U.S. Drug Policy

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[edit] Collaborative-UNICE: U.S. Drug Policy

[edit] Problems:

1. Organized crime: The portion of organized crime devoted to the production and wholesale distribution of illicit drugs constitutes roughly 1% of total global trade (about $1 trillion in 2015). [1] In 2011, there were approximately 30,000 gangs with 800,000 gang members on American streets, acting as the primary retail-level distributors of illicit drugs. [2] In 2009, there were another 147,000 gang members in prisons or jails, most of whom were also presumably buying or selling drugs, despite being under armed guard around the clock. [3]

2. Gateway to Criminality: Users are forced to associate with and become criminals when they buy, and they often steal to afford the exorbitant, prohibition-driven prices after they become addicted. [4]

3. Soaring Incarceration rate: The incarceration rate rose 700% since Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1971. [5] As a result, the U.S. now has the highest incarceration rate in the world—about 10 x higher than Europe or the Middle East. [6] The U.S. has 4.5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners. More than half of federal prisoners serving sentences of more than a year are imprisoned for drug-related offenses at an average annual cost in 2012 of over $31,000, but as high as $167,731 in NYC. [7]There are now 500,000 people incarcerated for drug-related charges in the U.S. [8]

4. Foreign intervention: US military aid and intervention has huge direct and indirect costs, and causes great harm. Plan Columbia, primarily a counternarcotics and military operation in Columbia, increased the profits of drug cartels, damaged the environment, and spawned human rights abuses, while having no effect on US drug consumption. Some 107,000 people were killed in Plan Mexico, the American-sponsored, Mexican War on Drugs 2006-2014, [9] during which time the federal police force increased almost 6 times, the drug cartels became more powerful, violence escalated, and drug production went up. [10] The US tolerated the heroin trade in Afghanistan in 1979 to supply rebels, including the Taliban. After the US invasion to defeat the Taliban, opium cultivation increased from 8,000 hectares in 2001 to over 200,000 hectares in 2013. The CIA is documented as being complicit in the global drug trade. [11] [12] Prohibition helps create a nexus between terrorism and drug cartels, which both utilize cell structures to engage in murder, kidnapping, arms trading, smuggling, protection rackets, money laundering and other illegal activities. Money from drug trafficking also directly funds terrorist activity. [13]

5. Hypocrisy: The two most lethal drugs, alcohol and tobacco (also among the most highly addictive) are perfectly legal. Together they constitute the true “gateway drugs.” Globally, a large majority of arrests are related to cannabis, [14] which is less addictive than coffee, [15] and of such low toxicity there are zero known overdose deaths. [16] [17] Even though a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana, and marijuana is virtually harmless compared to alcohol and tobacco, the government continues to disregard both the facts and public opinion. [18]

6. Interdiction doesn’t work: The “noble experiment” of alcohol prohibition failed. It was supposed to reduce crime, gang activity, corruption, taxes, reckless behavior, poor health, incarceration and substance abuse. Instead, it had the opposite effect. [19] Apparently the lessons were ignored, and a new prohibition was launched that included psychoactive substances less dangerous than alcohol. Both private and government funded studies on the efficacy of drug interdiction, for four decades, have shown that interdiction is many times less effective than treatment. The fact that prisoners are able to use drugs in prison, often at higher levels than the general population, vividly demonstrates the futility of interdiction. [20] Tobacco is the most dangerous drug in the world, and it kills 6 million people a year. Fifteen states attempted to ban tobacco, between 1890 and 1927, and they all failed. The War on Drugs has not reduced drug use, and the U.S. continues to be the number one nation in illegal drug use.[21]

7. Self-sustaining corruption: Millions of public officials have become involved in dealing drugs, taking bribes or facilitating the drug trade because the easy money is so alluring. In a vicious cycle, the War on Drugs causes more violence, thus causing more police to be hired. The police then resist ending prohibition because reducing drug enforcement would threaten their income. Cops may also lose their jobs just by criticizing current policy. [22] Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is composed mostly of former cops who feel free to state the obvious because they no longer have jobs to lose. [23]

8. Creation of inner city slums: Beginning soon after the War on Drugs was declared, the pace of inner city decay accelerated, which also contributed to the flight to the suburbs. Only after a demographic shift diminished the post-war youth bulge did violence rates begin to fall, [24] and the inner cities could begin to experience some revival, but the worst slums fueled by the War on Drugs persist.[25]

9. War on the poor and minorities: Most drug related offenses and jail time is borne by the poor and minorities, who become further marginalized and more likely to experience unemployment, homelessness, and more incarceration.[26] The creation of drug slums and glorification of the “gangsta” lifestyle caused by the War on Drugs contributed to the increase in single-parent households among African Americans from 30% in 1971 to 67% by 2009.[27] This compares to around 75% for non-hispanic, white families. [28]

10. Erosion of civil liberties: Search and seizure laws and arrests/incarceration erode civil rights. [29] Asset forfeiture laws allow the police to violate the privacy of citizens, and seize property where a crime has been suspected. In many cases, seizures are made even though no drugs are found, or the property owners have nothing to do with the drug use occurring on their property. [30]

11. Cost: Since 1971, taxpayers have spent over $1 trillion on the War on Drugs, with $51 billion of good money being thrown after bad every year. This does not count the far greater indirect costs to society. [31]

12. Lure of the forbidden/victimless crime: As during alcohol prohibition, when the state tried to tell people what they could not do with their own bodies, people become outraged and flaunt the law. “Al Capone, Scarface, Beanie Sigel, Biggie Smalls and Lucky Luciano. Sound familiar? These are the names of modern ‘gansta’ rappers who, along with other rappers, are channeling the spirit of alcohol prohibition and organized crime.”[32]

13. Health issues: Illegal drugs have no quality control and ingredients are not regulated. One report by the Energy Control found that only 38% of ecstasy pills actually had MDMA, and only 8% of cocaine is pure. [33] Hepatitis C and HIV infection rates are high among injecting users. Dealing with any aspect of the drug trade is physically dangerous, quite apart from the health impact of the drugs themselves. Cheap substitutes, like crack cocaine for powder cocaine, or legal painkillers instead of cannabis, can be worse than the preferred drug. [34]

14. Religious judgement: Many feel drug use is evil or immoral and users should be forced by the law to conform to religious or moral beliefs, and be punished when they disobey. Except for a growing number of prominent exceptions, including William F. Buckley, Ron Paul, Grover Norquist, and Glenn Beck, [35] [36] According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 73% of liberals supported legalizing marijuana and 31% of conservatives did not. [37]

[edit] Solutions:

1. End the War on Drugs by repealing drug prohibition. Put drugs, alcohol and tobacco into special legal status that includes legalization, taxation, regulation and treatment programs. (Decriminalization is inadequate because it would not affect the criminal supply networks). The quality and dosage should be regulated and tested so buyers know exactly what they are buying and what dangers might be associated with the drugs. [38]

2. Recognize the recreational, therapeutic and sacramental use of drugs as a basic human right. [39]

3. Give people the right to make their own decisions regarding drugs. The vast majority of people will not become drug abusers. Respect for the law will reduce the lure of the forbidden, and build responsible attitudes toward drugs. [40]

4. Ban all public or targeted advertising for drugs, alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs. Detailed official and unofficial information would be available online. [41]

5. Drugs (including many “prescription drugs”), tobacco, alcohol purchase and use should be regulated with a license that anyone 18 or older may obtain. To obtain the drug license, a person must take a course that explains the dangers related to alcohol and various drugs including tobacco. A person may opt to not test for or not include certain drugs or alcohol on their license, particularly if they want to self-regulate troublesome substances. Drug or alcohol-related infractions of the law would require a remedial course and re-licensing.

6. Tax drugs and alcohol according to their harm and cost to society. Dangerous and highly addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, tobacco and alcohol, for example, should have much higher taxes than drugs of low toxicity that have low or absent addictive properties, such as cannabis and psychedelics. Taxes should be approximately equal to the cost to society related to the substance, including health care and rehabilitation. [42] “Date rape” drugs and certain poisons should continue to be illegal. We should have discouraging restrictions on highly addictive drugs that people want to quit anyway. For example, powder cocaine could be available, but someone would have to make crack cocaine on their own. Flavored cigarettes, including menthols, and most of the dangerous additives, should be banned, along with low pH flue-cured tobacco (making cigarette smoke very difficult to fully inhale) and nicotine levels could be restricted. [43] Smoking should also be banned in public and not allowed to be displayed where any minor could see them.

7. Treatment: Make drugs, alcohol and tobacco a health-related issue with education, licensing, and treatment paid for by taxes on the substances. [44] Drug use in the Netherlands is considered a health issue and, as a result, has a drug-related death rate that is 15 times lower than in the United States. Afghanistan, which has had the cruel misfortune of being caught up America’s War on Drugs, has a drug-related death rate that is 290 times higher than the Netherlands. [45]

8. The U.S. should formally apologize to the world for the harm its policies have caused. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the mandatory drug sentencing guideline, international agreements in support of the War on Drugs, and all other federal laws prohibiting drugs should be revoked. The Drug Enforcement Agency should be absorbed into the FDA and ATF. [46] All non-violent drug offenders should be pardoned

[edit] References

  1. United Nations research report, “Estimating illicit financial flows resulting from drug trafficking and other transnational organized crime,” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, October 2011.
  2. Egley, Jr., Arlen and James C. Howell, “Highlight of the 2011 National Youth Gang Survey,” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. September 2013.
  3. Johnson, Kevin, “Report: Gang membership on the rise across U.S.” USA Today, January 30, 2009. Statistics taken from Justice Department’s National Gang Intelligence Center.
  4. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth: Breaking the Stranglehold of the Special Interests, Golden Apples Media, 2010, Chapter 25: “Prohibition Failed” pp. 231-238
  5. American Civil Liberties Union, https://www.aclu.org/files/assets/massincarceration_problems.pdf
  6. Source: Justice Policy Institute, "Substance Abuse Treatment and Public Safety," (Washington, DC: January 2008), p. 1. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08_01_REP_DrugTx_AC-PS.pdf - See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/prisons_and_drugs#sthash.KOTBqGcA.dpuf
  7. Santora, Marc, “City’s annual cost per inmate is $168,000, study finds,” New York Times, August 23, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/nyregion/citys-annual-cost-per-inmate-is-nearly-168000-study-says.html?_r=0
  8. Source: Carson, E. Ann. Prisoners In 2013. Washington, DC: US Dept of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sept. 2014, NCJ247282. Federal data: p. 16; state data: p. 15. http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=5109 http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/p13.pdf - See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/prisons_and_drugs#sthash.KOTBqGcA.dpuf
  9. Schaeffer-Duffy, Claire, “Counting Mexico's drug victims is a murky business,” National Catholic Reporter, March 1, 2014
  10. Nick Miroff and William Booth, “Mexico’s drug war is at a stalemate as Calderon’s presidency ends,” New York Times, November 27, 2012. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/calderon-finishes-his-six-year-drug-war-at-stalemate/2012/11/26/82c90a94-31eb-11e2-92f0-496af208bf23_story_1.html
  11. Lacayo, Richard, "Iran-Contra: The Cover-Up Begins to Crack". Time. June 24, 2001, Retrieved 2-20-15.
  12. McCoy, Alfred, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Central America, Colombia. (revised edition), Lawrence Hill Books, 2003 ISBN 1-44652-483-8
  13. Rand Beers and Francis X. Taylor, “Narco-Terror: The worldwide connection between drugs and terror,” Testimony before the senate committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information. U.S. Department of State archive, March 13, 2002. http://2001-2009.state.gov/p/inl/rls/rm/8743.htm
  14. United Nations World Drug Report, 2014, page xii
  15. Arkowitz, Hal and Scott O. Lilienfeld, “Experts tell the truth about pot: marijuana use can be problematic but only rarely leads to addiction,” Scientific American, March 1, 2012.
  16. Williamson, E.M, Evans, F.J, “Cannabinoids in clinical practice, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, abstract, Drugs. 2000 Dec;60(6):1303-14.PMID: 11152013 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
  17. Lavender, Paige, “Congressman reminds us how many people have overdosed on pot: ‘spoiler alert: it’s zero’” The Huffington Post, November 13, 2014, updated 11-14-2014
  18. Saad, Lydia, “Majority continues to support pot legalization in U.S.” Gallup, November 6, 2014
  19. Thornton, Mark, “Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure,” Cato Institute, Policy Analysis no. 157, July 17, 1991. http://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/alcohol-prohibition-was-failure
  20. United Nations Drug Report, 2014, page 11
  21. Branson, Richard, “War on drugs a trillion-dollar failure,” CNN, December 7, 2012.
  22. Lacey, Marc “Police officers find that dissent on drug laws may come with a price,” New York Times, December 2, 2011
  23. “Why Legalize Drugs?” LEAP website - http://www.leap.cc/about/why-legalize-drugs/
  24. Staveteig, Sarah, “The young and the restless: population age structure and civil war,” Wilson Center. ECSP Report, Issue 11, 2005. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/Staveteig.pdf
  25. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth, Golden Apples Media, 2010, Chapter 17: “My Hometown: a microcosm of America,” pp. 120-139
  26. Kain, Erik, “The War on Drugs is a War on Minorities and the Poor,” Forbes, June 28, 2011.
  27. Dunlap, Eloise, et. al, “The severely, distressed African American family in the crack era: Empowerment in not enough,” US National library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, J Sociol Soc Welf. 2006; 33(1): 115–139.
  28. National KIDS COUNT, datacenter.kidscount.org
  29. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth, Golden Apples Media, 2010, Chapter 25: “Prohibition Failed” pp. 231-238
  30. Balko, Radley, “The Forfeiture Racket: police and prosecutors won’t give up their license to steal,” reason.com, February 2010, http://reason.com/archives/2010/01/26/the-forfeiture-racket
  31. Branson, Richard, “War on drugs a trillion-dollar failure,” CNN, December 7, 2012. http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/06/opinion/branson-end-war-on-drugs/
  32. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth, Golden Apples Media, 2010, p. 229, ISBN 978-0-912467-12-2
  33. Pardes, Arielle, “This doctor want to provide quality control for your illegal drugs,” VICE, August 22, 2014. http://www.vice.com/read/this-doctor-wants-to-provide-quality-control-for-your-illegal-drugs-821
  34. Paige Bierma, M.A, “Cocaine and Crack,” Health Day, March 11, 2014
  35. Conant, Eve, “The conservative case for legalizing pot,” Newsweek, October 25, 2010 conservatives, especially social conservatives, tend to support prohibition.
  36. Saad, Lydia, “Majority continues to support pot legalization in U.S.” Gallup, November 6, 2014.
  37. Gregory, Anthony, “The Right & the Drug War: Conservatives are the last prohibitionists, but that’s changing,” The American Conservative, September 12, 2012.
  38. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth: Breaking the Stranglehold of the Special Interests, Golden Apples Media, 2010, Chapter 25: “Prohibition Failed!,” p. 276.
  39. Walsh, Charlotte (2010) “Drugs and human rights: private palliatives, sacramental freedoms and cognitive liberty,” The International Journal of Human Rights, 14: 3, 425 — 441, First published on: 16 February 2010 (iFirst) DOI: 10.1080/13642980802704270 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13642980802704270
  40. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth: Breaking the Stranglehold of the Special Interests, Golden Apples Media, 2010, Chapter 25: “Prohibition Failed!,” p. 276.
  41. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth: Breaking the Stranglehold of the Special Interests, Golden Apples Media, 2010, Chapter 25: “Prohibition Failed!,” pp. 276-277
  42. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth: Breaking the Stranglehold of the Special Interests, Golden Apples Media, 2010, Chapter 25: “Prohibition Failed!,” p. 278.
  43. Proctor, Robert N, “Why ban the sale of cigarettes? The case for abolition,” Tobacco Control, January 17, 2013.
  44. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth, Golden Apples Media, 2010, Chapter 25: “Prohibition Failed!,” p. 276.
  45. http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/cause-of-death/drug-use/by-country/ (data source: WHO 2011, World Bank, UNESCO, CIA)
  46. Arth, Michael E., Democracy and the Common Wealth, Golden Apples Media, 2010, Chapter 25: “Prohibition Failed!,” p. 277-278.
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