24 September 2011

U.S. Still Trying to Win the War on Drugs After 40 Years of Fighting

President Nixon formed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and coined the term "War on Drugs" in 1973. While he started a global movement to combat the creation, sale and use of drugs, world leaders today claim this war has failed. This perception is largely based on the war's poor track record, which has many advocacy groups and politicians calling for national drug policy changes. These changes could include legalizing or decriminalizing certain drugs and drug-related charges in an effort to focus on more productive strategies.

A War is Born

President Eisenhower appointed a committee in 1954 to "stamp out narcotic addiction," but it was President Nixon's announcement that the new DEA would engage in "an all-out global war on the drug menace" in 1973 that started the War on Drugs. Since then, the U.S. has spent over $2.5 trillion to fight an unwinnable war against what General Barry McCarffrey referred to as a shapeless, intangible noun. Despite the massive advertising campaigns of "Just Say No" and "This is your brain on drugs," the War on Drugs has had little success.

Poor Track Record

Besides the huge expense to support the War on Drugs, these efforts have increased rates of incarceration for drug crimes, especially for minor possession offenses, and drug use has risen to over 19 million Americans. Many illegal drugs are smuggled into the U.S. through Mexico, which has caused drug-related crime and problems within border states, and states like Utah, with major interstates used for drug distribution. In addition, studies show that educational drug programs like D.A.R.E. have failed to produce solid results, and anti-drug policies often unfairly target areas with high populations of people with lower-incomes.

Time for Change

In June, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a 19-member panel including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other world leaders, addressed the current War on Drugs approach. In its statement, the commission proposed that countries should instead explore drug legalization and "end the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but do no harm to others." Many drug advocacy groups in the U.S. agree and champion that now is the time to overhaul U.S. drug policies, crimes and penalties.

Drug Crimes and Punishment

Many leaders, politicians, lawyers and law enforcement officials, often advocate for increasing drug-related crimes and penalties to gain votes, publicity or promotions. But even Attorney General Mark Shurtleff of Utah, a cancer survivor, said he could condone legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, like helping cancer patients deal with the horrible nausea that follows chemotherapy. This idea, along with other public opinions that drugs may be more of a public health issue than a criminal one, will hopefully push society to take a different look at how to approach the War on Drugs in the future.

If you were recently arrested for or charged with a drug crime, and need legal help or advice about drug laws and penalties in your state, contact a local criminal defense attorney. Criminal defense lawyers with direct experience litigating drug-related offenses may be able to help you reduce or dismiss some charges, especially minor ones, until the drug laws and policies in the U.S. are overhauled at both the state and federal levels.

Article provided by Law Office of Steven M Dubreuil PLLC
24 September, 2011

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