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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The War on Drugs cannot be won

According to Stanford University, the war on drugs started under President Richard Nixon in 1971, when he declared drugs America’s public enemy number one. The goals that drug war advocates aim to achieve are the prohibition of drug use and the end of the illegal drug trade. 

The drugs targeted by this war range from marijuana to crack cocaine, and everything in between. Every president from Nixon through George Bush has been an advocate for the war on drugs, except for Jimmy Carter and most recently Barack Obama. 

The policies enacted under the direction of these presidents are the primary reason why the United States only accounts for 5 percent of the world population, but accounts for over 25 percent of the world’s prison population. 

The war on drugs has been a failure; drug usage has not ceased despite the billions of dollars spent every year to prevent it. The simple fact is this: people are always going to use drugs, just as sure as the Earth is spinning.It is past time to promote sensible drug policies that aim to promote health and wellness over punishment and imprisonment. 

When discussing the war on drugs, one of the most important aspects to observe is which individuals and communities are hurt the most by unrealistic policies. 

I am sure most people would assume the black and Latino populations are disproportionately affected by these policies. Well, reader, you would be 100 percent correct. The imprisonment rates among the white population are drastically lower than the two groups previously mentioned, even though drug usage and distribution among all three groups are relatively similar. 

According to the Setencing Project, the US population is 60 percent white, around 18 percent Latino, and 15 percent black. Even though the white population is so much larger than the rest, they still have the least number of people in prison due to drug related crimes. 

In state prisons, white people account for 38 percent and black people account for 40 percent of those imprisoned. The disparity is even larger in federal prisons, where blacks account for 40 percent, Latinos for 39 percent and whites for 25 percent. 

Even though there are millions upon millions more white people living and using drugs in this country, more minorities face prison time for it, proving these laws hurt minority populations the most, even though they do not necessarily use drugs at a higher rate. 

According to the Bureau of Justice, 2.7 million children grow up without a parent in the household due to the fact that the parent has been arrested for drugs. One out of every nine black children, one out of every 28 Latino children and one out of every 57 white children are affected by this issue. 

These numbers show, yet again, how discriminatory the repercussions of these laws are. The laws themselves are unbiased, but the enforcement and profiling that occurs in regards to enacting them hurts minority communities. 

If the war on drugs has been a failure, then what should we do about it? Some would argue for the decriminalization of drugs, but realistically that does not solve any problems. Why? The drugs are still illegal; you just face fines instead of jail time. Instead, I would argue for the full legalization of drugs. 

Now, I know to most people that sounds insane, but just hear me out before committing me to a psyche ward: Should the government be in the business of protecting us from ourselves? Is it the responsibility of the government to make us better people, and to decide what is moral and acceptable for each individual life? 

Many would say, no, the government should not concern itself with the private affairs of its citizens, so long as what they are doing does not hurt anyone. 

Well, drug usage does not hurt anyone other than the person using the drugs. The argument can be made that it also affects the family of the person using drugs, but if you get right down to it, nearly every decision we make has some effect on the people around us. 

If Joe wanted to eat a pound of bacon, no one would say that the government should stop him because of the negative health effects that would have on him, or that Joe’s health risks would impact his family. 

However, if Joe wanted to snort cocaine, then everyone would proceed to assert their moral opinions, and condemn Joe because of how his usage might affect his health and his familial relations. 

We cannot have it both ways in society. We cannot declare that we wish to have freedom in certain areas of life and then submit to arbitrary boundaries in other areas of life for the sake of the perceived public good. 

Every action individuals make is going to somehow, some way, affect those around them, whether it be positively or negatively. It is not the duty of society or government to decide what actions should or should not be permitted based on effects that could result from the actions. 

Individuals should be free to pursue what they so choose, so long as what they are doing does not interfere with the pursuit of happiness for those around him/her. 

The last point I wish to make is this: by creating laws and punishments for drug usage, we are essentially turning millions of people into criminals. As previously stated, drug usage does not decrease under strict drug laws. 

People will always use drugs, so what is the point in throwing them in a cage for it? Why not offer help instead of hostility? Instead of focusing on creating a culture that condemns certain activities and applies forced rehabilitation, we should focus on creating an environment where individuals have the knowledge that they can openly seek help if they so choose. 

The people that the drug war tries to eliminate will never cease to exist. The only effective application the drug war has is forcing these people to live in the shadows, in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, where disease and death are more likely to occur. 

The war on drugs does not seek to improve the standard of life for the individual that chooses to do drugs; it seeks to eliminate the individual by force and locking them away. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. 

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The War on Drugs cannot be won