War on Drugs
Drugs are being distributed illegally for a myriad of purposes. While in some cases drugs can have a positive impact, they can be equally if not more damaging to our society. Illicit drugs impact society financially and bring detrimental outcomes through usage. The never-ending war on drugs has cost one trillion dollars through means of acts banning the drugs creation and importation to be sold. While many law enforcement strategies have been put in place to end the war on drugs, it seemingly has no end. Therefore, officials search for a solution in the fight against drugs.
A popular solution in fighting the war on drugs is legalizing marijuana as an alternative to other drugs. The legalization of marijuana saves more money for treatment and brings down the decline of money used to keep inmates incarcerated. Money not used for inmates which accounts for billions, can be used for stronger enforcement of illicit drugs that are being smuggled into the U.S and treatment centers for those who suffer from addiction. Conflict and symbolic interactionists both view the issue of drugs relating to ethnic minority groups and how drug related offenses have been played unfairly.
Before Richard Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act, cocaine was used primarily by white men and women, and was originally used in the popular soda beverage Coca Cola (Estes, 2013). Until black men became more associated with this drug, laws were placed on it banning it in 1901, with the Harrison Narcotics Act, therefore prohibiting the production and distribution of cocaine. During Richard Nixon’s time in office, he declared that drugs were public enemy number one. (Barber, 2016) As part of his initiative, Nixon proposed stricter sentences for drug related crimes. In 1973, Nixon brought the Drug Enforcement Administration which focused primarily on the use of drugs and smuggling contraband into the U.S. Ronald Reagan reintroduced the War on Drugs that was originally pushed forth by Richard Nixon. When he was sworn into office, the fight was historically brought to light in 1971. His wife, Nancy Reagan, had introduced her campaign Just Say No for youth to turn down the offer of illicit drugs. With this upbringing in the Reagans’ movement against drugs, programs such as D.A.R.E were implemented in the schools for youth to take pledges and be paired with police officers for more influence and first-hand experience.
Children often witness addiction in their families, and while children learn by behavior the result can be detrimental. When parents develop an addiction to drugs, the children suffer the most by taking on the role as parent, subsequently affecting their behaviors, decisions, financial needs, and education. Families with drug addicted parent(s) have a higher likely of living in poverty, becoming homeless, and thus bringing higher cases of abandonment in children (Treehouse, 2018) Children who witness these behaviors see drugs as mundane or acceptable continuing a futuristic cycle. Secondly, drug related violence and usage swamp our prison systems costing an estimated 12.6 billion dollars yearly at the expense of taxpayers (Desjardins, J. 2018). Guns play a deadly force in the protection for production and distribution in the drug market. Cocaine and heroin are illegal street drugs, while being highly addictive, they target lower minorities and maintain a flow of sale through an intense crave by former users. The use of these drugs reaches an exponential 88 billion dollars (Desjardins, J. 2018). While cocaine and heroin bring in billions of dollars, imagine the sum of every illicit drug. The strain drug abuse has on our health system includes mental illness, and brain-related diseases. Costs involving drug-related incidents accounts for billions annually through government assistance, hospitals, and paying taxpayers for Medicaid.
While many approaches to the war on drugs have showed little impact and caused a great loss of money, the solution to legalize types of drugs has brought a new approach. The legalization of marijuana means less arrests, spending, focus, and an alternative to other dangerous drugs. According to ACLU’s original analysis, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the United States. (ACLU, 2010). The legalization of this drug brings an experimental yet unorthodox solution to have focus put placed on marijuana rather than harmful drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Taking away the time and money used to punish and place users in prisons, government can use the money saved for prevention and shutting down the production of drugs, while providing treatment to former users Funding treatment against the cost of incarcerating inmates, it is less expensive than occupying prisons, and raising a higher chance of further use to stay away from the criminal justice system.
Conflict theorists argue that racism has been played into the use of drug use when minorities and people of color were linked to use. While many types of drugs may be dangerous, conflict theorists argue that “intentional decisions have been made over which drugs are illegal and which ones are not.” (Guerro, L. 2010) In the early 1900’s, drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and heroin were not seen as illegal. Crack cocaine, much cheaper than powdered cocaine, thus becomes the drug of choice to those with limited financial resources. Due to its popularity by ethnic minorities using this form of the drug, it was banned by the government. For drug-related incarcerations, harsher sentencing has grown for people in the criminal justice system. Both symbolic interactionists and conflict theorists believe that drug laws are not equal among minority groups because certain groups were and still are singled out.