The War on Drugs in 6 Disturbing Facts

Starting early as 1914 with the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, the war on drugs has been waging on American soil for more than 40 years. Since then, there have been a number of laws, acts and initiatives

Starting early as 1914 with the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, the war on drugs has been waging on American soil for more than 40 years. Since then, there have been a number of laws, acts and initiatives which have attempted to control and prohibit the consumption, manufacture and distribution of what many countries agree to be dangerous psychoactive narcotics. The term “war on drugs” was first used by former-President Richard Nixon in the 1970s, but has since been deemed “counter-productive” by President Barack Obama who no longer uses the phrase.

Between 1918 and 1920, the 18th amendment prohibiting the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol for consumption was certified in the United States. The U.S. then passed the National Prohibition Act to enforce the laws of the 18th amendment. Predictably, this merely drove the alcohol industry under ground resulting in an escalation of crime and corruption. The prohibition of alcohol was eventually repealed in 1933.

In 1937, the Marijuana Transfer Tax Act was passed and put a levy on the sale of cannabis on a national scale. In 1970, a new act was passed including the Controlled Substance Act. The C.S.A., a set of laws, is the foundation even to this day for the categorization of illegal drugs, basing them on their medicinal use and risk of addiction. Since the 1970s, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs has been replaced by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the military have been involved in the drug enforcement; and a national anti-drug media campaign directed at youth was launched.

Despite the bevy of anti-drug initiatives, the effectiveness of the war on drugs has come into question. In 2011, The Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report titled The War on Drugs, a report that criticizes the “criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.” It claimed that the war on drugs “has failed” with “devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

Using this report as a primary source — in addition to reports from the U.S. Department of Justice and Trans-Border Institute — we're bringing you 6 facts about the so called War on Drugs that are at best counterintuitive and almost certainly shocking.

6 Annual U.S. Spending on the War on Drugs: $51 Billion

5 People Arrested Annually on Nonviolent Drug Charges: 1.53 Million

4 People Arrested Annually for Breaking Cannabis Law: 757,969

3 Cannabis Law Violators that were Arrested Only for Possession: 87%

2 People Killed in Mexico’s Drug War Since 2006: 125 000

1 Annual Taxes Drugs Would Yield if Legalized: $46.7 Billion  

Imagine that drugs are no longer illegal. Now free to be exploited by private enterprise and sold in stores to any consumer who can afford them, drug products would be subject to a government tax, no different than a bottle of aspirin or an over-the-counter cough medication. After all, the underlying philosophy of almost any business is "supply and demand."

If the criminal penalties on drugs were lifted, and the moral grounds against its use eventually waned, it might be a safe bet that corporations everywhere would jump at the chance to sell them for a tidy profit. Consumers would no longer be afraid to indulge in their favourite drug, as many already do in nations that have decriminalized the purchase of cannabis for medical use. With all of those drug sales subject to government tax, Uncle Sam would take in more than $46 billion in revenue, almost recouping the costs of their estimated total spending on the war on drugs, and more than doubling their $15 billion budget "aimed at reducing drug use." Perhaps best of all in this hypothetical scenario, drug lords would be penniless and might even be forced to go legitimate, therefore eradicating drug crime altogether.

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The War on Drugs in 6 Disturbing Facts