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The drug policy of the United States is currently well represented by the declaration of a War on Drugs by President Richard Nixon in June 1971. The "war" has been continued by every one of his successors to date. Indeed, drug policy has changed little in this time. President Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1973 to focus the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (passed by the United States Congress in 1970). In May 2009 the Obama Administration indicated that it would not use the term "War on Drugs," as it believed that it was counter-productive and was contrary to their policy favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce drug use.

Drug possession is the crime of having one or more illegal drugs in one's possession, either for personal use, distribution, sale or otherwise. Illegal drugs fall into different categories and sentences vary depending on the amount, type of drug, circumstances, and jurisdiction. In the U.S., the penalty for illegal drug possession and sale can vary from a small fine to a prison sentence. In some states, marijuana possession is considered to be a petty offense, with the penalty being comparable to that of a speeding violation. In some municipalities, possessing a small quantity of marijuana in one's own home is not even punishable at all. Generally, however, drug possession is an arrestable offense, although first-time offenders rarely serve jail time.

In addition to prison or jail, federal law provides for the deportation of many non-citizens convicted of drug offenses. Federal and state policies also impose collateral consequences on those convicted of drug offenses, such as denial of public benefits or licenses, that are not applicable to those convicted of other types of crime. These policies have since been linked to the exceptional incarceration rate in the United States. U.S. population grew by about +25% from 1980 to 2000. In that same 20 year time period, U.S. prison population tripled. Among the prisoners made the drug offenders up the same percentage of State prisoners in both 1997 and 2004 (21%). The percentage of Federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses declined from 63% in 1997 to 55% in 2004.

Effects

Drug use has increased in all categories since prohibition except that opium use is at a fraction of its peak level. The big decline in use of opium started already after the Harrison Act of 1914. Use of heroin peaked between 1969 and 1971, cocaine between 1987 and 1989 and marijuana between 1978 and 1979.

By 1937, the use of marijuana, once an activity seemingly limited to Mexican immigrants and jazz musicians, has become one undertaken by up to 50% of the youth of the United States. The big growth in use of marijuana happened however in the 1960s, well before the start of the war on drugs in 1971. President Richard Nixon stated that the increased drug use and drug related crime in the decade before 1971 was the cause for the war on drugs.

Between 1972 and 1988 the use of cocaine increased more than fivefold. The usage patterns of the current two most prevalent drugs, amphetamines and ecstasy, have shown similar gains.

400 px
]US drug policy, however, successful in reducing the amount of marijuana being illegally imported into the United States . Unintended consequences of the War on Drugs include increased potency and growth of marijuana crops within the United States, and an increase in cocaine smuggling which is easier to move and yields a higher profit margin.

A number of economically-depressed Colombian farmers in several remote areas of their country began to turn to what became a new, illicit cash crop for its high resale value and cheap manufacturing process. Local coca cultivation, however, remained comparatively rare in Colombia until the mid-1990s. Drug traffickers originally imported most coca base from traditional producers in Perumarker and Boliviamarker for processing in Colombia, continuing to do so until eradication efforts in those countries resulted in a "balloon effect".

Despite the Reagan administration's high-profile public pronouncements, secretly, many senior officials of the Reagan administration illegally trained and armed the Nicaraguanmarker Contras, which they funded by the shipment of large quantities of cocaine into the United States using U.S. government aircraft and U.S. military facilities. Funding for the Contras was also obtained through the illegal sale of weaponry to Iranmarker. When this practice was discovered and condemned in the media, it was referred to as the Iran-Contra affair.

In 1996, 56% of California voters voted for Proposition 215, legalizing the growing and use of marijuana for medical purposes. This created significant legal and policy tensions between the federal and state governments. Courts have since decided that state laws in conflict with a federal law about cannabis are not valid. Cannabis is restricted by federal law (see Gonzales v. Raich).

Regardless of public opinion, marijuana could be the single most targeted drug in the drug war. It constitutes almost half of all drug arrests, and between 1990–2002, out of the overall drug arrests, 82% of the increase was for marijuana. Less than 1% of all state prison inmates are serving time for personal marijuana possession, not sale.

As of 2006, marijuana has become the United States of America's biggest cash crop in terms of revenues. Because of scarcity caused by illegality, the street price of marijuana has reached a point where it is now "worth its weight in gold".

In 2008, 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug offenses. Half a million were imprisoned.

National Research Council study

In the first-ever government study of its policy on drugs, the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Data and Research for Policy on Illegal Drugs published its findings in 2001. The NRC Committee found that existing studies on efforts to address drug usage and smuggling, from U.S. military operations to eradicate coca fields in Colombia, to domestic drug treatment centers, have all been inconclusive, if the programs have been evaluated at all: "The existing drug-use monitoring systems are strikingly inadequate to support the full range of policy decisions that the nation must make.... It is unconscionable for this country to continue to carry out a public policy of this magnitude and cost without any way of knowing whether and to what extent it is having the desired effect." The study, though not ignored by the press, has been ignored by top-level policymakers, leading Committee Chair Charles Manski to conclude, as one observer notes, that "the drug war has no interest in its own results." Such apathy toward drug policy has continued despite wide support for reform by the economics profession. A meta analysis of surveys conducted from a sample of professional economists, including Nobel laureates, concluded that, "The general consensus that does exist among drug policy researchers and economists as a whole could be characterized as anti-prohibition, but only timidly pro-decriminalization and even less so about the prospects of legalization." Moreover, most economists who publish judgments on the issue favor liberalization.

Timeline

1880: The U.S. and Qing Dynastymarker Chinamarker complete an agreement prohibiting the shipment of opium between the two countries; Qing China itself was still reeling from the effects of fighting the Opium War after a failed attempt to stem the British importing of opium into China proper (see Lin Zexu).

1911: United States first Opium Commissioner argues that of all the nations of the world, the United States consumes most habit-forming drugs per capita.

1914: The first recorded instance of the United States enacting a ban on the domestic distribution of drugs is the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914. This act was presented and passed as a method of regulating the production and distribution of opiate-containing substances under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, but a section of the act was later interpreted by law enforcement officials for the purpose of prosecuting doctors who prescribe opiates to addicts.

1919: Alcohol prohibition in the U.S. first appeared under numerous provincial bans and was eventually codified under a federal constitutional amendment in 1919, having been approved by 36 of the 48 U.S. states.

1925: United Statesmarker supported regulation of cannabis as a drug in the International Opium Convention. and by the mid 1930s all member states had some regulation of cannabis.

1932: Democrat Franklin Roosevelt ran for President of the United States promising repeal of federal laws of Prohibition of alcohol.

1933: Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is repealed. The amendment remains the only major act of prohibition to be repealed, having been repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution.

1935 President Roosevelt hails the International Opium Convention and application of it in US. law and other anti-drug laws in a radio message to the nation.

1937: Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. Presented as a $1 nuisance tax on the distribution of marijuana, this act required anyone distributing the drug to maintain and submit a detailed account of his or her transactions, including inspections, affidavits, and private information regarding the parties involved. This law, however, was something of a "Catch-22", as obtaining a tax stamp required individuals to first present their goods, which was an action tantamount to confession. This act was passed by Congress on the basis of testimony and public perception that marijuana caused insanity, criminality, and death.

1951: The 1951 Boggs Act increased penalties fourfold

1956: The Daniel Act increased penalties by a factor of eight over those specified in the Boggs Act. Although by this time there was adequate testimony to refute the claim that marijuana caused insanity, criminality, or death, the rationalizations for these laws shifted in focus to the proposition that marijuana use led to the use of heroin, creating the gateway drug theory.

1960s: The Kennedy and Johnson Administrations adapted relatively liberal drug policies in the 1960s. The 1960s is remembered for its "Flower Power" culture and frequent and open use of marijuana and other drugs.

1969: Psychiatrist Dr. Robert DuPont conducts urinalysis of everyone entering the D.C. jail system in August 1969. He finds 44% test positive for heroin and start the first methadone treatment program in the Department of Corrections in September 1969 for heroin addicts.

1971: The Vietnam War is linked with concerns over drugs and the Nixon administration coins the term War on Drugs.
  • May: Congressmen Robert Steele (R-CT) and Morgan Murphy (D-IL) release an explosive report on the growing heroin epidemic among U.S. servicemen in Vietnam.
  • June 17: Nixon declares war on drugs. He characterized the abuse of illicit substances as "public enemy number one in the United States". Under Nixon, the U.S. Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. This legislation is the foundation on which the modern drug war exists. Responsibility for enforcement of this new law was given to the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and then in 1973 to the newly formed Drug Enforcement Administration. During the Nixon era, for the only time in the history of the war on drugs, the majority of funding goes towards treatment, rather than law enforcement.
  • Later in the month the U.S. military announces they will begin urinalysis of all returning servicemen. The program goes into effect in September and the results are favorable: "only" 4.5% of the soldiers test positive for heroin.


1972, March 22: The National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommends legalizing possession and sales of small amounts of marijuana. Nixon and the Congress ignores the suggestion

1974: A Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. James O. Eastland on The Marihuana-hashish epidemic and its impact on United States security invited 21 scientists of the first rank from seven different countries to testify, including Gabriel G. Nahas and Nils Bejerot. The testimony of these experts showed that the evidence accumulated by scientific researchers on marijuana had turned dramatically against this drug.

1979: Illegal drug use in the U.S. peaks when 25 million of Americans used an illegal drug within the 30 days prior to the annual survey.

1988: Near the end of the Reagan administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy was created for central coordination of drug-related legislative, security, diplomatic, research and health policy throughout the government. In recognition of his central role, the director of ONDCP is commonly known as the Drug Czar. The position was raised to cabinet-level status by Bill Clinton in 1993.

1989 The first drug court in the U.S. took shape in Miami-Dade County, Florida

1992 Illegal drug use in the U.S. fell to 12 million people.

1993, December 7: Joycelyn Elders, the Surgeon General, said that the legalization of drugs "should be studied", causing a stir among opponents

1993: President Clinton signs the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which results in an enormous increase in legitimate trade across the U.S.-Mexican border. The volume of trade makes it more difficult for U.S. Customs officials to find narcotics hidden within legitimate goods.

1998: The government commissions the first-ever full study of drug policy, to be carried out by the National Research Council (NRC); the Committee on Data and Research for Policy on Illegal Drugs is headed by Econometrician Charles Manski.

2001: The National Research Council Committee on Data and Research for Policy on Illegal Drugs is published. The study reveals that the government has not sufficiently studied its own drug policy, which it calls "unconscionable". (see more under Efficacy of the War on Drugs)

2001: 16 million in the U.S. were drug abusers.

2008 Several reports state the benefits of drug courts compared with traditional courts. Using retrospective data, researchers in several studies found that drug courts reduced recidivism among program participants in contrast to comparable probationers between 12% to 40%. Re-arrests were lower five years or more later. The total cost per participant was also much lower. Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that the Actual youth drug use, as measured as the percent reporting past month use has declined from 19,4% to 14,8% among middle and high school students between 2001 and 2007.

2009 Gil Kerlikowske, the current Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, signaled that the Obama Administration would not use the term "War on Drugs," as he claims it is counter-productive and is contrary to the policy favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce drug use."Being smart about drugs means working to treat people who go to jail with a drug problem so when they get out and return to the communities you protect, you will be less likely to re-arrest them"

See also



References

  1. [Gabriel J. Chin & Todd Collins, A War on Drugs or a War on Immigrants? Expanding the Definition of 'Drug Trafficking' in Determining Aggravated Felon Status for Non-Citizens, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=774866 Jeff Yates, 64 Maryland Law Review 875 (1995)]
  2. [Gabriel J. Chin, Race, The War on Drugs, and the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction, [http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=390109 6 Journal of Gender, Race & Justice 253 (2002)]
  3. Christopher J. Mumola:Drug Use and Dependence, State and Federal Prisoners, 2004, U.S. Department of Justice, October 2006, NCJ 213530
  4. Monitoring The Future
  5. Stephen R. Kandall, M.D.:Women and Addiction in the United States—1850 to 1920
  6. Charles White bread: The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States
  7. Controlling Cocaine: Supply Versus Demand Programs
  8. The Contras, Cocaine, and Covert Operations
  9. Excerpts From the Iran-Contra Report: A Secret Foreign Policy
  10. DEA: What America need to know about Marijuana
  11. Drug Policy News, Drug Policy Education Group, Vol. 2 No.1, Spring/Summer 2001, p.5
  12. "Weekly News in Review", DrugSense Weekly, August 31, 2001 #215
  13. Thornton, Mark. "Prohibition vs. Legalization: Do Economists Reach a Conclusion on Drug Policy?" (April 2004). [1]
  14. Edward Marshall: UNCLE SAM IS THE WORST DRUG FIEND IN THE WORLD, New York Times 1911
  15. http://www.druglibrary.org/SCHAFFER/history/e1910/harrisonact.htm
  16. W.W. Willoughby: Opium as an international problem, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1925
  17. ROOSEVELT ASKS NARCOTIC WAR AID, 1935
  18. WGBH educational foundation. Interview with Dr. Robert Dupoint
  19. "I Was Wrong About the War on Drugs – It's a Failure". By Bob Barr. June 11, 2008. AlterNet.
  20. "The solution to the failed drug war". By Jack A. Cole. September 13, 2008. Boston Globe.
  21. Thirty years of america's drug war: a chronology
  22. Nixon Commission Report Advising Decriminalization of Marijuana Celebrates 30th Anniversary - NORML
  23. Reed Irvine: THE MEDIA AS DRUG PROMOTERS, AIM Report January 1986
  24. Marihuana-hashish epidemic and its impact on United States security: hearings before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-third Congress, second session [-Ninety-fourth Congress, first session] .. (1974)
  25. Battlegrounds on the Drug Policy War, Institute For Behavior and Health
  26. National Institute of Justice:Do Drug Courts Work? Findings From Drug Court Research,May 12, 2008
  27. Office of National Drug Control Policy Executive Office of the President: CURRENT STATE OF DRUG POLICY: SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES, March 2008
  28. of R. Gil Kerlikowske on 2009 International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference Denver, Colorado,October 6, 2009


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