History of the American Drug War
The first act of America's anti-drug laws was in 1875. It
outlawed the smoking of opium in opium dens. This was a San Francisco
ordinance. The basis on passing this law was that Chinese men had a
way of luring white women to their dens and causing their "ruin",
which was the association with Chinese men. Later, other Federal laws
such as trafficking in opium was illegal for anyone of Chinese origin.
The opium laws were directed at the smoking of opium. The law didn't
effect importation of the drug because opium was a common medical
drug. This law was specifically targeted at the Chinese, for the
smoking of opium was a Chinese custom.
Cocaine was outlawed for fears that black men would go on a
sexual rampage and rape white women. In the early 1900's, newspapers
referred to them as "Negro Cocaine Fiends" or "Cocainized Niggers".
There is little evidence that this actually happened.
The Harrison Act had started as a licensing law which required
sellers to obtain a license if they were going to handle opiates or
cocaine. The law contains a provision that nothing in the law would
prohibit doctors from prescribing these drugs in the legitimate
practice of medicine. The people who wrote the Harrison Act and
Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, agreed that a prohibition on what people
could put into their bodies was an unconstitutional infringement on
Marijuana was outlawed in 1937. The reason for it being
outlawed was that the plant had a violent effect on the degenerate
races. The American Medical Association testified that they were
opposed to the law. The law would never have passed without the
endorsement from the AMA, but when the supporters of the law were
asked about the AMA's view on the floor of congress, they had stated
that the AMA was all for it. When the law had passed, the AMA
protested, but the law was never repealed.
It is difficult to determine how many people in the US use
drugs. The Federal Government's Household Survey on Drug Abuse, is the
most common set of statistics on the use of drugs. According to the
latest surveys, conducted by the DEA, there are about 12.7 million
people who have used an illegal drug in the past month, and about 30 -
40 million people who have used an illegal drug in the past year.
Among the 12.7 people who have used an illegal drug in the past month,
about 10 million are casual drug users and about 2.7 million are drug
addicts. The figures produced by the Household Survey on Drug Abuse
are obtained over the phone. Therefore, there was a problem reaching
those without phones, those who didn't answer their phones, and those
who answered the question honestly. Other surveys put the figures at
least twice as high.
Currently, there are about 1.5 million people in state and
Federal prisons and jails throughout the US At least 24 states are
under Federal court orders to relieve prison overcrowding. Prison
population had been relatively stable from about 1926 to about 1970.
From that point, Nixon's war against drugs, then the Reagan and Bush
war against drugs, caused a dramatic increase in the number of
prisoners. The estimated 30 - 40 million people who have used an
illegal drug in the past year, would fill a prison holding the
populations of California, Arizona and New Mexico altogether. The cost
of holding a single one of these persons would be about $450,000. The
cost for the arrest and the conviction is about $150,000. The cost for
an additional bed would be anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000,
depending upon the jurisdiction. It costs about $30,000 per year to
house a prisoner, with an average sentence of five years, adding up to
be $150,000. The estimated $450,000 (out of taxpayers money), can
provide treatment or education for about 200 people. Out of the
percentage of people in prison, 59.6% are in prison for a drug
The war on drugs could be won if we were successful in at
least one of three areas. If we could stop drug production in other
countries, if we could stop drugs at the border or if we could stop
the sale of drugs within the United States. Stopping drug production
in other countries has already proven to have failed. In 1993, ABC
television aired a major special report on the drug war in Bolivia,
which according to the Bush administration, is our "best hope" for
winning the drug war in South America. They concluded that there was
no hope, and that the war on drug production had already been lost.
According to the US Federal Government's estimates, the entire US
consumption of illegal drugs could be supplied by one percent of the
worldwide drug crop. The US Drug Enforcement Agents working together
with foreign governments seized about one percent of the worldwide
drug crop in their best year. Leaving 99% free to supply the US The US
Government also states that if drug production was stopped in South
America, several countries would suffer a major economic collapse.
The statistics regarding drug interdiction at the border have
proven stopping drugs at the border is an expensive failure. In 1988,
Sterling Johnson, Federal prosecutor for New York, under the
assumption that there was no increase in drug production, stated that
police would have to increase drug seizures by at least 1,400 percent
to have any impact on the drug market. In 1990, the General Accounting
office had completed a major study on border interdiction. They
concluded that border interdiction was a waste of money and that no
conceivable increase in funding or effort would make it better.
Johnson had made his statement before police had busted twenty tons of
cocaine in a single location. This caused the Federal Government to
increase all of their estimates of the cocaine market.
In most states, the law states that any distribution of
illegal drugs is considered a sale. Regardless of whether there is a
profit or monetary interest involved. Which, under the law, anyone who
has ever passed a joint to the next person at a concert, is a drug
dealer. Assuming these people are drug dealers, There are between 12
and 40 million drug dealers in the US Considering most of the prisons
in the US are already far in excess of their planned capacity, there
is no more room and no more tax dollars to house these "drug dealers".
Stopping the sale of drugs in the US would be kind of hard without
putting all these "drug dealers" into prison.
The use of drugs among teens has risen under the Clinton
administration. Clinton states that not only he, but everyone shares
the responsibility for the increase in drug use. "This issue has been
debated literally going back to the Johnson administration." states
Clinton in attempt to deflect criticism from Republicans that claim he
has not done enough to fight drugs. At the start of his presidency,
Clinton had reduced the office of the drug policy director as a part
of his effort to reduce government spending. Three years later,
Clinton restored funds for the office and announced Barry McCaffrey,
an army general, to lead it. "I appointed a four-star general, who led
our efforts south of the border to keep drugs from coming into our
country, as our nation's drug czar, the most heavily directed -
decorated soldier in uniform when he retired. We submitted the biggest
drug budget ever, we have dramatically increased control and
enforcement at the border. We supported a crime bill that had 60 death
penalties, including the penalty for drug kingpins, and I supported a
big expansion of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program to support
things like the DARE program because I thought all those things were
very important....I have consistently opposed the legalization of
drugs all my public life and worked hard against them."
Bob Dole claims that under a Dole administration, the National
Guard would be trained to stop drugs at the border. "I want to stop it
from coming across the border, and in my administration we're going to
train the National Guard to stop it from coming across the border."
Bob Dole continuously blames Clinton for the rise in teen drug use,
and how drug abuse doubled when he was governor of Arkansas. Senator
Dole had voted against the crime bill that had the death penalty for
drug kingpins in it and voted to cut services to 23 million
schoolchildren under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Act. National
opinion polls show Bill Clinton leads Bob Dole by 10-20 percentage