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article imageOp-Ed: War on drugs a chronic problem, must be weeded out

By Edward Xiao     Jul 13, 2011 in Politics
For Mary Jane, a beloved and oft-slandered figure, victory is nigh.
Forty years after the inception of Richard Nixon's War on Drugs, a true drug policy reformation is looking to blossom.
For years, public opinion has stood firmly against the legalization of marijuana. Due to the powerful influence of Nixon's anti-cannabis propaganda, the belief that pot is an extremely harmful narcotic had entrenched itself into the mindset of the American people.
But, as ensuing research and studies showed, that mindset was utterly misguided. Even, surprisingly, to Nixon's own associates.
When Nixon first started his War on Drugs, he handpicked several people to run the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. Raymond Shafer, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, was Nixon's choice to lead the organization. As one can imagine, Shafer and the commission of anti-drug conservatives surely backed up Nixon on his anti-marijuana policies.
Then the unimaginable happened: a 1972 report released by the commission actually spoke against Nixon's policies. Entitled "Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding," the report recommended legalizing marijuana on the grounds that "the actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion of the law into private behavior..."
In addition, the report stated that whether they were intermittent or heavy users, pot smokers for the most part were very intellectually capable people, dispelling the myth that users were mentally-afflicted degenerates. It also wrote that "looking only at the effects on the individual, there, is little proven danger of physical or psychological harm from the experimental or intermittent use of the natural preparations of cannabis, including the resinous mixtures commonly used in this country." The only possible harm that was mentioned referred to the heavy users, which, as the report stated, were "exceedingly unusual among the population available for the study."
Based on the conclusions and evidence presented, then, it could be reasonably inferred that marijuana usage is much less harmful than alcohol consumption and that the most probable harm stemming from it occurs only to an overwhelming minority of users, effectively diminishing the potential danger of marijauna.
If ever there were a call to find the most objective source regarding the legalization of marijuana, that would surely be it. A group of anti-drug conservatives, all selected by President Nixon, the man who orchestrated the War on Drugs, denounced the criminalization of marijuana.
That, dear readers, is irony at its finest.
But, I digress. Ultimately, it all boils down to the public. America is, after all, a democracy. If the people shout loud enough, the politicians will heed their call because their job is to serve the people (and to collect votes to get back into office, but that’s beside the point.)
Taking a look at the War on Drugs, we see that in 2008, three out of every four Americans believed that the War on Drugs was failing.
And, for the most part, it has.
The War on Drugs costs taxpayers billions each year. It has to deal with court proceedings, incarcerations, prison upkeep and other large expenditures. Taxpayers dole out generous sums each year so that overcrowded prisons that sentence drug users to decades in jail will set second-degree murder offenders free before the recreational pot users. From any way one looks at that, it will be construed as irrational. In fact, a 2008 study by Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron estimated that the legalization of marijuana would provide an extra $76.8 billion to the U.S. economy. That figure counts only the law enforcement savings and tax revenue, excluding the tens of billions that would be generated by a new cannabis and hemp economy.
Let’s also not forget increased conflict. The War on Drugs indirectly contributes to the global drug trafficking scene and the escalating violence between drug cartels in Mexico. Because the United States criminalized marijuana, many users must get their pot from the drug cartels, fuelling the cartels’ power. If marijuana were legalized and the War on Drugs were terminated, a serious blow would be dealt to these illegal entities whose harmful effects stretch far beyond their places of origin.
Most seriously, the War on Drugs turns a blind eye towards more harmful substances that sit right before its very eyes. Studies have proven that alcohol is worse for the brain than cannabis is. In addition, the War on Drugs has spawned for many drug users an addiction to prescription medicine, which can kill at high doses (unlike marijuana, an illegal substance that has never had a related death reported.) If the government is so dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of the American people, why does it ban cannabis, a positive and beneficial substance and ignore the harmfulness of federally-regulated prescription medicines and alcohol?
In addition, the War on Drugs inadvertently increased the consumption of crack cocaine. As officials cracked down more on drugs, sales went up because smaller amounts were easier to conceal, and thus, distribute. Just as Prohibition created potent, sometimes lethal moonshine, so too did the War on Drugs refine the intoxicant formula it tried so hard to suppress.
As part of this assignment, I have to address whether or not I think the War on Drugs was good for the country. As my article, professional studies and research have shown, the answer is a resounding “no.” The War on Drugs was a waste of time and resources, things that could’ve been better spent on other government programs. That applies especially to today. In this day and age’s floundering economy, America needs all the resources it can get, and prolonging the War on Drugs would be counterproductive to that.
So end the War on Drugs. Let the American public breathe free as it’s rid of the misinformation that started with Nixon’s campaign against narcotics. In the face of all these lies and damning statistics against criminalization, it wouldn’t be a far cry to say that the American public would be ecstatic at the termination of the War on Drugs and beginning of legitimate drug policy reform. You might even say they’d be intoxicated with joy.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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