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The "War on Drugs". Forty years ago, this concept was introduced by President Nixon. Forty years later, the US government is still waging a battle against its own citizens.

America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.

Read more at the American Presidency Project:
-Richard M Nixon, June 17, 1971

Today, citizens across the country are marking the date with rallies and protests. These people are doing far more than I am to raise awareness and help bring about the end of this "war", which is most definitely lost.

I am far from the first to diary this subject. I have no reason to believe that I bring anything new to the debate. However, I feel this subject is worth a thousand diaries. Here is mine.

There are many who have written more eloquently on this subject. From Debra J. Saunders "At least 4 good reasons to end the war on drugs". From Ethan Nadelmann "The Forty-Year Quagmire: An Exit Strategy for the War on Drugs". From Conor Fridersdorf "The War on Drugs Turns 40". From Russell Simmons "The 40-Year War On American Families: It's Time To End This Madness!".

Jimmy Carter,
George Schultz and Paul Volcker,

The effort to deal with drug abuse began with the best of intentions, I suppose. Nixon also said his aim was to,  “tighten the noose around the necks of drug peddlers, and thereby loosen the noose around the necks of drug users". That almost sounds like a liberal position these days. Almost.

This liberal's position is that drug use is an issue worth our attention. The costs of abuse are high and addiction is treatable. In my opinion, the "War on Drugs" should be replaced with a policy of honest education, treatment, and serious reform of the nation's drug laws. Our prisons are overflowing. Now is the time to reevaluate who we are sending to those prisons and why. Rehabilitation can work. Incarceration has proven that it can't.

From NPR, Timeline: America's War on Drugs, some highlights:

July 14, 1969: In a special message to Congress, President Richard Nixon identifies drug abuse as "a serious national threat." Citing a dramatic jump in drug-related juvenile arrests and street crime between 1960 and 1967, Nixon calls for a national anti-drug policy at the state and federal level.

June 1971: Nixon officially declares a "war on drugs," identifying drug abuse as "public enemy No. 1."

July 1973: Nixon creates the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to coordinate the efforts of all other agencies.

1984: Nancy Reagan launches her "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign.

October 1986: Reagan signs the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which appropriates $1.7 billion to fight the drug war. The bill also creates mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses, which are increasingly criticized for promoting significant racial disparities in the prison population because of the differences in sentencing for crack and powder cocaine. Possession of crack, which is cheaper, results in a harsher sentence; the majority of crack users are lower income.

I am a child of the 80s. I pretty much grew up with the "Just Say No" campaign. I was exactly the demographic to which the advertisements were targeted. To an impressionable mind, they had a real effect. Not a lasting effect, mind you, but an effect on the mind of this particular child.

The message began softly,

But slowly got louder,

The ads just kept coming, followed by movies of the week and very special episodes of popular sitcoms. The media flooded us with the message. "Just Say No".

As the 80s generation grew up, the slogans of the campaign turned into satirical, cynical catchphrases. The campaign, apparently didn't have the lasting effect that was hoped for. These are two of my particular favorite ads from the time.

As I grew up, so did the "War on Drugs". Crack cocaine hit the nation's conscience with full force. Those of us in the suburbs were regaled by stories of the epidemic. Crack became the bogeyman. I am not the first person to note that the penalties for crack dwarfed the penalties for powder cocaine.

Was this where the "War on Drugs" took a turn for the worse? Possibly. It was certainly a point when the government doubled down on the rhetoric. The Nixon administration used the bogeyman of addicted soldiers returning from Vietnam when he made his "public enemy number 1" speech. The Reagan administration used the bogeyman of crack addicts when he lobbied for the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.

1989: President George H.W. Bush creates the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and appoints William Bennett as his first "drug czar." Bennett aims to make drug abuse socially unacceptable.

The "War on Drugs" continued to escalate. There is now a whole generation that has not seen an administration without a drug czar. This same generation has seen the creation of so called "designer drugs" that were unthought of at the time of Nixon's speech. As the government waged its war, the drug problem grew worse, not better. I don't believe that anyone could argue that crystal methamphetamine was a dangerous invention. It is so addictive and so destructive that it warrants serious attention. I have seen firsthand the effects of this drug and I have recoiled in horror at what it has done to close friends of mine. I have also seen addicts fight their way back through hard work, many with the help of Narcotics Anonymous. I have seen firsthand that treatment can beat addiction.

May 1995: The U.S. Sentencing Commission releases a report that acknowledges the racial disparities for prison sentencing for cocaine versus crack. The commission suggests reducing the discrepancy, but Congress overrides its recommendation for the first time in history.

The Republican party is not the only group to blame for the growth of the "War on Drugs". Politicians of all stripes have used the rhetoric to get elected and reelected. The problem is systemic. Government policies are to blame. Anyone who has used the bogeyman of drug addiction to get elected is at fault. Any legislator who has not taken a stance against this failed "war" is also at fault.

The Root: Why Won't Obama End The War On Drugs?

Prohibition of alcohol failed in the twentieth century. It led to the rise of a criminal underworld. Prohibition of drugs has failed as well. It has also led to a criminal underworld. Worse yet it has created millions of casualties, those who have been caught up in the legal system for possession, those who have lost their lives, and those who have lost friends and family members to addiction. It is time to end the "War on Drugs" and look for solutions instead of scapegoats.

Al Capone

The Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution:

Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Twenty-first Amendment to the US Constitution:

Section 1.

The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

The Drug War Clock from,

Originally posted to Salted and Cured on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 12:36 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Drug Dealers (11+ / 0-)

    certainly created more jobs in the inner cities than Raygun did....

    Peace Shopper- Saving more than pennies :-)

    by Maori on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 12:52:33 PM PDT

  •  Nixon's War on Cancer (8+ / 0-)

    seems to have been another dramatic failure.

    Although the two things might be linked in such as way as to guarantee each other's failure, who knows.

  •  Saw your pimpin' in the Open Thread (6+ / 0-)

    Good diary, thanks for doing it!

  •  Our country's drug laws have all the logic... (7+ / 0-)

    ...of a series of coin flips:

    Tobacco, Heads! You're Okay!

    Marijuana, Tails! You're Outta Here!

    Greg McKendry, Linda Kraeger, Dr. George Tiller, Steven Johns. Victims of Wingnut violence

    by Judge Moonbox on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 08:29:30 PM PDT

  •  Just behind the (9+ / 0-)

    scenes of the drug war created by Nixon was more of his dirty politics and lies and ulterior motives. Nixon and his cronies completely fabricated the "heroin addiction epidemic" which was used to fuel much of the policy making. They did so by changing the statistical definition of a heroin addict each year so that the numbers increased dramatically (the numbers were all that increased -- heroin use remained about the same).

    Jay Epstein painstakingly pulls apart all the sinister stuff behind the launching of this war (and especially the creation of the DEA) in his Agency of Fear: Opiates and Political Power in America by showing how Nixon primarily was interested in getting a federal investigative agency with police power which answered directly to the Oval Office. He knew the CIA, IRS and FBI were gaining too much power because of their strategy of keeping investigative files on officials and "leaking" information when they wanted to affect politics. He had only indirect control over these agencies, and he wanted the DEA as his private investigative police bureau which answered directly to him. It had nothing -- absolutely nothing -- to do with drugs, especially heroin, which was billed as the rising threat to society and the justification for it all. You see, the notion of MJ as a "gateway drug" was taken much more seriously then -- the public didn't know any better. Drugs were just the thing Nixon knew they could sell politically at the time because we were in the throes of the anti-war movement and all the kids were smoking pot.

    Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.
    Mark Twain

    by phaktor on Fri Jun 17, 2011 at 09:26:46 PM PDT

  •  didn't know that Nixon had a web page, though (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ilovecheese, ninkasi23, gravlax


  •  All drugs or just pot? (4+ / 0-)

    I would be for legalizing pot the rest I'm not sure on and as a child of the 90s I got to say the Just Say No campaign seems to work for quite a few of my buddies and me who never did drugs. I realize it doesn't work for everyone.

    "There is nothing wrong with America can't be cured by what is right with America" -Bill Clinton

    by SensibleDemocrat on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 12:14:16 AM PDT

    •  I always thought "just say no" was stupid. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ninkasi23, BYw, strangedemocracy, gravlax, pot

      But then I never knew any pushy drug users!  I mean, of COURSE you could say no if you wanted to, what sort of an idiot campaign was that?  Obviously people using drugs were using them for a REASON, not just because they were too socially intimidated to say no....

      ...which is still true.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 04:09:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  just pot, I hope.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and  would really prefer decriminalization rather than legalization.

      •  I would prefer decriminalization myself, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        to legalization.

        I simply want to decriminalize more than marijuana. I get that drugs are dangerous, believe me. I merely believe that treatment works better than incarceration for dealing with addiction.

        My argument is not for legalization. My argument is to end the stigmatization so that reason can lead us to better policies.

        "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro"

        by gravlax on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 07:46:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Might I ask that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        you consider the larger scope consequences of what you are saying? To say you favor decriminalization means -- to most people -- that you favor making "small amounts for personal use" something that is overlooked or leads to referral for treatment. The overall effect of this policy is to leave the financial structure of the drug market in place (in control of large, organized criminal enterprises) and simply stop imprisoning small scale users. The damage drugs are doing to our country right now is not the fact that users are using. It is the fact that we are bleeding huge sums of wealth to organized gangs who are making the world a dangerous place.

        Also, drug prohibition, like any large scale tunnel-vision policy which is absolute in its aims, has effects far beyond what was planned -- keeping teenagers from using drugs. Quite frankly, I think most teenagers who want to use drugs are going to do so, regardless of laws. That appears to be the case.

        One of the most serious consequences of prohibition is the unintended effects it is now having on an aging baby boomer population getting the pain medication they need and will need more of as they age. The DEA, having lost its international and domestic war against recreational use, is now trying to justify its existence by busting doctors who treat pain, and their efforts have led to a serious crisis in the availability of effective pain treatment.

        This drug war stuff was a bad idea. It has morphed into a growing bureacracy which is doing a lot of damage in many different ways -- ways not intended when it all started -- and certainly not what people think about when they think about teenagers abusing drugs. Cutting wide swaths with absolute intolerance policies has unintended effects. The world is a complicated place, not easily improved by simple rules. I urge you to reconsider.

        Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't.
        Mark Twain

        by phaktor on Mon Jun 20, 2011 at 12:56:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  actually, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      this diary is about the whole kit and kaboodle. Decriminalize the whole gamut, in my opinion. Alcohol abuse is a huge problem in this country but alcohol is legal.

      How do you deal with the harmful effects of alcohol in this country? Treatment.

      What if somebody drives under the influence of alcohol? Prosecution.

      All I'm saying is that the simple act of getting high should not be a criminal offense. Anything that happens while under the influence that endangers other people should be just as illegal as if it were under the influence of alcohol.

      This position is based on the belief that treatment is more effective than incarceration for dealing with the effects of drug abuse. I believe that to be the case for all drugs, in all cases.

      I am not advocating legalizing everything under the sun. I am merely arguing that the "War on Drugs" has too much collateral damage. The policies that got us to this point have not worked.

      "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro"

      by gravlax on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 07:38:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  On the failure of PSAs (6+ / 0-)

    One reason PSAs addressing social problems are not effective, is that the very act of mentioning the problem can be counter productive. PSAs that give the sense that drug use is major problem in the US suggest to observers that drug use is common. People often respond to information about other peoples behavior (descriptive norms) and mimic behaviors that are perceived as common even if they are socially taboo. The most effective way to address social problems is to point out that the majority of people don't engage in such behavior (which is often the case).

    For instance, studies of alcohol use in universities have shown that exposing frequent drinkers to information that shows that their behavior is abnormal when compared to their peers can help them cut back.

  •  "Sorry" Dems 'govern from the middle' (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gravlax, Bluefin, pot

    of course what this actually means is center-RIGHT. and we all know the reich wing position on stupid policy/status quo.

    "I don't feel the change yet". Velma Hart

    by Superpole on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 05:51:01 AM PDT

    •  actually its center, center left (0+ / 0-)

      from where I'm standing

      "There is nothing wrong with America can't be cured by what is right with America" -Bill Clinton

      by SensibleDemocrat on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 08:08:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Apparently You're Standing in Fantasy Land?? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bluefin, pot

        "sorry", continuing the bush tax cuts forever, continuing and expanding wars started during the bush administration, threatening to cut medicare and SS, same old useless Israel policy, same MIC and PIC policies, no Elizabeth warren appointment, loading your adminstration with bankster insiders like Summers and Geithner...

        there's NOTHING center left about that.. but keep drinking the Kool-Aid if that makes you happy.

        "I don't feel the change yet". Velma Hart

        by Superpole on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 10:31:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'll tell you why Obama won't do it. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gravlax, Bluefin

    He is establishing a beachhead for the next minority presidents. If he legalizes anything, he would risk being tainted by it, thereby jeopardizing future generations of minority presidents.

    I don't like it, but that is the political reality. It is going to have to be the next Democratic President that finally calls time on this horrible War on Drugs, which is really a war against America's citizens, especially those in minorities.

    An honest man in politics shines more there than he would elsewhere - Mark Twain.

    by AreDeutz on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 06:22:55 AM PDT

    •  Obama said he wants to make the hard decisions (0+ / 0-)

      I don't buy the excuse this is some set up for the next minority President, sounds too much like "11th dimensional chess" to me. He himself has passed unpopular things because he felt they were right, that was the one unified message he had about healthcare reform. "I don't follow the polls if something is right". Civil rights were passed when they bad for political realities, among other things. Next Dem President there will be another "politicial reality" until its 50 years from now and we are still hoping beyond hope "the next Democratic POTUS" will finally do it!

      Democrats who enable implementation of Republican policies do more to destroy the Democratic Party than anyone. - Big River Bandido

      by pot on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 11:17:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The policy has been a complete success (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gravlax, Bluefin

    The very concept of a "War On Drugs" is absurd. It is a war on drug users and the citizens of the United States. The "War On Drugs" has resulted in:

    1) Billions of $ into the prison / prosecution industry and creation of an army, the DEA.
    2) The virtual repeal of the 4th Amendment.
    3) Cops in schools teaching "DARE" programs.
    4) Billions in military aid to Colombia, Mexico, etc for "fighting drugs."
    5) Funding, through drug dealing,  for secret wars in Central America, as well as propping up our allies with drug money.
    6) The criminalization and incarceration of the underclasses, especially the black population, denying them the right to vote in many states.

    What part of the war has failed?

    "How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity." William S Burroughs

    by shmuelman on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 07:44:57 AM PDT

  •  Some ideas. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    First: Ignore everyone that says legalizing drugs will barely do anything for the economy. Thats only taking a tiiiiny lil picture.

    If we end the drug war, we will have: Less need for such a bloated police force which seems to do nothing but set people up.

    We will have more resources to improve our infrastructure.

    Imagine how much money we'd save without all those victimless "criminals" taking our tax money? And heck, we'd save even more if we could close some of these prisons! We'd save even more by not putting nonviolent offenders with homicidal maniacs.

    Crime would take a massive hit on every level. No more would there be ilelgal drug raids. No more wuold their be innocent murders faciliated by triggerhappy police.

    We would destabilize criminal cartels, who would then be rapidly obliterated since law enforcement would have the moeny and incentive to deal with REAL, BAD people.

    We would save millions of manhours having to do with pointless drug destruction. We could have pain patients not be called drug addicts by the system that forced them into such bad healthcare in the first place.

    And correct me if im wrong but arent the minority communities (african american and I think hispanic mostly) that are so often arrested in ridiculous amounts? And given felonies?

    Imagine all those felony charges not existing. Then these people who hurt no one could get real jobs. And then they would help their communities grow and prosper. At the very very least we'd be not cutting off a third of the populace by default.

    Oh, and we could also start regulatng and selling drugs for revenue. But thats small fish. The changes, the grand changes would come from all the effects above.

    And thats why we must be weary when people challenge the removal of these laws. Because the last time we had prohibition, it worked out so well....right?


    "I already told you, I lost the plothole generator after I dismantled it when someone used it to get it before I dismantled it. Why is this so hard to understand?"

    by kamrom on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 07:23:57 PM PDT

    •  wow! (0+ / 0-)

      I think your comment was better than my whole diary.
      Thanks for taking the time to write all that.

      Absolutely agreed that the wasted money flows into all sorts of crevices. It would indeed be wonderful to see that money freed up to serve better purposes.

      "when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro"

      by gravlax on Sat Jun 18, 2011 at 09:21:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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