Thanks to Pablo Escobar and friends in the 80’s, the “War on Drugs” has been a widely used and recognized term. Due to the massive amounts of drugs, mostly cocaine, being imported illegally through southern ports like Florida or Texas, the Nixon and Reagan administration coined this term and began down a route that has become widespread. In the 70’s, Nixon began the Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA, to expressly take on the drug epidemic that was striking the United States and deeming it the champion in the “War on Drugs”. Its goal was to create a unified drug policy that would simultaneously create safer American streets and educate children on the dangers of these drugs. Society wanted to criminalize something that millions of Americans used every day, so there was and is an obvious push back against these policies.
Depending on who you ask, placement of specific drugs into separate schedules, severity, are unjustly accounted. The most advocated drug is Marijuana, as it is placed as a Schedule 1 drug alongside Ecstasy, LSD and Heroine. It is argued that Marijuana is not nearly has a harmful or detrimental to the well being of the user as its counterparts, but placed there as a political scheme to both remove hemp, a byproduct, as a paper alternative and keep a payroll for the DEA. The argument continues to say that Schedule 2 drugs are even more detrimental that Marijuana has been shown to be. Drugs like Oxycontin, Morphine and Opium are among others on that list and have led to deaths, which is the best argument for Marijuana advocates as there have been no recorded deaths to an overdose.
Criminalizing such a widely used and advocated drug, such as Marijuana, has been seen before in the 1930’s with alcohol. Organized crime rose and more illegal activities took place in its wake. Speakeasies, hidden pubs, were erected for the soul purpose of hiding alcohol consumption from the authorities and bootlegged distilleries sprung up almost instantly. Of course, it would be dangerous and hard to transport the liquor to the speakeasies from the distilleries, so they would hire protection and “runners” to get the product there quickly and safely. It wouldn’t be uncommon to see a vehicle, full of booze and men with tommy guns, barreling down the street. It is safe the prohibition era was a blundering failure, so they brought alcohol back.
It is hard to argue what the criminalization of drugs have done for the country, as some want to increase efforts while others vote to diminish them. One thing can be said for certain, that prisons have become overcrowded with these offenders. Selling Heroine, armed, to a minor has the possibility to land you the same amount of jail time as possessing a specific amount of Marijuana. These crimes are obviously not equal in detriment, but are judged just as harshly. More than 15% of people arrested and convicted annually are for Marijuana possession. The United States holds one in every 111 adults in prison and more than 100,000 people have been killed in the “War on Drugs” since 2006. Around 51 billion dollars are spent annually on drugs in the United States. The federal government are not letting up.
However, some states are creating a new trend. Colorado and Washington have advocated so strongly towards the legalization of Marijuana, it has followed the now reoccurring trend of decriminalization, medicalization and eventual recreational use. This brings us to a strange crossroads, however, between state and federal law. Federal law still mandates Marijuana illegal, while state law dictates its freedom. Residing in a “legal” state and being a registered medical user of this drug does not keep you safe from federal prosecution. So, while states may claim dependent legislation, the federal government reserves its right to follow the protocol of the Controlled Substance Act, deeming Marijuana a Schedule 1 drug and illegal nationally.