The war on drugs has failed
The year was 1971, and President Richard Nixon declared a full-out “War on Drugs.” Forty-one years later, the war continues, and we are nowhere near winning this war. In my opinion, I don’t think that this war will ever end or can actually be won. Similar to the “War on Terror,” this war seems to be perpetually keeping the American people in a state of fear, debt and anxiety because there is no clear enemy and our tactics are getting us nowhere as far as obtaining a victory. While we spend millions and millions, even billions of dollars on this War on Drugs, many American people are dying because of legal drug usage. Thousands of people die yearly from legal drug usage like tobacco and prescription drugs, most recently and notably Whitney Houston, and these are the legal drugs that are found in stores all over the country.
It has become easier to acquire prescription drugs, tobacco and alcohol than it is to obtain illegal drugs like cocaine, marijuana and heroine. I can recount several students during my high school years that were smoking cigarettes even though they were under 18, drinking their lives away and taking pills that could be found either in the shelves of local drug stores or easily acquired by way of prescription. We do not lock these people up to the same degree that we do illegal drug users, and we do not put the same amount of efforts into getting people to abstain from using these substances to the point of overdose. In fact, I believe that we encourage it. Flip through many magazines and you will see an ad by big tobacco, liquor companies, and on the television there are numerous commercials about some drug to help you overcome some malaise that could be otherwise ameliorated by a better diet, working out and healthier, more natural processes.
A majority of those who are in jail are incarcerated for non-violent drug usage or possession, while the nicotine addicts and alcoholics are still free on the streets. We don’t lock up the latter of those groups, and I don’t believe that we should necessarily lock up the former either.
These people are not criminals. Yes, some do distribute illegal substances that can kill, but what do we say to big tobacco and alcohol companies? Are their substances not problematic as well? Personally, being at Colby College, I can say that I have witnessed the danger of copious consumption of alcohol and the problem is that it is so easily available. People don’t have to go out of their way to get alcohol because it is shoved into their hands at a party. It is the ‘norm,’ everyone is doing it. The media not only portrays it as cool, but they encourage its usage. But, let’s not forget, at the end of every commercial there is an “Enjoy responsibly” saying, which I am sure few pay attention to before they change the channel or resume watching until another commercial comes on.
My point is that this War on Drugs will never be won until the government and the American people change their mindsets about their approach to this war. How can we be the greatest country on earth and still find ourselves fighting a 40-year war with no clear future of victory? Maybe these substances need not be legalized, but rather decriminalized so they can keep the American people free, not feeding into the Prison Industrial Complex, and so we can find alternative and more progressive methods of helping these people rather than just indefinitely incarcerating them. Drugs are a significant problem in our society. In confronting this issue, we must not only think outside of the box, we must get rid of it entirely, finding a means to use our intellect to help, not hurt, the American people.