- Politics and Social Issues
Why Are Drugs Illegal in the United States
"Drug use and alcohol use should be fought with education, with treatment, and at home with our children. Send a person to prison for five years and you may take them off the street but they will more than likely return to the drug or to a similar life style after their stint in prison. Going to prison is not a fix, it is just a way to take that person off the street. If a person is going to use drugs they will find a way to get them."
30 Day Drug Use Chart of the U.S. By Age and State
Have you ever taken illegal drugs for recreational use?
Drug Wars Happen Because of Our Laws
Why Are Drugs Illegal?
Okay first off, I'm not an advocate for addiction. I hate addiction personally and I believe it is wrong to put a substance above all other things in life. But there are people out there that suffer from addictions just like others suffer from chronic illness. It may be both physical and mental, inherited and environmental but the fact remains that drugs and alcohol are here and that in all classes, all walks of life from the poorest person to the richest these dependencies have a hold in society. As sad as that is what we choose to put in our bodies be it a cheeseburger from a fast food place or a needle in the vein addiction is and will always be part of the human experience.
Why Drugs Are Illegal:
So with that said would it surprise you to know that drugs here in the United States were once all legal? Yes everything from heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, to marijuana were all legal. (NO WAY!) you say? Yes way, the laws that are in place today came to light in the last hundred years. So why are certain drugs or what the government and law enforcement call street drugs illegal here in the U.S.? What happened to make all the drugs people go to prison for today illegal?
Certain drugs it seems made the list because of their intoxicating effects. But most of all it lends itself to the first illicit drug law ever put into effect... the Harrison Act of 1914. What was the Harrison Act?
A Big Mistake
Well this HUGE mistake was proposed by Francis Burton Harrison a Representative of New York. It was a Taxation Law Ch. 1, 38 Stat, 785 that states "An act to provide for the registration of, with collector of the IRS, to impose a special tax on all persons who produce, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense sell or distribute, or give away opium and coca leaves, their salts, derivatives, preparations, a for all other purposes."
So the law was then interpreted to mean that doctors and medical professionals could prescribe narcotic drugs for normal medical treatments but not for the treatment of addiction or addictive behaviors. Even with this law in place companies, and medical doctors could still sell and use illicit drugs and give or sell them to people. This began the first battle with the war on drugs as doctors and companies had to keep special logs for the distribution and sale of narcotics to people. Street dealers were their enemy and law enforcement soon got involved. So the real reason is that if there was no record of the sale and no way to track money spent on the drug itself or its manufacture or its distribution as a gift then there was no way to tax the person or persons selling, using, or making the drug. Because the drug were being used recreation-ally and not for medical use it was increasingly difficult for the government and IRS to track what a person was using and how much they were spending on the drug. So the goal was to privatize illicit drug sales and tax the drugs being sold. But as always the government has to get its hand involved in all aspects of peoples lives.
Since that time all drugs that cannot be regulated as recreational (like tobacco and alcohol) are labeled street drugs and carry heavy penalties like fines and prison terms. Instead of offering the public education of the destruction of lives because of addiction to narcotics and then giving people treatment for those that are already addicted to substances the government incarcerates millions of individuals every year for drug related crimes. (Ah so that is where your tax money goes) Many anti-Drug bills have been past since drugs have been made illegal for recreational use. The history of anti drug acts placed and enforced by the government is a mixed affair and often a misguided and ignorant affair as well. Marijuana was made illegal because of poor communities and its connection to unwanted poorer Hispanic cultures and black ghetto usage in the early 1900s, this decreased usage until the 60s counter culture came into effect. Even President Carters administration fought to decriminalize marijuana usage. Cocaine became illegal because of the taxation act by Harrison in 1914 but its usage saw a huge influx in the disco 70's and the affluent 80's until crack became popular in poorer communities and the drug was viewed as a ghetto black drug. Amphetamines were used in WW2 as a way to combat depression and give soldiers a pick me up in battle to keep them awake to fight. The black market of amphetamines came about for use in trucking and in sports and this lead to the criminalization of amphetamines. The point is that all drugs were once legal.
Illegal drug use is rampant in all areas of the world and drugs will always find a way through back dealings with crooked crime enforcement officers through bribery, extortion and many other means of distribution. Organized crime makes billions a year off the distribution of narcotics. Those same narcotics that could be sold like alcohol and tobacco in safe delivery systems either by limiting the intoxicating effects or limiting distribution to the public by law. Yes there would be an increase in use but that is mostly because we would have those people addicted to drugs back on the streets and out of prison.
There is a flaw in the logic of the current state of law. Drug use and alcohol use should be fought with education, with treatment, and at home with our children. Send a person to prison for five years and you may take them off the street but they will more than likely return to the drug or to a similar life style after their stint in prison. Going to prison is not a fix, it is just a way to take that person off the street. If a person is going to use drugs they will find a way to get them. Take that person off the street and you take them out of the drug life for a little while.
Crime because of drugs is an epidemic. When was the last time you heard of someone being shot for a pack of cigarettes or a can of beer? You do see that with even marijuana! Why? Because it is illegal. There is no justice for the person ripped off for their product if it is illegal. Everyone goes to jail. So they resort to street justice and someone is beaten, shot, rapped, or killed for their drugs. Instead of offering treatment we through them in prison. It is a cycle not easily broken.
I am not saying we should legalize all drugs so that we are nothing but a society of crack heads, pot heads, alcoholics, and heroin junkies. What I am saying is that our approach to drug use and addiction in the U.S. should be from a treatment standpoint and not one of a criminal standpoint. The United States is falling behind the rest of the world because of our ignorance to very obvious problems and in the way we choose to deal with those problems. From our economical problems to our addictions the people of the United States should demand change of these policies and enact reform of laws and in the way we handle the problem at large. It is time to change these ideals and laws so that we can move on into the future.