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The War on Drugs: A Losing Battle?

Essay by review  •  August 24, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  5,864 Words (24 Pages)  •  1,581 Views

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The War On Drugs: A Losing Battle?

In 1968, when American soldiers came home from the Vietnam War addicted to heroin, President Richard Nixon initiated the War on Drugs. More than a decade later, President Ronald Reagan launches the South Florida Drug Task force, headed by then Vice-President George Bush, in response to the city of Miami's demand for help. In 1981, Miami was the financial and import central for cocaine and marijuana, and the residents were fed up.

Thanks to the task force, drug arrests went up by 27%, and drug seizures went up by 50%. With that, the need for prosecutors and judges also rose. Despite these increased arrests and seizures, marijuana and cocaine still poured into south Florida. At this stage, the root of the problem, the Colombian Cartels, was not attacked.

The DEA soon realized that they needed to crack down on the cartels. In 1982 the DEA went to Colombia to eradicate fields of marijuana and coca plants. These fields were located and burned. The hard part now, was finding the labs used to turn the coca leaves into cocaine. These labs were in very remote locations, to avoid surveillance. The DEA suspected that the cocaine labs were very large, but the Colombians kept eluding them.

Finally the DEA was able to track down the chemicals used in the processing of cocaine to one of the labs, and the DEA scored their first major bust. On March 10, 1984 twelve tons of cocaine were seized from a very remote lab. The DEA thinks they made an impact, but amazingly the cocaine availability on American streets remained the same. The DEA is shocked, and realizes just how big the drug problem in the United States was.

Because the Cartel leaders had money, they also began to acquire power. The dealers run for political office and win. Drug dollars poured into Colombia, building cities. The United States respond to the rise in the drug lords' power by pressuring Colombia to extradite narcotics traffickers to the U.S. The Colombians, who want no Colombians in American Jails, oppose this. The drug dealers both respected and feared extradition, and recognized the threat. When the Colombian Justice Minister openly supported extradition, he was assassinated.

Still, the U.S. pressures the extradition issue. In 1985, anti-Government Guerillas, mainly composed of the drug dealers, attack the Colombian Supreme Court. The extradition requests were destroyed, and eleven Supreme Court Justices were killed. In total, over 200 people lost their lives. At this point, the drug lords are using terrorism to force the Colombian government to back off the extradition issue. During the 1980s, it appeared that Central America was awash in drugs, and drug money.

The violence continues today, through drug related gang violence, to botched drug raids. Drug dealers often carry weapons, some illegal, to defend themselves and their drugs. The drugs themselves do not cause violence; it is the fact that they are illegal that causes the violence. If two drug dealers have a dispute, they have no legal way for it to be settled. The only option for them is violence.

At this time, the Parent's Movement is focusing its attentions on marijuana and children. Nancy Reagan makes her famous "Just say No!" speech and President Reagan makes marijuana a top priority.

Upon examining the relationship between marijuana use and violent crime, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded, "Rather than inducing violent or aggressive behavior through its purported effects of lowering inhibitions, weakening impulse control and heightening aggressive tendencies, marihuana was usually found to inhibit the expression of aggressive impulses by pacifying the user, interfering with muscular coordination, reducing psychomotor activities and generally producing states of drowsiness lethargy, timidity and passivity."

When also examining the medical affects of marijuana use, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded, "A careful search of the literature and testimony of the nation's health officials has not revealed a single human fatality in the United States proven to have resulted solely from ingestion of marihuana. Experiments with the drug in monkeys demonstrated that the dose required for overdose death was enormous and for all practical purposes unachievable by humans smoking marihuana. This is in marked contrast to other substances in common use, most notably alcohol and barbiturate sleeping pills. The World Health Organization reached the same conclusion in 1995.

The World Health Organization released a study in March 1998 stating: "there are good reasons for saying that [the risks from cannabis] would be unlikely to seriously [compare to] the public health risks of alcohol and tobacco even if as many people used cannabis as now drink alcohol or smoke tobacco."

Marijuana was seen as a gateway to other drugs, giving birth to the Gateway Theory.

Unfortunately, the Gateway Theory is flawed in many ways. In 1937 Harry Anslinger, then head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics testified before Congress, saying that there was no connection between the use of marijuana and the use of harder drugs, and in fact, the users of different drugs typically did not associate with one another. It also does not seem logical that the use of one drug would cause a craving for another drug, never used before. Many drug users say that the first drugs they ever used were the two socially sanctioned drugs, alcohol and tobacco. These drugs are both harmful and legal.

In March 1999, the Institute of Medicine issued a report on various aspects of marijuana, including the so-called, Gateway Theory (the theory that using marijuana leads people to use harder drugs like cocaine and heroin). The IOM stated, "There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs."

The Institute of Medicine's 1999 report on marijuana explained that marijuana has been mistaken for a gateway drug in the past because "Patterns in progression of drug use from adolescence to adulthood are strikingly regular. Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana, usually before they are of legal age."

The 1999 federal National Household Survey of Drug Abuse provides an estimate of the age of first use of drugs. According to the Household Survey, the mean age of first use of marijuana in the US in 1997 was 17.2 years. The mean age of first use

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