Why the War on Drugs Failed
“For every prohibition you create, you also create an underground”. These words by famous musician Jello Biafra may sound prejudiced, but it is the truth we all live and have lived by since the prohibition era. The war on drugs has become a significant issue in today’s society, but people are not completely sure why the war on drugs has failed. In reference to Jello Biafra, the war on drugs is a type of a prohibition, but the real question is how big of an underground has this war created that it has ultimately failed.
The start of the war on drugs can officially be dated as far back as 1971 when ...view middle of the document...
Because illicit drug use is popular among young adults, the punishment vs. prevention concept should be steered towards them. In a study among various nations, it has been found that nations who have relied on a strictly punishment model, most of the drug users get worse after incarceration in part because of the exposure to other criminals in jail, and also because of their inability to secure employment following their incarceration.
If government agencies were more focused on prevention instead of punishment, things would turn out differently. During Ronald Reagan’s term in office, although he pushed laws for punishment against drug users, first lady Mrs. Reagan started an awareness campaign against drugs. “Just Say No” was the motto of her campaign which went to great distances nationwide, and immediately made an impact on young people. Due to her campaign, cocaine use by high school seniors dropped by one-third (from 6.2 percent in 1986 to 4.3 percent in 1987), the lowest level in a decade (Reagan Foundation & Library 2010). Marijuana use among young people decreased to 3 percent from over 10 percent in the early 1980s. Using similar models like these the government could focus on prevention, which would benefit both, the state and the individual in the long run, in contrast to the negative effects punishment brings to offenders.
Second, the war on drugs has created an underground. Similar to how the prohibition era in the 1920s created a black-market for bootleggers, this war has indefinitely created a black market for smugglers. News media broadcast reports to this day that almost every day some drug related violence is taking place near the US-Mexico border with someone dying in a crossfire. How long will this go on? The more the US is chasing and burning down drug cartels, the more cartels turn up day after day near the border. Since 2006 an estimated 36,000 people have died in Mexico (Williams 2011). The death toll is still increasing, and so is the violence and the trade of drugs within these cartels.
If we take a stance at how things would be if this prohibition of some drugs were lifted, the war would somewhat succeed, if not entirely. During the time when President Richard Nixon’s government focused on punishment for marijuana users, the Dutch government studied the risks of marijuana, and decided that possession and personal use of the substance is not a threat (Craig 2000). Policies were made that regulated small amounts of marijuana could be sold. This way for almost thirty years the Dutch government has benefited from taxing sales of marijuana, but the downside is nothing big. In fact, no one has observed any drug war in the Netherlands because of this.
Today, a few states in the USA have legalized sales of marijuana. Studies have yet to show if it has made an impact in those states, but the big question is what would be the impact if marijuana was legalized nationwide. The prohibition era of the 1920s saw the rise and...