Perspectives and Analysis of Drug Policy
Dialogue on drugs can be a hotly debated topic. The most common debates are whether to decriminalize drugs or to continue drug policies that prohibit them. The drug policies instituted from the War on Drugs varied. The weapons used in this war against drugs were anti-drug advertisement campaigns and massive enforcement crackdowns on drug users (Suddath, 2009). The school lecture program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E), and “Just Say No”, were two highly popular anti-drug campaigns (Suddath, 2009). Prior to the War on Drugs declaration, fewer than 200 of every 100,000 Americans would be imprisoned; now, more citizens are arrested for drug-related offenses than any other country in the world (Stossel, 2012). In 2002, during the Bush administration, a record number of marijuana related arrests occurred in hopes of dropping unlawful drug use by 25%, but usage only decreased by 6% (Suddath, 2009).
Currently, the Obama administration is pulling away from the old War on Drugs policies which were centered on enforcement; now the administration claims that drug policy will be directed towards preventing drug use, as well as treatment and recovery programs for addicts (Office of National Drug Control Policy, n.d.). For the current administration, addiction to drugs does not mean one is morally wrong, but simply suffering a form of the brain disorder, and the policies will be to prevent and treat drug use (Office of National Drug control policy, n.d.). The administration deems their approach a more ‘balanced’ one – as opposed to the old drug policies commenced by Nixon – but feels drug legalization is an another extreme notion (Office of National Drug Control Policy, n.d.).
The most apparent break of old drug policy by the Obama administration is the signing of the Fair Sentencing Act into law (Lee, 2010). This overturns Regan’s Anti-Drug Abuse Act by removing the mandatory minimum sentence for crack cocaine and lessens a 100-to-1 compulsory discrepancy between powder and crack cocaine possession (Lee, 2010). However, this act heightens punishments for drug traffickers (Lee, 2010). Moreover, in order to improve drug addiction recovery and diminish the stigma associated with it, the administration created a recovery branch to provide for 23.5 million Americans (Office of Public Affairs, 2012). In 2011, the National Prevention Strategy was published by the administration with its central focus on the prevention of drug use as a tool for the betterment of the overall health of people (Office of Public Affairs, 2012). Many of the current drug policies differ with the War on Drug strategies of the 70s. In spite of this, however, the Obama administration mimics the enforcement centric aspect. In order to prevent illegal activity (such as drug trafficking and/or illegal border crossing) from occurring at American borders, the administration has added more technology, infrastructure, and a workforce to go with it at the Southwest borders than ever before in the history of the United States (United States, Office of Public Affairs, 2012).
On the other spectrum of the drug debate are those who advocate a decriminalization of drugs. Numerous organizations work towards this goal, such as the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition organization (LEAP), International Center for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP), Reason Foundation, and Christians Against Prohibition to name a few (Partner organizations, n.d.). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fights for the civil liberties of those who have been held hostage to illegal drug seizures or have been dealt with excessive force by drug enforcement agencies, and works to spread awareness on unjust drug laws (Partner organizations, n.d.). Amnesty International has a campaign for those who have been sentenced with the death penalty for drug trafficking as little as a few marijuana joints (Partner organizations, n.d.). While certain organization may not fully accept the decriminalization or legalization of drugs, they contest many of the unfair laws that came about from the War on Drugs.