The International War on Drugs
The international war on drugs and the methods associated with it are currently ineffective
In 1923, Canada became one of the first countries to criminalize the use and possession of marijuana, a relatively unknown drug to North America at the time. In hindsight, we would believe this had been an important and publicized event, but according to a recent article by CBC News, the event wasn’t accorded a single debate in Parliament. As the author elaborates, “Unlike the other drugs on the government’s proscribed list, the book Panic and Indifference observes that marijuana was criminalized in Canada long before it could be defined as a social problem.” (Schwartz). Therefore , if there was almost no consumption of the drug at the time, and the first police bust for cannabis wasn’t until more than a decade later, why did we criminalize marijuana? And why did Richard Nixon’s declaration of an American War on Drugs influence the world to follow suit? Was it even the right approach to a problem that hadn’t remotely reached its peak?
Since 1971, the War on Drugs, like much things American, became global indefinitely quickly. The General Assembly of the United Nations, in 1998, adopted the slogan “A drug free world – We can do it”, but evidently, this was not successful. According to a 2011 report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP), opiate consumption between 1998 and 2008 increased by 34.5%, followed by cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%. Around 18 years later, many world leaders, especially from Latin America, heavily criticize the international War on Drugs and wish to get rid of it. The report asserts that the costly anti-drug methods the international community has employed have been unable to decrease in any significant way supply and consumption of narcotics, and that while some major drug bust on cartels may have been seen as victories, they were quickly replaced by other black-market suppliers. These criminal organizations have also increased violent deaths around the world and funded terrorist organizations, particularly in the Sahara desert where cocaine trade funds African jihadists groups: “While a great deal of the profits go to the South American drug cartels, the African traffickers, often from local tribal groups, are getting a big cut, too. Jihadist militias that have blossomed in the region’s chaos in recent years have managed to get a piece of the profits, thanks to their control of ancient trade routes through the Sahara”(Caulderwood), explains a recent article by Kathleen Caulderwood . In many ways the safest way to control narcotic consumption is to get it out of the hands of criminal organizations and have it regulated by government bodies, as the opposite is only generating wealth for organizations and people that further social turmoil.
Another problem in many countries, including the United-States, is the mass incarceration due to these repressive policies. These measures are overly targeting people of colour, First Nations, especially in Canada, and women, according to UN research (Stevenson). According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), since the beginning of the American War on Drugs, the prison population has grown by 700% and policies clearly target specific minorities. Their research suggests that while 1 in every 106 white male of legal age is incarcerated, the numbers are much more frightening for Hispanics who have a 1 in 36 incarceration rate and for African Americans, for which the number jumps to 1 in every 15 male of legal age. In Latin America, it is women who are vastly over-incarcerated. In a recent article by the International Drug Policy Consortium, Coletta Youngers, a coordinator on the publication, stated that in some countries more than 60% of the women in prison were there for drug offenses (News Report). She elaborates: “The mass incarceration of these women, the vast majority of whom are in the lowest ranks of drug trafficking networks and pose no threat to society, is a violation of their basic rights and a completely ineffective use of scarce law enforcement resources .” (News Report). Evidently these measures only enforce systemic racism and sexism in some regions of the world. However, they are also very costly, putting a strain on resources that would actually help medically and socially victims of drug abuse and drug-related violence.
There are effective ways to deal with drug use around the world, ways that are particularly well expressed in the GCDP report. The idea is to end the taboo on debate and reform of drug policies, advice the Canadian Parliament of 1923 should have followed, as to further international discussion on the issue . It has proven very damaging for many societies to criminalize and marginalize drug users that do not harm others. Instead, efforts should be put towards educating the public in an informed an open way, as well as funding prevention measures (Jahangir et al.). There are still many obstacles to take on, but the consequences of our future actions towards ending the War on Drugs will undoubtedly prove no more harmful, in fact far more efficient, than the measure currently employed.
Written by MWR writer Laurence Doucet, edited by the MWR team
Caulderwood, Kathleen. “Drugs And Money In The Sahara: How The Global Cocaine Trade Is Funding North African Jihad” International Business Times. 5 June, 2015. Web. 21 April, 2016.
“Combatting Mass Incarceration: The Facts” American Civil Liberties Union. 7 June, 2011. Web. 21 April, 2016.
Jahangir, Asma, Fuentes, Carlos, et al. War on Drugs. Global Commission on Drug Policy. June 2011. Web. 21 April, 2016.
“New report: How Latin America can fix its female incarceration epidemic” International Drug Policy Consortium. 2 Feb, 2011. Web. 21 April, 2016.
Stevenson, Bryan. Drug Policy, Criminal Justice and Mass Imprisonment. Global Commission on Drug Policies. January 2011. Web. 25 April, 2016.
Schwartz, Daniel. “Marijuana was criminalized in 1923, but why?” CBC News. 6 May, 2014. Web. 21 April, 2016.
The Truth About The War on Drugs
For today’s social liberals and progressives, the term “War on Drugs” triggers a passionate — albeit misinformed— dissenting response. In what has been dubbed one of the greatest failures in prohibitionary policy since alcohol was banned across the U.S. in 1920, today’s youth have ignorantly gone where no Man has gone before. And to what end? Well, to protect their God-given right to get high, of course.
Millennials —the hippy generation in the 21st century — find themselves victimized by the rest of society saying “no thanks” to the smell of their “dank kush”. And with the federal liberals promising to legalize marijuana by 4/20 2017 – very classy, Justin Trudeau -, this group of Canada’s Most Entitled declares victory. Yet, I, for one, cannot blame them. What else can we expect from a generation often too un-experienced and with no skills for today’s employers – other than to hold hands and sing Kumbaya around their ultimate symbol, a glass bong-?
So why is the pro-legalize camp wrong? Well, to put it simply: it’s the economy! Most people will conceal their more selfish reasons for wanting to appeal current drug laws by promising massive government tax revenues from the new, regulated industry. Let’s break this down. According to a report from CIBC World Marketers, taxing marijuana could bring in $5 billion a year to government coffers (The Canadian Press, 2016). Comparing this to Canada’s $1.592 trillion-dollar economy, tax revenues from legalized pot is a drop in a very large bucket. Not to mention, legalization and regulation would add yet another layer to government bureaucracy. Moreover, the Drug War creates thousands of jobs every year (Cheadle, 2011). Without the need to find and incarcerate drug producers, dealers, and consumers, thousands of DEA agents, patrol officers, attorneys, judges, and police departments would find themselves without jobs. Is this really something we can consider doing just so that some kids could get stoned?
Politically, decriminalizing marijuana could place Canada, and many other countries, into some hot water with foreign allies and partners. For instance, Canada has signed and agreed to three international treaties which “criminalize the possession and production of marijuana” (Mason, 2016). The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, The Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, and The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 will all be violated should Canada choose to legalize pot (Blanchfield, 2016). At a time with so much global uncertainty with respect to security, can nations like Canada really afford to isolate themselves?
All of these downsides I mentioned above, and I still haven’t gotten to the worst consequences of the War on Drugs. The opium trade, the disastrous heroin crisis in New England, cocaine smuggling in South America, driving under the influence of narcotics, etc. have all led to hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide (Blaise, 2011; Seelye, 2015). Shouldn’t we do everything we can to deny this killer to continue killing? Perhaps the War on Drugs hasn’t given us the exact results we had wanted, but that doesn’t mean we should give up trying.
However, maybe talking about the economics, politics, and death tolls related to the drug trade aren’t enough to convince the special little snowflakes out there that choose to get high. Maybe, all they really care about is getting their hands on something that — unless used for medical purposes – won’t further their life and is simply a symbol of laziness and selfishness.
Written by an anonymous MWR writer, edited by the MWR team
Blaise, Eric. “Ways the War on Drugs Is a Wild Success.” Information Liberation. Activist Post, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
Blanchfield, Mike. “Legalizing Pot in Canada Will Run Afoul of Global Treaties, Trudeau Warned.” CBC news. CBC/Radio Canada, 05 Jan. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
Cheadle, Bruce. “Legal Pot Taxes Could Add $5B a Year to Government Coffers, CIBC Says.” CBC news. CBC/Radio Canada, 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
Mason, Trudie. “Legalizing Pot Would Put Canada in Violation of Treaties: Report.” CJAD 800.N.p., 14 Jan. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
Seelye, Katharine Q. “In Heroin Crisis, White Families Seek Gentler War on Drugs.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 Oct. 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
The Canadian Press. “Legal Pot Could Be $5-Billion Windfall For Canada’s Governments.” The Huffington Post. N.p., 28 Jan. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.