|Technically, the United States is
the only nation that supports public policy towards drugs which is so
restrictive that medical providers find it impossible to prescribe
controlled substances for citizens that need them. Instead,
physician must refer patients to staff whose function is to guide patients
to clandestine resources, such as drug dealers who provide patients in
"high risk groups" with illicit drugs that are analogs of
controlled substances. In the US, zero tolerance eliminates the need
to distinguish drug use from drug
abuse which is defined as any personal use of a drug contrary to law
that defiles the Constitution
. The definition includes otherwise legal pharmaceuticals
if they are obtained by illegal means or used for non-medicinal purposes.
This differs dramatically from what mental health professionals
classify as drug
abuse per the DSM-IV,
which is defined as a more problematic form of drug misuse, both of
which are different from drug
In 1994, it was reported that the War on Drugs incarcerates 1 million
Americans a year.
Of the 1 million drug arrests each year, about 225,000 are for simple
possession of marijuana,
the fourth most common cause of arrest in the United States
In the 1980s, while the number of arrests for all crimes was rising 28
percent, the number of arrests for drug offenses rose 126 percent.
The United States has a higher proportion of its population incarcerated
than any other country in the world for which reliable statistics are
available — reaching a total of 2.2 million inmates in the in 2005. The
US Dept. of Justice, reporting on the effects of state initiatives, has
stated that, from 1990 through 2000, "the increasing number of drug
offenses accounted for 27% of the total growth among black inmates, 7% of
the total growth among Hispanic inmates, and 15% of the growth among white
United States foreign policy
The United States has also initiated a number of military actions as
part of its War on Drugs, such as the 1989 invasion of Panama codenamed Operation
Just Cause involving 25,000 American troops. The U.S. alleged that
Noriega, head of government of Panama, was involved in drug
trafficking in Panama.
As part of Plan
Colombia, the U.S. has funded coca
eradication through private contractors such as DynCorp
and helped train the Colombian armed forces to eradicate coca and fight
left-wing guerrillas such as the FARC
(Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and right-wing paramilitaries
such as the AUC
(United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), both of which have been accused
of participating in the illegal drug trade in their areas of influence.
In 2000, the Clinton administration initially waived all but one of the
human rights conditions attached to Plan Colombia, considering such aid as
crucial to national security at the time.
Subsequently, the U.S. government certified that the Colombian government
had taken steps to improve respect for human rights and to prosecute
abusers among its security forces.
The U.S. has later denied aid to individual Colombian military units
accused of such abuses, such as the Palanquero Air Force base and the
Army's XVII Brigade.
Opponents of aid given to the Colombian military as part of the War on
Drugs argue that the U.S. and Colombian governments primarily focus on
fighting the guerrillas, devoting less attention to the paramilitaries
although these have a greater degree of participation in the illicit drug
industry. Critics argue that Human Rights Watch, congressional committees
and other entities have documented the existence of connections between
members of the Colombian military and the AUC, and that Colombian military
personnel have committed human rights abuses which would make them
ineligible for U.S. aid under current laws.
In January 2007, U.S.
Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales met in Mexico
with his counterpart Eduardo
Medina-Mora Icaza to discuss ways to stem growing drug-related
violence in Mexican border
towns associated with the illegal
drug trade to America. More than 2,000 Mexicans died in gangland-style
killings in 2006, prompting a petition by the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration to open new offices in Nuevo
The requested expansion would bring the total number of Mexican offices to
11 and increase the number of DEA agents from 81 to nearly 100.
The War on Drugs has been criticized for a variety of reasons.
In his essay The Drug War and the Constitution ,
Libertarian philosopher Paul Hager makes the case that the War on Drugs in
the United States is an illegal form of prohibition, which violates the
principles of a limited government embodied in the Constitution.
prohibition required amending
the Constitution, because this was not a power granted to the federal
government. Hager asserts if this is true, then marijuana
prohibition should likewise require a Constitutional amendment.
In her dissent in Gonzales
v. Raich, Justice
O'Connor argued that drug prohibition is an improper usurpation of the
to regulate interstate commerce, and the power to prohibit should be reserved
by the states. In the same case, Justice Clarence
Thomas wrote a stronger dissent expressing the similar idea.
Davenport-Hines, in his book The Pursuit of Oblivion (W.W.
Norton & Company, 2001), criticized the efficacy of the War on Drugs
by pointing out:
10-15 per cent of illicit heroin and 30 per cent of illicit cocaine
is intercepted. Drug traffickers have gross profit margins of up to 300
per cent. At least 75 per cent of illicit drug shipments would have to
be intercepted before the traffickers' profits were hurt.
Fujimori, president of Peru
from 1990-2000, described U.S. foreign drug policy as "failed"
on grounds that "for 10 years, there has been a considerable sum
invested by the Peruvian government and another sum on the part of the
American government, and this has not led to a reduction in the supply of
coca leaf offered for sale. Rather, in the 10 years from 1980 to 1990, it
Critics often note that during alcohol
prohibition, alcohol use actually increased. They argue that the War on Drugs uses similar
measures and is no more effective. In the six years from 2000-2006, the
USA spent $4.7 billion on "Plan Colombia", an effort to
eradicate coca production in South America. The main result of this effort
was to shift coca production into more remote areas, the overall acreage
cultivated for coca in Colombia at the end of the six years was the same,
and cultivation in the neighbouring countries of Peru and Bolivia actually
Similar lack of efficacy is observed in other countries pursuing
similar policies. In 1994, 28.5% of Canadians reported having consumed
illicit drugs in their life; by 2004, that figure had risen to 45%. 73% of
the $368 million spent by the Canadian government on targeting illicit
drugs in 2004-2005 went toward law enforcement rather than treatment,
prevention or harm reduction. 
There is little correlation between the use of drugs and crime, except
in so far as the possession and cultivation of drugs are crimes.
Hindrance to legitimate research
The scientific community has criticized U.S. drug policy as being
and a hindrance to legitimate medical and scientific research efforts. For
example, the U.S. government's classification of marijuana
as a Schedule 1 drug (having no medicinal value) is contradicted by the
system has an important role in nearly every important paradigm of pain,
in memory, in neurodegeneration and in inflammation;" although this
quote refers to endogenous cannabinoids (cannabinoids made from the body
itself and not taken in from the outside of the body), research on
cannabinoids from secondary sources such as the cannabis plant has shown
them to have legitimate medical uses.
Racial inequities in prosecution
The social consequences of the drug war have been widely criticized by
such organizations as the American
Civil Liberties Union as being racially biased against minorities and
disproportionately responsible for the exploding United
States prison population. According to a report commissioned by the Drug
Policy Alliance, and released in March
2006 by the Justice
Policy Institute, America's "Drug-Free
Zones" are ineffective at keeping youths away from drugs, and
instead create strong racial
disparities in the judicial system.
Environmental consequences of the drug war, resulting from US-backed
aerial fumigation of drug-growing operations in third world countries,
have been criticized as detrimental to some of the world's most fragile
the same aerial fumigation practices are further credited with causing
health problems in local populations .
However, it doesn't begin to compare to the irreparable damage sustained
from greenhouse gas emissions, factory pollution that lingers in the in
air from as far back as the early 20th century. RF emissions from
wireless systems an LF emissions from power lines have been producing
impacts on the Ionosphere since the invention of the radio that may be
contributing to disorders like Autism and ADHD.
Propaganda cover for paramilitary operations
The epithet "War on Drugs" has been condemned as being propaganda
to justify military or paramilitary operations under the guise of a noble
cause; in particular, Noam
Chomsky points out that the term is an example of synecdoche
referring to operations against suspected
producers, traders and/or users of certain substances. This form of
language is similar to that used in other initiatives such as Lyndon B.
on poverty" and George W. Bush's "War
on Terrorism". The word "war" is used to invoke a state
of emergency, although the target of the war isn't anything against which
standard military tactics are effective.
Government's war against the people
In their book Multitude,
Hardt and Antonio
Negri oppose the view that the use of the term "war" is only
metaphorical: they analyse the War on Drugs as part of a global war of a biopolitical
nature. Like the War on Terrorism, the War on Drugs is a true war, waged
by the US government against its own people.
War on drugs as cyclic creation of a permanent
Since illegal drug use has been blamed for feeding the growth of the
underclass, this has caused prohibitionists to call for further increases
in certain drug-crime penalties, even though some of these disrupt
opportunities for drug users to advance in society in socially acceptable
ways. It has been argued by Blumenson and Nilsen that this causes a
vicious cycle: since penalties for drug crimes among youth almost always
involve semi-permanent removal from opportunities for education, and later
involve creation of criminal records which make employment far more
difficult, that the "war on drugs" has in fact resulted in the
creation of a permanent underclass of people who have few education or job
opportunities, often as a result of being punished for drug offenses which
in turn have resulted from attempts to earn a living in spite of having no
education or job opportunities.
Gateway drug infrastructure
Illegal drugs that are less dangerous tend to gain more widespread
popularity than dangerous ones. An example would be the relationship of
marijuana, a less dangerous drug, and heroin, a more dangerous drug.
People are more willing to experiment with marijuana than heroin because
the consequences are less severe. But because both are illegal, both
require a black market infrastructure for distribution. Because marijuana
is popular, it creates a network of people for this black market
distribution infrastructure that is larger than would be present if only
heroin were illegal, and marijuana were legal. In this manner does the
criminalization of multiple drugs serve as a gateway of access to those
drugs which are more dangerous.
Response to criticism
A common argument heard in support of the War on Drugs is that the war
is not something that can be "won" or "lost." This
argument states that the War on Drugs is much similar to our medical
efforts to end human disease--both have technically "failed" to
an extent, however, very few people will argue that we should end all our
funding of medical research on the basis that it hasn't 100% succeeded in
curing illness. This argument implies that while there are negative
effects from the War on Drugs, the alternate, legalization, would lead to
an even worse state in society.
The weakness of this metaphor is that some diseases (for example smallpox)
have successfully been eradicated, and the impact of others, such as poliomyelitis
has been greatly reduced, whereas drug use has increased despite the best
efforts of prohibitionists. This weakness is exacerbated by the logical
problems in likening all drugs to fatal diseases. For some drugs, like
meth, the argument holds better. For others not so. This line of reasoning
is further complicated by those who argue that the same
"medical" argument should apply towards the prohibition of
alcohol, which is commonly understood to be acceptable in moderation,
despite its harms.
Although legalization of narcotics would reduce criminal activity
simply by redefinition, advocates of prohibition claim that increasing the
availability of drugs will increase usage, and that the social costs of
increased drug addiction would be worse than the costs of prohibition.
Prohibitionists also point out that the cheapest, most popular legal drug,
namely alcohol, is responsible for a larger proportion of crime than all
illicit drugs combined, indicating that legalization of other narcotics
would indeed lead to an increase in crime.
Criminalization of theft and other crimes has not led to their
eradication, but few would suggest that crimes of person and property be
legalized. Analogously, prohibitionists argue that the failure of the war
on drugs to reduce drug use should not be taken as a reason to legalize
it. Although advocates of legalization would argue that this is a false
analogy, and that that drug use only disadvantages the user,
prohibitionists point to the effects of drug use upon others.
In response to that point, advocates of legalization would point out that
tobacco and alcohol have the same effects as other illegal drugs
(intoxication) and can lead to the same end (addiction, disease, social
problems, death) and are still legal, so therefore the government is
contradicting itself by making certain substances illegal when the legal
ones have the same effects.
Where Will It End?
The fact is that the war on drugs is a total failure that has
victimized American citizens, destroyed our healthcare system, and has put
US citizens in far more jeopardy than drugs ever could. As
statistics get churned to show progress, there is not one shred of
evidence that can be found among the 36 years of squandered funds for a
program that is out of control. Meanwhile, only one group has
seen any benefits from the war on drugs. That group comprises drug
dealers and suppliers who are secluded from law enforcement, not
particularly because they live in remote areas, in fact, they are well
known. Some of them are physician, others members of the local
police force, and still others are business owners and politicians.
These individuals are the ones who keep the war on drugs intact.
They are indeed the loudest supporters of the war on drugs because they
know that if the war on drugs ends, so does their drug empire.