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The War on Drugs

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Throughout U.S governmental history, policies have been known to affect the way of life and every aspect. The topic it choose to research is about "The War on Drugs", the impact policies have on society and if it does help the public or tend to extent social inequality. This topic is very important to me in the sense that, I look at the community I live and see how drugs have affected people lifes, broken up families and also destroyed the community itself. I wanted to know if the "war on drugs" stop our neighborhood from being flooded with drugs or it just over shadow the real problems that needs to be tackled.

It is also very important for people to know about this topic because the issue is not only about drugs but also the growth of inequality between the rich and poor, black and white, upper class and lower class in this country. The war of drugs deals with issues about why they were passed through congress and if there were motives that deals connect directly to black communities. The issues where brought about in Dan Baum book entitled "Smoke and Mirrors" where John Erlichmann, the chief domestic affair advisor talk about how the Drug War fever has been escalated and manipulated from its modest beginnings at the start of the Nixon administration and clarifies the various interests which that escalation has served. He talks about the Drug War on "blacks" and "hippies" but politicians could not say that so had to say the War on "heroin" and "Marijuana". He also said that "We knew drugs were not the health problem we were making it out to be, but there were political benefits to be gained." This shows that there is more to the war of drugs that the government is letting on.

This topic is very controversial topic because it deals with a growing body of citizens whose lives have greatly been affected by the United States government drug policies. In order to tackle the problem effectively, we need to look how it relates to economic problems, health issues, the criminal justice system and etc in our communities I look at bureau of justice statistics for statistics on National Drug Budget control, National household survey on drug abuse, prison statistics and book written by scholars on the issue.

My preconceived expectations prior to conducting this research was that the "war on drugs" is not effective because looking at my neighborhoods, I have seen a lot of drug dealers and users get arrested but there are still more on the streets. Also the punishments imposed are cruel which lead to me to think about how minority get sentenced when it come to drug arrest. And looking on the nature of this country and the ideas it was built on, I came to the conclusion that black and minorities are going to get the bitter end of the stick, the worse sentences. The laws are just strengthening the inequality we have in American Society today. This reminded me of Karl Marx saying "the ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas". In order words, since this country was built on racism and the leaders of the nation are white then the laws are going to favor them.

During my research there were a lot of things I found really disturbing. The United States has the highest population in the world with most being victims of the "drug war". Since the beginning of the war of drugs studies have shown that drug use has not decline but increased. (Figure 1)

Figure 1

Annual drug sales in the United States have been estimated at $110 billion in the late 1980s, more than double the combined profits of all Fortune 500 companies. The economic toll from drug abuse and drug-related accidents approaches $60 billion per year. Also the amount of money spend each by the government to fight the war keep increasing but to no better results. In 1969, $65 million was spent by the Nixon administration on the drug war; in 1982 the Reagan administration spent $1.65 billion; in 1999 the Clinton administration spent $17.7 billion, and in 2002, the Bush Administration spent $18.8 billion. The most striking evidence that came to my attention was the racial disparity in the criminal justice system. Which are due by higher rates of involvement in some offenses, social and economic disparities, legislative policies, and the use of discretion by criminal justice decision makers. As the national inmate population has increased in recent decades, the impact of these changes on minority communities has been particularly dramatic. Two-thirds of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities, and for black males in their twenties, one in every eight is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been worsen by the impact of the "war on drugs," with three-fourths of all drug offenders being persons of color, far out of proportion to their share of drug users in society. According to the federal Household Survey, "most current illicit drug users are white. There were an estimated 9.9 million whites (72 percent of all users), 2.0 million blacks (15 percent), and 1.4 million Hispanics (10 percent) who were current illicit drug users in 1998." And yet, blacks constitute 36.8% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-Americans comprise almost 58% of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics account for 20.7%.

Figure 2

Once black people are arrested they are treated differently than whites by the system which is put in place to "serve the people". An example of such inequality in sentencing, is the disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences. This is where it takes 100 times more cocaine in powder form than cocaine in crack form to receive a mandatory Minimum sentence, despite the fact that the two drugs are almost identical, both in terms of chemistry and physiological effects. As it happens, crack is predominantly used by blacks, while powder is more often used by whites. In 1986, before mandatory minimum for crack offenses became effective, the average federal drug offense sentence for black was 11% higher than for whites. Four years later following the implementation of harsher drug sentencing laws, the average federal drug offense was 49% higher for blacks.6

The research statistics merely confirmed what I expected. But I was surprised and shocked about what some of the statistics were saying about the "war on drugs". I was surprised at how directly the implication of the "war on drugs" ties in with inequality in American society today. Inequality rises as a result



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