Still, mass incarceration has massively strained the criminal justice system and led to a lot of overcrowding in US prisons — to the point that some states, such as California , have rolled back penalties for nonviolent drug users and sellers with the explicit goal of reducing their incarcerated population. In terms of police powers, civil asset forfeitures have been justified as a way to go after drug dealing organizations.
These forfeitures allow law enforcement agencies to take the organizations' assets — cash in particular — and then use the gains to fund more anti-drug operations. The idea is to turn drug dealers' ill-gotten gains against them. But there have been many documented cases in which police abused civil asset forfeiture, including instances in which police took people's cars and cash simply because they suspected — but couldn't prove — that there was some sort of illegal activity going on. In these cases, it's actually up to people whose private property was taken to prove that they weren't doing anything illegal — instead of traditional legal standards in which police have to prove wrongdoing or reasonable suspicion of it before they act.
Similarly, the federal government helped militarize local and state police departments in an attempt to better equip them in the fight against drugs. The Pentagon's program , which gives surplus military-grade equipment to police, was created in the s as part of President George HW Bush's escalation of the war on drugs. Various groups have complained that these increases in police power are often abused and misused.
The ACLU, for instance, argues that civil asset forfeitures threaten Americans' civil liberties and property rights, because police can often seize assets without even filing charges. Such seizures also might encourage police to focus on drug crimes, since a raid can result in actual cash that goes back to the police department, while a violent crime conviction likely would not.
The libertarian Cato Institute has also criticized the war on drugs for decades, because anti-drug efforts gave cover to a huge expansion of law enforcement's surveillance capabilities, including wiretaps and US mail searches. The militarization of police became a particular sticking point during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police shooting of Michael Brown. After heavily armed police responded to largely peaceful protesters with armored vehicle that resemble tanks, tear gas, and sound cannons, law enforcement experts and journalists criticized the tactics.
Since the beginning of the war on drugs, the general trend has been to massively grow police powers and expand the criminal justice system as a means of combating drug use. But as the drug war struggles to halt drug use and trafficking, the heavy-handed policies — which many describe as draconian — have been called into question. If the war on drugs isn't meeting its goals, critics say these expansions of the criminal justice system aren't worth the financial strain and costs to liberty in the US.
The war on drugs has created a black market for illicit drugs that criminal organizations around the world can rely on for revenue that payrolls other, more violent activities.
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This market supplies so much revenue that drug trafficking organizations can actually rival developing countries' weak government institutions. In Mexico, for example, drug cartels have leveraged their profits from the drug trade to violently maintain their stranglehold over the market despite the government's war on drugs. As a result, public decapitations have become a particularly prominent tactic of ruthless drug cartels.
As many as 80, people have died in the war. Tens of thousands of people have gone missing since , including 43 students who vanished in in a widely publicized case. But even if Mexico were to actually defeat drug cartels, this potentially wouldn't reduce drug war violence on a global scale.
Instead, drug production and trafficking, and the violence that comes with both, would likely shift elsewhere, because the drug trade is so lucrative that someone will always want to take it up — particularly in countries where the drug trade might be one of the only economic opportunities and governments won't be strong enough to suppress the drug trade. In , for instance, the drug war significantly contributed to the child migrant crisis. After some drug trafficking was pushed out of Mexico, gangs and drug cartels stepped up their operations in Central America's Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
These countries, with their weak criminal justice and law enforcement systems, didn't seem to have the capacity to deal with the influx of violence and crime. The war on drugs "drove a lot of the activities to Central America, a region that has extremely weakened systems," Adriana Beltran of the Washington Office on Latin America explained. As a result, children fled their countries by the thousands in a major humanitarian crisis.
Many of these children ended up in the US, where the refugee system simply doesn't have the capacity to handle the rush of child migrants. Although the child migrant crisis is fairly unique in its specific circumstances and effects, the series of events — a government cracks down on drugs, trafficking moves to another country, and the drug trade brings violence and crime — is pretty typical in the history of the war on drugs. In the past couple of decades it happened in Colombia , Mexico , Venezuela , and Ecuador after successful anti-drug crackdowns in other Latin American countries.
The Wall Street Journal explained :. Ironically, the shift is partly a by-product of a drug-war success story, Plan Colombia. In a little over a decade, the U. Colombian cocaine production declined, the murder rate plunged and the FARC is on the run. But traffickers adjusted. Cartels moved south across the Ecuadorean border to set up new storage facilities and pioneer new smuggling routes from Ecuador's Pacific coast. Colombia's neighbor to the east, Venezuela, is now the departure point for half of the cocaine going to Europe by sea. This global proliferation of violence is one of the most prominent costs of the drug war.
When evaluating whether the war on drugs has been successful, experts and historians weigh this cost, along with the rise of incarceration in the US, against the benefits, such as potentially depressed drug use, to gauge whether anti-drug efforts have been worth it.
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The spending estimates don't account for the loss of potential taxes on currently illegal substances. That's not a huge amount of money, but it may not be worth the cost if the war on drugs is leading to drug-related violence around the world and isn't significantly reducing drug abuse.
In the US, the war on drugs mostly impacts minority, particularly black, communities. This disproportionate effect is why critics often call the war on drugs racist. Although black communities aren't more likely to use or sell drugs, they are much more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for drug offenses. When black defendants are convicted for drug crimes, they face longer prison sentences as well. Drug sentences for black men were The Sentencing Project explained the differences in a February report: "Myriad criminal justice policies that appear to be race-neutral collide with broader socioeconomic patterns to create a disparate racial impact… Socioeconomic inequality does lead people of color to disproportionately use and sell drugs outdoors, where they are more readily apprehended by police.
Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Candace Bushnell is the creator of SEX AND THE CITY and has been described by the EVENING STANDARD as a ' genius'. Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Candace Bushnell is the creator of SEX AND THE CITY.
One example: Trafficking crack cocaine, one of the few illicit drugs that's more popular among black Americans, carries the harshest punishment. The threshold for a five-year mandatory minimum sentence of crack is 28 grams. In comparison, the threshold for powder cocaine, which is more popular among white than black Americans but pharmacoligically similar to crack, is grams. As for the broader racial disparities, federal programs that encourage local and state police departments to crack down on drugs may create perverse incentives to go after minority communities.
Some federal grants , for instance, previously required police to make more drug arrests in order to obtain more funding for anti-drug efforts. Neill Franklin, a retired police major from Maryland and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition , said minority communities are "the low-hanging fruit" for police departments because they tend to sell in open-air markets, such as public street corners, and have less political and financial power than white Americans.
In Chicago, for instance, an analysis by Project Know , a drug addiction resource center, found enforcement of anti-drug laws is concentrated in poor neighborhoods, which tend to have more crime but are predominantly black :. That's another cash cow. The disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates have clearly detrimental effects on minority communities.
A study published in the journal Sociological Science found boys with imprisoned fathers are much less likely to possess the behavioral skills needed to succeed in school by the age of 5, starting them on a vicious path known as the school-to-prison pipeline. As the drug war continues, these racial disparities have become one of the major points of criticism against it.
It's not just whether the war on drugs has led to the widespread, costly incarceration of millions of Americans, but whether incarceration has created "the new Jim Crow" — a reference to policies, such as segregation and voting restrictions, that subjugated black communities in America.
ajajuvib.cf Beyond the goal of curtailing drug use , the motivations behind the US war on drugs have been rooted in historical fears of immigrants and minority groups. During this period, racial and ethnic tensions were particularly high across the country — not just toward African Americans, but toward Mexican and Chinese immigrants as well. National Library of Medicine. As the New York Times explained , the federal prohibition of marijuana came during a period of national hysteria about the effect of the drug on Mexican immigrants and black communities.
Concerns about a new, exotic drug, coupled with feelings of xenophobia and racism that were all too common in the s, drove law enforcement, the broader public, and eventually legislators to demand the drug's prohibition. These beliefs extended to practically all forms of drug prohibition. Americans, already skeptical of the drug, quickly latched on to xenophobic beliefs that opium somehow made Chinese immigrants dangerous. Cocaine was similarly attached in fear to black communities, neuroscientist Carl Hart wrote for the Nation.
The belief was so widespread that the New York Times even felt comfortable writing headlines in that claimed "Negro cocaine 'fiends' are a new southern menace. Most recently, these fears of drugs and the connection to minorities came up during what law enforcement officials characterized as a crack cocaine epidemic in the s and '90s.
Lawmakers, judges, and police in particular linked crack to violence in minority communities. The connection was part of the rationale for making it times easier to get a mandatory minimum sentence for crack cocaine over powder cocaine, even though the two drugs are pharmacologically identical. As a result, minority groups have received considerably harsher prison sentences for illegal drugs. In , the ratio between crack's sentence and cocaine's was reduced from to-1 to to Hart explained , after noting the New York Times's coverage in particular: "Over the [late s], a barrage of similar articles connected crack and its associated problems with black people.
Entire specialty police units were deployed to 'troubled neighborhoods,' making excessive arrests and subjecting the targeted communities to dehumanizing treatment.
None of this means the war on drugs is solely driven by fears of immigrants and minorities, and many people are genuinely concerned about drugs' effects on individuals and society. But when it comes to the war on drugs, the historical accounts suggest the harshest crackdowns often follow hysteria linked to minority drug use — making the racial disparities in the drug war seem like a natural consequence of anti-drug efforts' roots. But since you mentioned them, take a break and listen to a couple songs from their latest album, Lost in the Dream.
This is actually a fairly controversial question among drug policy experts. Although some researchers have tried to rank drugs by their harms, some experts argue the rankings are often far more misleading than useful. In a report published in The Lancet , a group of researchers evaluated the harms of drug use in the UK, considering factors like deadliness, chance of developing dependence, behavioral changes such as increased risk of violence, and losses in economic productivity.
Alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine topped the chart. There are at least two huge caveats to this report. First, it doesn't entirely control for the availability of these drugs, so it's likely heroin and crack cocaine in particular would be ranked higher if they were as readily available as alcohol. Second, the scores were intended for British society, so the specific scores may differ slightly for the US.
David Nutt, who led the analysis, suggested meth's harm score could be much higher in the US, since it's more widely used in America.
But drug policy experts argue the study and ranking miss some of the nuance behind the harm of certain drugs. Jon Caulkins, a drug policy expert at Carnegie Mellon University, gave the example of an alien race visiting Earth and asking which land animal is the biggest. If the question is about weight, the African elephant is the biggest land animal.
But if it's about height, the giraffe is the biggest. And if the question is about length, the reticulated python is the biggest. The blunt measures of drug harms present similar issues. Alcohol, tobacco, and prescription painkillers are likely deadlier than other drugs because they are legal, so comparing their aggregate effects to illegal drugs is difficult. The Bush administration's willingness to abandon the Antiballistic Missile treaty has already drawn criticism around the world. And the administration's stance on the draft agreement for the germ treaty has put Washington at odds with many of its allies, including Japan and Britain.