The Case Against America’s War on Drugs
The legal prohibition on most psychoactive drugs has been in place in this country for the better part of a century. This policy of prohibition, however, has never been based on reason or careful consideration, but on the paranoia of a small segment of society and the indifferent willingness of the majority to accept this vocal minority’s claims without question. Outlawing any use of a particular drug is a violation of the basic freedom of individuals to act as they please in their private lives. However, even if one does not accept this belief, an objective analysis of the United States’ history of prohibition clearly shows that attempts to enforce this policy have done far more harm than good, and have utterly failed to control behavior in the intended manner.
These are the two lines of reasoning I will take to argue against drug prohibition in this paper. After giving a brief history of prohibition, I will show that it is wrong in principal and that there is no moral basis for this policy. I will then show that, regardless of moral considerations, prohibition has not and probably cannot work, and more specifically that the "war on drugs" has been a disaster which should be ended immediately. I will then conclude by discussing possible consequences of legalization.
A Brief History of Prohibition
Government has not always seen fit to outlaw psychoactive drugs in the Western world. In fact, there was no prohibition in this country until 1914. Cocaine and Marijuana were both used in the late 19th century both for medicinal and recreational purposes. During this time there was considerable pressure for a ban on alcohol, but narcotics were simply not viewed as a threat to society. Nonetheless, the Harrison act, banning most narcotics, was passed in 1914 (Ostrowski).
Why did this happen? First of all, the Harrison act was only intended to regulate the sale of these drugs, making them available over the counter in small doses and in larger doses with a doctor’s prescription. Only later did the courts and law enforcement interpret this law as a prohibition. Reasons for the law included the association of opium with the widely despised Chinese-American community and lobbying by medical and pharmaceutical associations who sought a monopoly on the sale of narcotics, but the primary concern was to meet international obligations created by the new international drug control treaty. Marijuana was not banned until 1937, but no medical testimony was presented to congress at this time. Thus prohibition of these drugs occurred with little deliberation and with little rational justification (Ostrowski).
Alcohol prohibition, the "noble experiment" began in 1918. Few, if any, would deny that this experiment was a disaster. I will discuss the details of this experiment throughout the paper as it is relevant to the current war on drugs, but suffice to say that prohibition utterly failed to curb alcohol...