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The United States Should Decriminalize Drugs

761 words - 4 pages

In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared, “America's public enemy number one in the United States [sic] is drug abuse.” Since then, the United States has spent over $1 trillion and lost hundreds of thousands of lives trying to combat drug abuse. The results show very little progress: from 1998 to 2008, use of opiates, cocaine and cannabis increased 34.5%, 27% and 8.5% respectively. Not only has use increased, but the drug trade has progressed as an industry--the price of popular illicit drugs decreased 80% from 1990 to 2007, but the purity of heroin, cocaine and cannabis samples have increased by 60%, 11% and 161% respectively. In addition, many of the policies put in place to deter drug use have proven to be racially unjust. In 1995, the US Sentencing Commission advised Congress that mandatory minimums on crack vs powder cocaine were racist. The penalty for selling crack was 100 times more severe than for the same amount of powder cocaine (because crack was cheaper and easier to get). 90% of crack convictions were of African American citizens, although the majority of cocaine users were white. However, Congress ignored the Commission (this was the first time they did so in its history). In 2011, the story was similar--African Americans constitute 13% of the population, and 13% of drug users, but 38% of drug arrests, and 59% of drug convictions. Our drug policies and their enforcers need to be part of a fair and just system that minimizes the societal damage drugs cause, instead of increasing it. The war on drugs is not efficient, effective, or impartial; evidence suggests a better solution would include decriminalizing most drugs, placing an emphasis on education and treatment, and legalizing and taxing marijuana.
History has proven prohibition to be ineffective. Yet until recently, suggesting a policy besides “Just say no” would mark you as soft on crime. Finally, it seems the United States is moving toward sensible drug policies. President Obama’s administration decided to stop using the “War on Drugs” slogan, as they found it counterproductive. In 2013, a Gallup poll showed 58% of Americans favored legalizing marijuana. Decriminalization has bipartisan support with the rise of Libertarianism in the Republican Party. In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first states to...

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