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Drug, Crime, Prohibition

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Drugs, Crime and Prohibition

Do drugs really cause crime, or is it our governments way of controlling the communities? Many people blame drugs for every problem in our society, but is it the true evil in our society? No one person can answer that question. There are only opinions and supposed theories on this issue. We have been taught over the years that drugs were bad and that they only affected the poor and less fortunate, and turned them into crazy criminals, but this isn't true to any extent. The laws controlling and prohibiting drugs are the true reasons. Would our crime levels decline if drugs were legalized to some extent, or would we just increase the destruction of our country? Over the past fifty years, prohibition has been proven to actually increase crime and drug use instead of its intended purpose, which was to extinguish the use of illicit drugs in the United States. We constantly here of prison over crowding, and why is that? Most of our prisons are filled with drug offenders, ranging from use to distribution of supposed illicit drugs. What is our country coming to? The purpose of this research paper is to view the advantages and disadvantages of the legalization of illicit drugs in the United States. I will examine each side of this major problem plaguing our fine country from past to present. People wake everyday to their normal and monotonous life without even thinking about what they are doing. They do not realize that they have been conditioned by the government and its laws to obey and follow the supposed norm of society. What is the norms of society, and who set the guidelines for them? No one can explain how these norms came about, they only know that they must follow them, or they could get in trouble with the law. We are going into the twenty first century, and we still follow laws that were passed hundreds of years ago. Why is this? We are a highly advanced country, but we spend time, lives and money on abiding by laws that were around before the automobile was even invented. I will begin with the history of our drug control policies, which have failed miserably, and examine the drug-crime connection. Policy History Drugs have been in this country since the beginning of time in some shape or form, which was used for personal and medicinal use. Usage of marijuana has been reported to date back to the founding of Jamestown (1). George Washington himself cultivated and used to relieve the pain of an aching tooth. Opium was accessible to anyone who wanted to purchase it, as Tylenol is today. People were able to obtain these drugs at any pharmacy or grocery store that stocked them. It was socially acceptable to use and sell drugs, but the addictive properties were not known at this time in history. In the beginning of the twentieth century, the Progressive movement wanted some form of drug regulation (1). There were a few factors that affected the change in public opinion. First, the US acquired the Philippine Islands, which gave the US a legal supply of opium to supply addicts. Second, was the concern over the affects that drugs had on people. Journalist at that time, who were highly influenced by the government, published many fictional articles about crazy drug addicts, who raped and killed because of their drug use. Third, drugs were associated with blacks and Chinese immigrants, and this caused panic through the white communities( 1 ). In the early 1900's, President Roosevelt appointed three men, Rev. Charles Brent, an Episcopal bishop, Dr. Hamilton Wright, and Charles Tenney, a China missionary, to represent America at The Hague International Opium Convention of 1912. At this conference, the modern movement for abolitioning narcotics trafficking was began with the US involvement in the Philippines (2). Although there was regulations abroad, there was no legislation protecting the United States. In 1913, New York Representative Francis Harrison introduced two bills into Congress. One was to prohibit use and importation of opium, and the other was to regulate the manufacturing of smoking opium within the US. It was recognized as a revenue bill, but was not intended to produce revenue. A few months after the bills were introduced, President Wilson signed the bills, which took affect March 1, 1914. Under the Harrison Act, the maximum sentence that could be imposed was a five year prison term or a $2,000.00 fine or both. The average term was one-and-a-half years, which was considered too low by many. The Harrison Act did not prohibit the use of narcotics, but rather regulated the distribution of them. Any one connected to the manufacture or distribution of narcotics had to be licensed and pay a graduated occupational tax. Doctors were no longer allowed to supply addicts with drugs. This began a controversy over the question, were drugs an addiction or a crime, and should an addict be treated as a sick person or an addict (2)? Eventually, the Harrison Act caused more drug use than it prevented. A committee was formed to investigate this problem, which found that illicit use of narcotics had increased dramatically while the act had been in affect. Instead of improving the act, they only stiffened penalties. In 1918, the Volstead Act was passed, even over President Wilson's veto. It provided legislation for the enforcement of prohibition. Headed by Levi Nutt, a pharmacist, a special Narcotics Division was formed within the Prohibition Bureau, due to the problems with the Harrison Act. The narcotic officers within this division were hired by strict guidelines according to the Civil Service (1). Through the 1920's, various studies and investigations were conducted to see if drugs were addicting and crime causing. Dr. Lawerence Kolb's research supposedly proved that addicts and normal people will have different effects to the same drug. He believed that excessive amounts of opium would not induce criminal tendencies, but inhibit it, which would show no connection between drugs and crime. By now, the Harrison Act was back on line, closing maintenance clinics, which shut down 44 of them by the end of 1921. Addicts could no longer obtain drugs legally and addicts were denied ambulatory treatment. Addiction was not categorized as a crime, so it was not constitutional to arrest every addict and imprison them. As it is now, prison space was limited and prisons already housed double their capacity. In 1922, supporters of the Harrison act were relieved when Congress passed the Narcotic Drugs Import and Export Act (1). This act gave the Surgeon General power to regulate the importation of crude opium and coca leaves, which were restricted to medicinal and scientific use. The Federal Bureau Board was created to enforce sentencing and fines for unlawful importation. This new act was accused of doing nothing to stop illegal import, but was associated with the increase in prices on the illicit

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