The War on Drugs is one of the largest under takings, by the U.S. government that spans over the past 40 years. It has cost the U.S. billions of dollars each year since 1968. In fact, Miron and Wadlock (2011) reports the U.S. federal government spent over fifteen billion dollars in 2010 on the War on Drugs, at a rate of about five hundred dollars per second. Yet, within this great investment lies much debate and controversy. This paper will address the connection between drugs, crime, and violence, and whether or not the United States government has had much success decreasing crime and violence using the current strategies in the last thirty to forty years.
There is a strong correlation between drugs and crime. To begin with, producing, selling, and using drugs are unlawful. Florida Statute 499.03 deem it unlawful for a citizen to use drugs without a valid prescription. It also states that, it is unlawful to possess illegal substances with the intent to make a profit or to assist in a drug sale in any form or fashion. It is also unlawful to establish a lab of any sort that is maintained for illegal substances according to Florida Statute 465.015. Drugs are also interrelated with crime because of the influence they have on the user’s behavior. Drugs impair judgment and generate violent behavior that can not only hurt the user, but the innocent people around them. According to data collected and reported by the Florida Institute of Technology (2014) drugs and alcohol contribute to more than 50 percent of all violent crimes in the United States. It continues to report that nearly 50 percent of traffic accidents involve the use of illegal substances and are the root of 80 percent of domestic violence calls. Judgment is generally the first to be impaired while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The effects can lead to poor decision making, poor concentration and loss of inhibitions, extreme emotions such as rage and anxiety, and blackouts. Also, many offenders find themselves committing crimes in order to obtain the money to purchase drugs that feed their addiction. In October of 2006 the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported as many as 18.4% of prisoners in our Federal jails committed a violent crime in order to obtain the money needed to purchase narcotics. There was no care in the world, when committing the crime for the individuals that were harmed. The motivator was the addiction to such a dangerous substance.
In 1986, Ronald Reagan spoke out to the citizens of the United States and expressed his gratification on the war on drugs in America. In his speech he shared great news that reports by the DEA reflecting a shortage in Marijuana and an increase in seizures of illegal drugs. The government tripled its costs on the war on drugs, but it was done in great measure and with great progression. Even still after costing over sixty billion dollars a year, we faced challenges with drug smuggling, babies being born with an addiction to drugs and abnormalities, and crack a new drug that was being described by the President as an “uncontrolled fire” as we slowly entered the 90’s. Drug abuse affects everyone not just the user and will take everyone’s efforts to control. This was Regan’s message to America. During Reagan’s presidency there was a spike in the number of people behind bars for nonviolent drug law offenses. As many as 50,000 offenders were incarcerated in 1980 to over 400,000 by the late 90’s.
Thirty years later, America is still amidst the war on drugs. We face new challenges and new drugs that inhibit clear thinking and influence dangerous behaviors. During the presidential campaign in the 90’s Clinton gained popularity by promising the public that he would bring an end to the war on drugs by providing treatment for the offenders rather than incarcerate them. Shortly after taking over the White House, Clinton quickly reverted back to “Republican ways” and started filling the state and federal prisons with the people that use drugs, once again. When Bush took over he also invested a tremendous amount of American dollars with an effort to control illegal substances in the country. Efforts by the Bush Administration focused on student drug testing. This strategy was an epic fail with an increase in overdose fatalities. On the Issues (2000) reported George W. Bush also ignited the militarization of domestic drug law enforcement by adding 40,000 SWAT style raids on US citizens each year. These raids were mostly for nonviolent crimes that involved illegal substances. During President George W. Bush’s presidency the war on drugs stalled. Many state governments began to see a decrease in the drug epidemic that plagued the country. This created opportunities for change. Under Obama’s “reign” in the White House, Americans are being offered the chance to rock the vote on legalizing drugs. This past year Liberals were pushing to legalize Marijuana. Politicians see Marijuana as a leisure drug and compare it to alcohol and tobacco. Voters in Florida voted no and have kept this dangerous drug illegal across the state.
There has been much effort to end the war on drugs in America. With each strategy implemented, there has been change. Yet not enough to eliminate the issue altogether. It is inevitable that Americans will see more outlandish opportunities to change drug policies and to legalize drugs in hopes to wipe out crime. Progress to win the battle on the war on drugs is slow, but if America sticks to her guns positive change is bound to occur.
Miron, J., & Wadlock, K. (2011, January 1). The Budgetary Impact of Drug Prohibition. Retrieved March 29, 2015, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp
Florida Statute 499.03 Possession of certain drugs without prescriptions unlawful; exemptions and exceptions. (2015, March 11). Retrieved March 29, 2015, from http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=unlawful drugs&URL=0400-0499/0499/Sections/0499.03.html
Florida Statute 465.015 Violations and penalties. (2015, March 11). Retrieved March 31, 2015, from http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=unlawful drugs&URL=0400-0499/0465/Sections/0465.015.html
Facts about Alcohol and Drug Abuse. (2014, January 1). Florida Institute of Technology. Retrieved March 31, 2015, from http://www.fit.edu/caps/articles/facts.php
Drug use and crime. (2006, October 1). Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved March 29, 2015, from http://www.bjs.gov/content/dcf/duc.cfm
Ronald Reagan-Speech to the Nation on the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (September 14, 1986). (1986, September 11). Retrieved March 31, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYWS7udm0yg
George W. Bush on Drugs. (2000, January 1). Retrieved March 31, 2015, from http://www.ontheissues.org/2004/George_W__Bush_Drugs.htm