When I got home today I received an email from the Captain of the police around campus it said that “provisions of alcohol to minors will not be tolerated” and “…such behavior pulls law enforcement resources away from…violent crimes”. So our local police are more worried about some 20 year old drinking alcohol than the armed robbery happening two blocks away. How did we get here and when did this become acceptable?

The term War on Drugs was coined in 1971 by President Richard Nixon (aka Tricky Dick). Ironically, the first to see the damages of this war were the troops. Nixon wasn’t worried about the ghettos and Woodstock, his focus was cleaning up his troops. I could get really side tracked about why the troops were resorting to drugs, because this so-called hawk for the Vietnam War was forcing innocent civilians to fight a losing battle, but I will save that for another time. So the troops saw a pee test and 40 years later 31 million Americans have been put in jail for drug crimes.­1 For those that don’t know that is 1/10 Americans that have seen the inside of a jail for doing, owning, or just being around drugs.

These laws are the definition of a Nanny State. People are stupid and therefore we need our nanny, big federal government, to regulate what we choose to put in our own bodies. Tricky Dick was not the first to implement drug laws. The first drug law that was introduced in the United States was the Harrison Narcotic Act in 1914. This act was simply to just regulate the “addictive” drugs meaning that you could only get these by going to a doctor. Doctors were also prosecuted if they prescribed “addictive” drugs to patients who were labeled as “addicts”. It did not take long to go from regulated to outlaw. In 1919 the famous Alcohol prohibition laws came into effect.

Prohibition had four main negative effects which led many people to view it has a failure and thus it became legal 14 years later. First was the economic decline that happened even though most economists had predicted that it would increase due to the extra income, but it turns out Americans don’t go out if there are not drinks available. Second, the government lost an incredible amount of income for the 1920s: Federal government $11 billion, New York 75% of tax revenue, and it cost $300 million to enforce.2 Third, prohibition increased crime by promoting organize crime and corruption on the federal, state, and local levels (think police that would normally not take bribes are not stuffing their pockets). Fourth, alcohol became more dangerous, because people would add poison to the liquor to increase the “drunkenness” without having to use alcohol to boost profits. Of course this list could be longer, but they I think you get the point: alcohol prohibition was a failure.

Today we still have prohibition on many drugs! This prohibition has the same effects it had a hundred years ago. Regulations on drugs have increased the price and inhibit transactions between businesses and consumers. The government is currently spending $51 billion a year on drug enforcement ($2 trillion since the War on Drugs began). If you know the astronomical number the government is losing in tax revenue please comment below. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world (we have 2.1 million people in jail). Since the War on Drugs the amount of people in jail has increased 800%! These numbers are insane!

The Obama administration has come out and said that they do not intend to keep using the phrase “War on Drugs”, because the “term has become counter-productive”.3 The reason that the War on Drugs is counter-productive is because it was a failure. It has nothing to do with political correctness. If our government was truly worried about the negative effects that drugs have on humans then they should legalize them. It is the same thing I do with my students. If I tell them not do something that is what is on their mind. If I redirect them or explain to them why something is bad and they do not want to do that then they are less likely to do it. If the War on Drugs is about reducing drug uses then they should change their stance and stop attacking Americans and start informing.

Sources

1         Alexander, Michelle (2010). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press. p. 60.

2         http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/unintended-consequences/

3         http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB124225891527617397?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB124225891527617397.html