs that are flooding the streets? Yes, they created a way to add more pressure onto those who are doing the opposite of what the government allows them, but none of that matters if you can’t find an acceptable way to enforce the laws to make sure that everyone abides.

 This act also triggered even more racism and most came from the government as they felt that they needed more help to bring awareness to the drug issue that we face. So for a little boost in citizen support, the circulation of race-targeted propaganda increased. The main targets for this source of publicity were the Chinese/Asian and African Americans (Lesser). Thus this, in addition to laws we already have set in place, can be credited with being the base of our war on drugs today minus legalization. It can also be blamed for the setting the bar for certain racial stereotypes that are associated with drugs.

Another safeguard for the U.S. that was implemented and suggested by our 40th president, Ronald Reagan, was known as “Executive Order 12564-Drug-Free Workplace” (National Archives). This was Reagan’s attempt to slow down any employee drug usage around the nation. His speech was given in 1985 and can be easily found online, but here is a snippet to get the gist of the whole ordeal:

I, RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States of America, find that: Drug use is having serious adverse effects upon a significant proportion of the national work force and results in billions of dollars of lost productivity each year; The Federal government, as an employer, is concerned with the well-being of its employees, the successful accomplishment of agency missions, and the need to maintain employee productivity;

The Federal government, as the largest employer in the Nation, can and should show the way towards achieving drug-free workplaces through a program designed to offer drug users a helping hand and, at the same time, demonstrating to drug users and potential drug users that drugs will not be tolerated in the Federal workplace;

The profits from illegal drugs provide the single greatest source of income for organized crime, fuel violent street crime, and otherwise contribute to the breakdown of our society. (Federal Register)

In this speech Reagan felt that the rise of the use of drugs was surprisingly high, and was not allowing America and its citizens to be the best it can actually be, which he believes. However, once again, it was found to be an issue of how they were going to enforce the expectation that they hold their citizens up to. Reagan was undeniably the reason that the drug testing that so many of us working citizens are used to take. This act was tailored to government agencies and gave them the power to test any employee for illegal drug use if: There is a reasonable suspicion that an employee uses illegal drugs, during an examination authorized by the agency regarding an accident or unsafe practice, or as part of or as a follow-up to counselling or rehabilitation for illegal drug use through an Employee Assistance Program (Federal Archives). Shortly after word got around that the government was actually taking charge to this “drug free workplace” idea, corporations and other small businesses followed suit and soon it became an institution in most workplaces contracts with their employees.

 Soon drug testing evolved into more programs. As Americans, we are aware of one major system that is used in court that is a, mostly referred to as probation. As said by the Criminal Justice Degree Hub, if probation is approved by the court (which is not every time for obvious reasons), it allows a criminal offender to stay in his or her community as long as they are being watched and supervised by a probation officer whose job it is to report any wrong doing or any violations of the said probation. Probation was started by a person with the name of John Augustus who, in 1841, appeared in court to bail and retrieve what they referred to as a “common drunkard”. Although it was very unclear to why Augustus would do such thing, it came apparent when he returned with the same guy, sober. So this “experiment gone right” made others begin to wonder if this “extra chance” would help wake the convicted back up to the realities of this life. But along with this extra chance came some rules that could be the determining factor of whether you went back to jail or not. This was the start of probation and the government has implemented it into several of our governments programs (Probation of San Mateo County).

As said earlier, with probation there comes many rules and commons sense tells us that drug usage is never allowed no matter what crime you are paying for so the drug testing makes 100% sense. Failure of this test is a violation of the probation rules and gives the probation officer no choice but to send the offender straight to jail without another chance. With this highly organized probation system that is in place for offenders, the Probation Officers (POs), have the responsibility of reporting any information worthy of passing along to the court. This information is later passed onto the state who reviews it and throws it to the state government and reviewed one last time to create statistics for that states probation laws (US Courts). But what do they do with that information? They use these numbers and find who and what areas are heavy in drug use and drug test failures and then funnel drugs into those, usually, poor/low-income neighborhoods

In 2011, several interviews that included well known drug dealers and experts came out with accusations that confused the whole country. In January of 2011, the government had partnered with, but not arrested, a few notorious drug dealers in order to get their hand on some “high quality cocaine”. As a top drug dealer in Oakland, California, Alim Musa was asked how it felt to know that the government was using drug dealers to get more black people out of the streets, as African Americans were continuing to be labeled as a large cause for a much bigger circulation of drugs in certain cities. Musa responded:

So the government wanted to stop the black movement in this track? Technically they used us, drug dealers, it gave us high quality heroin and cocaine to pop into our own neighborhood and then we sold it to our own people, to break the back of the revolution(RT)

 What this causes blacks to wonder whether we, African Americans, are really the cause of this drug epidemic or if this outbreak is actually the fault of our own “beloved” government, once again. As this drug slipped through the government’s hand with this social “experiment” gone wrong, and drug distribution was at an all-time high, it wasn’t a surprise of who they blamed for this mess, the Blacks and Hispanics. These were the first groups blamed for drugs in Nicaragua and Colombia ending up at the doorsteps of the US. Alex Alonso is a drug expert who believes that Blacks and Hispanics shouldn’t be the only ones who are being paid in consequences when it comes to the growth in contraband. When asked about said topic in an

interview, Alonso countered:

We just want to blame black or Hispanic drug dealers. But at the end of the day, we want to ignore this totality of circumstances that really ends up causing drugs to be grown in Colombia and ending up on our doorsteps in the United States,”  

 No matter how we try to work it out in our head, this cannot be mistaken as the government trying to improve and be successful with the War on Drugs. Instead the government’s actions cause everyday citizens to feel like they don’t care about the future of the country, which leads to people wonder why they should care. If the government and their drug tasks force want to be successful they need to make people understand that they are not trying to tank this operation on purpose because they are only making our issue worse.

 As a unit of colored Americans, Latinos and black people of all ages, even young kids, understand what they have to lose in this world full of crooked cops and systems against them. It is often questioned why it seems that these officials, that the citizens of the United States, regardless of the color of their skin, are supposed to trust their lives with, always seem to be focused on incarcerating a great number of colored people for almost the rest of their lives and/or killing them. Now this is not meant to be said as if the people who are actually doing wrong don’t deserve to be sentenced and served their consequences, however, this does mean that the innocent who are wrongfully convicted are there for one of two reasons. They either were at the wrong place at the wrong time and weren’t given a complete and/or fair trial because they’re not white or they were set up by another cop who decided that he/she would plant drugs in a certain place in order to guarantee that arrest (like talked about earlier, where the government planted and distributed drugs in low income areas to help solidify a case against black people and throw them into jail). But what would make more sense is if the government itself, improved and strengthened to make it so that when the time actually comes for the government to crack down on drugs, like they say and believe they are doing, they aren’t caught off guard because of how their officials have been going on about this said war on drugs. Speaking on the behalf of some other Americans, it should be stated that the government needs to choose what they really want to do, as long as it is reasonable and achievable, and stick to a plan, because right now it is not looking too good for them, but rather is only causing more drugs to be produced, sold, and distributed nationwide.

Now if American government would nationally legalize one drug that they find that most of their convictions were for, just as an experiment, it is heavily argued that it could benefit the country in regards to their conviction and crime rates. In fact, they already have done that, just on a state wide level in 10 states, plus the District of Columbia. The legalization of marijuana has come a long way for America, and it doesn’t seem to be losing speed anytime soon. But first, before any update on the legalization of Cannabis in the United States and how it has affected its citizens, a history or background should be understood so that it is clear where we started and how much progress we, as in America, have made.

In the early to mid-1990’s, there was an abrupt explosion of drugs nationwide which left the government puzzled. So in response, the state governments of Maine, Washington, Oregon, California plus the District of Columbia all passed a bill that ruled the medical, and only medical, use of marijuana legal. In order to be given this privilege is if your doctor wrote a prescription stating that you have either a mental illness or a chronic pain (Washington Post). Although this made sense to some people of America, it still made people wonder what the government was thinking adding more marijuana into the equation. Eventually, after about 5 or 6 years pass by 7 more states: Vermont, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, and Nevada will follow in the same footsteps and legalize medical cannabis (Washington Post).

Now in 2019, there are a total of 16 states that are proudly allowing the legal medicinal use of marijuana, and 9 states that allow the recreational use of pot. Those states are: Washington, Vermont, Oregon, Nevada, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, California, and Alaska. The question is how well or how negative the bills effects were on the citizens. Through the first year of legalization for the District of Columbia, it was a little bumpy. Then, in the 2 years that followed, marijuana related arrests plummeted and the same statistics were reported for the state of Washington. Even the state of Alaska benefitted from their state government’s ruling of legalization they went to an average of 1,000 arrests to close to none (Drug Policy Alliance). So if we all see that the states who have implemented legalization are benefitting and doing better as a whole state, why isn’t our nation government taking charge and making the nation a legal country, just to take the edge off of the war on drugs and to take the target off of colored people’s back?

After thorough and full research, it can be concluded that the government has made several changes, but not all were quite effective. From the start of it all with the laws set and geared towards the Poppy plant based Opium drug, to the legalization of medicinal and recreational use of cannabis. What needs to take place, if the government is serious about ridding the country of illegal drugs, is having each state representative come together to vote for whether or not certain drugs are legal or not, on a nationwide scale, not state by state. This stops us from shooting ourselves in the foot as we will be able to focus on the drugs that actually call for more attention to get rid of. This also will help reduce the amount of racism between cops and the convicted. As of  right now, the US government is losing to drugs.

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