Drug Policy: Failure at Home.Over a century ago, before the U.S. launched its war on drugs abroad, America commenced a domestic war on drugs. Both of these wars rely upon coercion. Abroad, military force and violence in Colombia and elsewhere are being unleashed largely against peasant farmers who grow opium, coca, and cannabis to support their families. Domestically, police operations and imprisonment Imprisonment
See also Isolation.
former federal maximum security penitentiary, near San Francisco; “escapeproof.” [Am. Hist.: Flexner, 218]
German prison ship in World War II. [Br. Hist. are directed against drug users--most of whom never commit violent crimes--and street drug sellers. Both wars have disproportionately targeted the poorest and the lowest level participants in the narcotics narcotics n. 1) techinically, drugs which dull the senses. 2) a popular generic term for drugs which cannot be legally possessed, sold, or transported except for medicinal uses for which a physician or dentist's prescription is required. commerce. These twin sides of U.S. drug policy have failed to reduce either the overall quantities of drugs produced and delivered or the number of seriously addicted drug abusers in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. .
U.S. antidrug policy has historically been riddled with racism, and the policy has always entwined domestic and foreign policy considerations. Exploitation of exaggerated fears of drug users and drug traffickers--usually depicted as racial minorities or foreigners--has been a staple of those promoting tough antinarcotics measures. The first American First American may refer to:
tr.v. stig·ma·tized, stig·ma·tiz·ing, stig·ma·tiz·es
1. To characterize or brand as disgraceful or ignominious.
2. To mark with stigmata or a stigma.
3. Chinese laborers competing with white immigrants for employment. Similarly, the alcohol temperance movement temperance movement
International social movement dedicated to the control of alcohol consumption through the promotion of moderation and abstinence. It began as a church-sponsored movement in the U.S. in the early 19th century. , closely affiliated with the antinarcotics movement, had tendencies that were anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, anti-Italian, anti-Polish, and anti-Jewish.
The foreign policy considerations are also very old. Britain's victory over China in the Opium Wars of 1839-42 and 1856-58 assured British dominance in the lucrative opium trade between British-controlled India and China. When America became an imperial power, an early step in its control of the new empire was the prohibition of opium use in the Philippines in 1905. And the Shanghai Opium Commission of 1909--portrayed as the West's effort to cure a "backward," non-Christian nation of its drug problem--was explicitly motivated by a desire to give Europe and the U.S. an advantage in trade negotiations with China.
However, the dearth of U.S. domestic law against the use of narcotics impugned America's sincerity in this effort. To relieve this embarrassment, a multiyear effort to enact a federal antidrug law culminated in the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914. To convince conservative Southern members of Congress to accept this substantial expansion of federal power, promoters of the law exploited racist myths, depicting "cocainized" Negroes as the principal cause of rape of white women.
Exaggerated claims that drugs came violence have been repeated time and again regarding marijuana, heroin, LSD LSD or lysergic acid diethylamide (lī'sûr`jĭk, dī'ĕth`ələmĭd, dī'ĕthəlăm`ĭd), alkaloid synthesized from lysergic acid, which is found in the fungus ergot ( , crack cocaine, and lately, methamphetamines. Although hundreds of thousands of Americans were addicted to these drugs in the early 20th century, little crime was associated with such addiction. The Harrison Act was ostensibly os·ten·si·ble
Represented or appearing as such; ostensive: His ostensible purpose was charity, but his real goal was popularity. a revenue and registration measure, but its zealous enforcement by Treasury Department officials led to a near total prohibition of the use of heroin, cocaine, and opium. In one of the first federal interferences in medical practice, physicians were barred from prescribing narcotics for the safe maintenance of addicts.
Enactment of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act was a reprise re·prise
a. A repetition of a phrase or verse.
b. A return to an original theme.
2. A recurrence or resumption of an action.
tr.v. of whites seeking economic advantage, here against Mexican workers in competition for agricultural jobs during the Great Depression. The press carried sensational (but false) stories of marijuana-caused violence by Mexicans. In the mid-1950s, such fear mongering turned eastward. Ambitious politicians pushed for mandatory minimum sentences for drug peddling by promoting myths that "Red China" was distributing heroin to undermine the United States.
In the late 1960s, drug use increased in many parts of the world. In the U.S., recreational drug rec·re·a·tion·al drug
A drug used nonmedically for personal enjoyment.
recreational drug Substance abuse Any agent–most have significant psychotropic effects–used without medical indications or use--such as marijuana smoking and the use of LSD--skyrocketed among white youth protesting the unpopular war in Vietnam, the draft, and racial discrimination against African-Americans. Heroin addiction grew widely, but was most noticed among poor and working-class people of color Noun 1. people of color - a race with skin pigmentation different from the white race (especially Blacks)
people of colour, colour, color
race - people who are believed to belong to the same genetic stock; "some biologists doubt that there are important . Drug use also became widespread among the U.S. armed forces in Southeast Asia.
Politicians eagerly responded. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Governor Nelson Rockefeller (R), harboring presidential hopes, hyped the drug epidemic and legislated long prison sentences for offenders. President Richard Nixon declared a "war" on drugs. In practice, his programs and legislation emphasized treatment for drug addicts--particularly, rehabilitating heroin addicts with methadone--because he wanted lower crime rates to bolster his reelection re·e·lect also re-e·lect
tr.v. re·e·lect·ed, re·e·lect·ing, re·e·lects
To elect again.
re bid, and because he feared that drug addiction among GIs in Vietnam would further fuel public opposition to the war in Southeast Asia. Tragically, however, his harsh rhetoric fostered a climate of hostility toward those with drug problems. Current policies perpetuate Nixon's martial language while de-emphasizing treatment.
* The U.S. war on drugs at home and abroad both rely on coercion and disproportionately target the poorest and lowest level participants in the drug trade.
* U.S. antidrug policy has had racist overtones and is driven by political opportunism Opportunism
squire’s wife matchmakes with money in mind. [Br. Lit.: Doctor Thorne]
shrewdly and unscrupulously becomes merchant prince. [Yiddish Lit. , not by considerations of effectiveness or justice.
* The policy, which emphasizes law enforcement instead of effective demand-control measures, hasn't reduced deaths, drug abuse, drug availability, or the spread of disease.
Eric E. Sterling <email@example.com> is president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation.