America's War on Drugs: Policy and Problems

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America's War on Drugs: Policy and Problems

In this paper I will evaluate America's War on Drugs. More specifically, I will outline our nation's general drug history and look critically at how Congress has influenced our current ineffective drug policy. Through this analysis I hope to show that drug prohibition policies in the United States, for the most part, have failed. Additionally, I will highlight and evaluate the influences acting on individual legislators' decisions to continue support for these ineffective policies as a more general demonstration of Congress' role in the formation of our nation's drug policy strategy. Finally, I will conclude this analysis by outlining the changes I feel necessary for future progress to be made. Primary among these changes are a general promotion of drug education and the elimination of our current system's many de-legitimating hypocrisies.

However, before the specific outcomes of Congressional influence and policy impact can be evaluated it becomes important to first review the general history and current situation of drugs today. Our present drug laws were first enacted at the beginning of the century. At the time, recreational use of narcotics was not a major social issue. The first regulatory legislation was for the purpose of standardizing the manufacturing and purity of pharmaceutical products. Shortly after, the first criminal laws were enacted which addressed opium products and cocaine. Although some states had prohibited the recreational use of marijuana, there was no federal criminal legislation until 1937. By contrast, the use of alcohol and its legality was a major social issue in United States in the early 20th century. This temperance movement culminated in the prohibition of alcohol from 1920 to 1933. Recreational drug use, particularly heroin, became more prevalent among the urban poor during the early ?60s. Because of the high cost of heroin and its uncertain purity, its use was associated with crime and frequent overdoses.

A drug subculture involving the use of marijuana and other hallucinogenic drugs began to emerge in mainstream American society in the late ?60s and was loosely associated with an overall atmosphere of political protest concerning the Vietnam War and civil rights. Drug use, including heroin use, was prevalent among soldiers during the Vietnam War and many of them returned addicted. Since that time, the recreational use of drugs, particularly marijuana, has been a constant aspect of youth culture in all social classes.

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