The Drug War; An attack on Society and Personal Freedom
The “War on Drugs” began in 1973 when US. president Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for the purpose of creating “an all-out global war on the drug menace.” Although the war continues, little if any positive results have been statistically shown. In fact the effects of this war have been largely detrimental to society. In addition to being a direct violation of our fundamental civil liberties, the “War on Drugs” is actually contributing to increased crime rates across the nation and as of 2018, has drained the economy of well over 3 trillion dollars.
The first thirteen states of America were founded over 230 years ago. As the country removed itself from the British empire, the people of this new nation were guaranteed certain fundamental rights. As the Declaration of Independence formally explains, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The pursuit of happiness is a fairly vague statement, but it is not by any means a stretch of the imagination to assume that this would apply to an individual’s right for control over their own consciousness. The right to have control over our own minds seems inherently valid as a fundamental liberty that no government should be permitted to eliminate. Our ability to change our perceptions with the aid of plants, fungus, chemicals, or any other means should be the right of every free individual as a part of that “pursuit of happiness.”
Countless day to day objects as well as experiences are responsible for influencing our perception by releasing various neurochemicals in the brain. People alter their brain chemistry every day, whether it be through exercise, soda pop, sex, medication, arguing, smelling, touching, etc. Virtually all stimuli is ‘mind altering’ to various extents. Currently however, several plants and chemicals have become restricted, and if discovered in someone’s possession can lead to a lifetime in prison or worse. These harsh laws are a direct threat to our civil liberties. The dangerous and seemingly random designation of illegal status assigned to various substances is continually threatening our rudimentary freedoms.
In the past century several plants and chemicals have suddenly without relevant reason become prohibited. Marijuana had been legally enjoyed and revered by people around the world for thousands of years until 1927 when it became outlawed in the United States. Although use of this plant is considered by many to be harmless at worst and medicinal or spiritual at best, and the majority of Americans believe that the plant should be legalized (Carroll), possession and consumption of this common weed remains prosecutable in many areas and has only recently become de-criminalized in some states. Amphetamines became illegal in 1965, but they still remain legal for millions of prescription holding children in America. Many argue that various forms of amphetamine should remain forbidden for moral reasons, but few see any problem with distributing the same narcotic to their children. This chemical is somehow freed of its sinful predisposition when it is put into pill form, given a new name and distributed by the pharmaceutical overlords. The 'war on drugs’ clearly does not simply do away with certain substances, it merely re-assigns who is allowed to deliver them. This illogical fight does nothing short of obstructing our personal freedoms as individuals while allowing mega-corporations to do as they wish and it is all pushed through deranged moralistic values and fear propaganda inherent within the drug war’s platform.
Where is the line drawn, and what gives anyone superiority over the right to decide what someone else does with their own mind and body? Many believe that it is immoral and even Biblically damning to alter your mind “artificially”. Godandscience.org states “Jesus said that people should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” However, these days, it seems that many 'Christians’ seek first the kingdom of self and its attendant pleasures” (Deem). Although many people do seek pleasure from drugs, many natives of north and South America use psychoactive chemicals as a major part of their own religious practice (Williams). Is it right for one religion to determine a standard of morels for an entire country? I think most would agree that it is not. While it is understandable for individuals to have the freedom to follow their own religious beliefs, certainly no individual would approve of people with different religions and cultural beliefs to set moral standards for them. It should be up to each person to choose whether they want to experience mind altering substances whether for spiritual pursuit or not.
Another common issue with legalization is the understandable yet unfounded fear that drug abuse and crime will run rampant on society when such restrictive laws are abolished, however this is in clear contrast with current scientific understandings of addiction. Genetic predisposition has been shown to be the largest contributing factor in cases of habitual abuse, and the vast majority of those who try these substances never progress beyond casual use (Dick). As far we have seen, drug abuse did not wreak havoc on society in the ages before illegality of such substances. In fact there was “no drug crime” in the 19th century when opium, morphine, heroin and cocaine were legally available, cheap, and found in common products such as Coca Cola and wine (Williams). Meanwhile, under current legislation, those who seek out these drugs will inevitably find them, and those that find themselves at the mercy of chemical dependence will pay any price to get them. But what if drug addicts could get their fix at a price that was affordable? Drug addicts aren’t robbing people and committing other crimes because they are bad people, instead, these societal issues are a direct result of the war on drugs. The illegality of highly addictive substances propels the prices of these chemicals exponentially. This of course leads to an inevitable rise in crime when addicts are unable to afford to feed their addiction otherwise.
With legalization of all chemical substances the price of drugs would drop dramatically. A gram of pure cocaine for example can be made for under $1 (Williams). Compared with today’s street prices at around $80 for just one gram, the mark up of illegal drugs is immense, as is always the case with the black market. If legality of these substances made them more affordable I suspect that many thieves and street muggers would simply resort to begging or even working in order to collect enough money for their addiction. Also, because these substances would be cheap and legally available, I speculate that general violence would diminish greatly in the way that gangs would not fight over crack dealing territory and dangerous drug cartels would become a thing of the past. Although this solution does not resolve the issue of drug addiction, it does at the very least, allow the whole of society to be much less affected by the unfortunate disease.
In this scenario not only is there less violent crime for the police force to deal with, but also with drug users relieved of persecution, it allows for more focus on preventing the violent crime that does remain. With 1.5 million people arrested each year for possession of illicit substances (40% of those merely for marijuana), the current regime is wasting billions of dollars persecuting offenders of haphazard laws. In fact, Time magazine reminded us that the U.S. government has spent some 2.5 trillion dollars fighting the War on Drugs (Published 2007) and as they reflect on where all the money is going they propose, “Catchy slogans are no match for chemical addictions, however, and study after study showed that programs such as D.A.R.E. — no matter how beloved — produced negligent results”. If we dig even deeper it becomes evident that that’s not the only way that money is being wasted on this pointless war. According to Drugwarfacts.org, every year, upwards of 50% of U.S. prison inmates are in for drug offenses, greatly contributing to the U.S.’s status as number 1 in prison population per capita in the world. In 2017 in addition to all of the money spent to 'prevent drug use’, the imprisonment of 2.3 million drug offending inmates cost the country over 7 million dollars. All of this money could obviously be spent on things that would truly benefit society is instead being squandered away as we succumb to ignorant taboos and irrational fears.
While any compassionate person would agree that drug abuse is a problem that must be affronted by our society, the current drug war is clearly not the answer. It’s time the country take a sober look at the effects of this 'war’ and the damage that it is actually causing to society. Our inherent freedoms should NEVER be compromised no matter what perils we are facing, and it’s time we allow each other the freedom to do as we wish with our own minds and bodies without being condemned as a criminal. We need to take a closer look at how legalization would actually benefit society by returning trillions of dollars to the economy while at the same time minimizing many current crimes that inadvertently arise from the current prohibition of so many substances. The money spent by the government on fear propaganda is counter-productive in this endeavor and is only filling our prisons with nonviolent 'criminals’. We need to forget our old ways of condemnation and let go of fear based taboos for the benefit of all who live in this nation and beyond.
Dick, Danielle M. “The Genetics of Alcohol and Other Drug Dependence.” Alcohol Research & Health Apr. 2008: 111-118. Print.
Deem, Rich WWW.godandscience.org. Evidence for God, 8 Apr. 2009. Web. 14 Apr. 2009 <http://www.godandscience.org/doctrine/marijuana.html#Sz30vsNKRAas>.