War on Drugs
Drug Trafficking: Has the war on drugs been a success or failure?Introduction Drug trafficking is an illicit trade which involves the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are prohibited by laws (UNODC, 2017). Myanmar, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Columbia and Afghanistan are some of the major countries which involved in the drug trafficking business. It is estimated that around 430-450 tons of heroin is pumped into the global market every year from the above countries. Along with heroin, cocaine, opiates, marijuana, amphetamines, morphine and Opium are some other drugs trafficked illegally in global markets (UNODC, 2017). Drug trafficking is creating a lot of social problems in the world. In most of today’s local and even global communities, drug use and substance abuse remain a serious concern. Despite restrictions put in place by various governments around the world to curb and discourage this behavior, drug trafficking is at an all-time high. The illegal drug trade has become a global business supplying these substances to tens of millions of loyal customers who spend billions of dollars on drugs. The United States and other nations around the world have in the past declared “war” on illegal drugs. The “war on drugs” targets the breaking of the drug trafficking chains as well as eliminating the drug trade industry altogether. This study will focus on the history of war on drugs and will explore the actual agenda of the war on drugs and whether it has met its objectives for better or worse. History of war on drugs The modern day history of war on drugs campaign has started in 1971 when President Richard Nixon declared that “America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse” (Sharp, 1994, p.1). Nixon has started to attack the drug industry from all the corners. He tried to attack both the supply and demand fronts of the drug industry. Mexico was the major supplier of illicit drugs during the Nixon era. So he launched a massive war on drugs in Mexico in 1973 which forced Mexico to put some restrictions on marijuana growers. Moreover, Nixon spent hundreds of millions of dollars to close America’s border with Mexico. Nixon did succeed in curtailing the supply of Mexican marijuana in America. Drug users use land, air and sea channels for smuggling drugs into American market. Even though Nixon was able to interdict the smuggling of drugs through land, he failed to curb the smuggling of drugs through air and water. Moreover, Jimmy Carter the successor of Nixon was not so keen on conducting the war on drugs seriously. He declared in 1977 that penalties against possession of the drug should not be more damaging than the drug itself (Rosenberger, 1996). Carter’s liberal policies towards drug use resulted in the increase of drug use in America from 1978 to 1984. The demand for cocaine increased as much as 700 percent in just six years (Collett, 1989).
Ronald Reagan the successor of Carter had a different view about the war on drugs. He was more interested in taking the customers away from drugs rather than fighting against the supply side of the drugs. He has increased the funding for programs of education, prevention, and rehabilitation of drug abusers from $437 million during Carter’s presidency to $1.4 billion during his first term (Rosenberger, 1996). Even though President Clinton was a Democratic Party member, he was not reluctant in continuing the Republican’s supply sided drug policy. He has increased the budgetary allocation for the fight against drugs by an extra $1 billion in 1995. He was also keen on fighting against the supply side of the drug (Rosenberger, 1996).Has the war on drugs been a success or failure?Jenner (2011) claimed that the United States still is the single largest market for illegal drugs even though its marketplace has dropped dramatically compared to how it was back in the mid-80s. In other words, the demand for illicit drug is growing in the United States of America despite of the efforts of various governments to put an end to the drug abuse in America. America is spending trillions of dollars in its fight against drugs. For the last few decades, America has spent trillions of dollars on ending drug trafficking. But the country is still struggling to win its war against drugs. The war on drugs has caused many adverse impacts in American society. Once a person gets the label of a drug addict, he will not be able to get formal employment or housing aids in America. Werb et al (2011) claimed that the war on drugs has had adverse effects on the lives of many people. For instance, millions of Americans, particularly a large portion of the poor and persons of color have ended up in prisons with many of them branded with criminal records such that they cannot access formal employment or qualify for public housing. The study by Werb et al. found that drug prohibition leads towards increased rate of gun violence and high homicide rates in America. Moreover, war on drugs or drug prohibition failed to reduce drug supply in America (Werb et al., 2011). America is spending around $50 billion per year for its fight against drugs. According to DEA estimates America captures less than 10 percent of all illicit drugs (Stanford University, n.d.). In other words, the current war against drugs failed to make any significant impact in American society. 90% of the drug industry is still unaffected by this war. If $50 billion is required for the fight against 10% of all illicit drugs, at least $ 500 billion is required for the fight against the full illicit drug industry. It will be illogical for the government to spend such a huge amount for a battle in which the end result is not sure. It should be noted that America is still struggling to escape from the financial problems caused by the recent recession. Under the above circumstances, spending of too much money in an unproductive sector such as drug industry is not logical. “Not only is it expensive to prosecute drug offenders, it is expensive to detain them. Currently, more money is being put into building prisons than into building schools” (Stanford University, n.d.). That is why there are many arguments in favor and against the drug legalization in America. It will be difficult to classify the proponents of drug legalization as Liberal, Conservative, Left, Right, Democratic, or Republican since people from all the segments of the community ask for the legalization of drugs. Even some of the famous conservatives such as Milton Friedman and William Buckley support drug legalization (Stanford University, n.d.)