War on Drugs
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“”Bush came out and said, "We are losing the war against drugs." You know what that implies? There's a war being fought, and the people on drugs are winning it.
The War on Drugs is a misbegotten attempt to "purify"
all of our precious bodily fluids American youth (and adults) by putting anyone caught with any quantity of illegal drugs in jail for a long time.
One of its armaments is setting mandatory sentences for "crack" cocaine possession at roughly 100 times the length of sentences for possession of "powder" cocaine. This is because crack is popular in the poorer neighborhoods and is more addictive, while the powder version is popular in suburbs and corporate boardrooms, and one cannot have those sorts of people sharing prisons with the great unwashed, lest the horrors of one's prison system become known to anyone who is capable of making serious noise about it.
The result has been that the United States now has a higher percentage of its population in jail than any other country ever has. Seriously. More than Nazi Germany. More than Soviet Russia. More than North Korea. It just doesn't make any sense.
While in some cases, the push to criminalize some drugs came from the medical field, the banning of certain substances was in large part the result of racism as well as the Prohibitionist streak in the nascent Progressive movement. How some drugs became illegal:
Opium was the first target. As more and more Chinese immigrated to the US in the late 19th century, anti-Chinese sentiment increased among the populace. Throughout the latter quarter of the 1800s, a number of taxes and restrictions were placed on opium in order to target the Chinese. Chinese immigrants had set up a number of opium dens in America, especially in California. Some were worried that whites were frequenting the dens and thus becoming corrupted. Federal and state governments dumped more restrictions and taxes into the books until 1909 when the importation of opium was banned altogether. A similar movement to ban opium concurrently found success in Canada. This was followed by international agreements restricting the importation of opium.
The criminalization of cannabis came in bits and pieces as different strains of the plant came into the country. The first type of marijuana targeted was Indian hemp. This strain of the drug was, obviously, brought to the US by Indian immigrants in the early 1900s. A similar panic about whites being corrupted by the foreign drug occurred and taxes on Indian hemp began to appear during the 1910s as a result. During this time, a second strain was being brought into the US by Mexican immigrants that they called "marijuana." Cannabis became the drug of choice among jazz musicians in the 1920s and '30s and many of the great jazzmen of the time were known potheads. Besides already being associated with immigrants, the drug became associated with racist stereotypes of African-Americans. Jazz was considered to be the Devil's music by Christians (it was the rock 'n roll of the '20s and '30s). As well, according to the stereotype of the black brute, blacks were already violent and prone to rape white women, thereby corrupting white racial purity. Since cannabis was believed to drive people to insanity and acts of violence, the only possible consequence of increased cannabis use among blacks must be total collapse of Western civilization! The moral panic hit a fever pitch in the mid-'30s, which was somewhat ironic considering that prohibition of alcohol had been repealed in 1933. Harry J. Anslinger, the commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (then part of the Treasury Department), led the crusade against cannabis. Anslinger's ultimate goal was to ban all drugs once and for all. He denounced cannabis as being incredibly addictive in addition to leading to such things as communism, pacifism, murder, insanity, and death. However, Anslinger failed to provide evidence of a rash of murderous pacifists in the nation. He did do his best to play on racial tensions, though, saying:
“”There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.
Anti-cannabis propaganda flooded the media, the most notable piece being Reefer Madness, a flick put together by a church group telling the horror tale of a young man being corrupted by smoking dope a few times. The film is now notorious for being unintentionally hilarious snark fodder for potheads and sober types alike as well as for spawning a spoof musical version of the same name. Anyway, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 finally criminalized cannabis at the federal level and only met with some resistance from Big Pharma since it heavily taxed medical marijuana as well. Ironically, cannabis use became more widespread after the passage of the law. As early as 1944, Anslinger's claims about the dangers of cannabis were disputed by New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. LaGuardia commissioned a report on cannabis use and the results came back as essentially "mostly harmless." Anslinger and the government in general blew off LaGuardia's report and increased penalties for cannabis possession and ultimately outlawed medical marijuana as well in the post-World War II period.
 Pothead pseudohistory
Potheads have built a conspiratorial mythology around the criminalization of hemp. Much of it stems from a book called The Emperor Has No Clothes by Jack Herer, a cannabis activist. The general thrust of these theories is that something called a "hemp decorticator" was invented in the 1930s that allowed hemp to be refined into paper products for extremely low prices. Newsman William Randolph Hearst and the DuPont Company supposedly had stake in keeping this new cheap paper from being produced. Backed by banker and former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, they unleashed a propaganda campaign against hemp. Any evidence to substantiate this is extremely circumstantial at the very best. On top of this, it makes little sense since Hearst purchased paper, he didn't sell it, and his timber interests were primarily in lumber for construction. It would have been in his interest to adopt the new, cheaper paper. Now you can call bullshit the next time your buddies bring this story up while you're smoking the ganja with them. Uh, hold on, pretend you didn't read that. Drugs are bad, m'kay?
“”The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.
|—Albert Einstein, 1922|
Alcohol is one of the most addictive, medically damaging, and violence-inducing drugs despite its common acceptance in society. In the 1920s the United States attempted to make it illegal to sell or possess alcohol. That attempt failed miserably, and for some unknown reason, the world's governments, which are all to happy to make pot illegal, set the drug alcohol aside as a special case.
As an extract of the coca leaf, cocaine has been available for millennia. However, it did not come into wider use in the Western world until it was artificially synthesized starting in the 1850s. Sigmund Freud helped popularize the drug, prescribing it for depression and impotence. Freud himself was known as a massive crackhead. Cocaine came into wider use as a pain-killer and miracle drug in the late 19th century. In 1886, the Coca Cola company launched its world-famous soft drink with cocaine as an ingredient (hence the name, of course). It soon became the best-selling soft drink of all time. (Gee, wonder why?) Rising incidence of addiction, severe nasal damage, and other adverse health effects created social pressure to restrict the usage of cocaine. In 1903, the drug was removed from Coca Cola. However, it was still perfectly acceptable to snort a line of cocaine for a headache or upset stomach up until 1920, when the US banned the drug.
Heroin was first synthesized in 1874 by a British researcher as a non-addictive substitute for morphine (it's true, we can stop any time we want to). The drug was later patented by Bayer and went on sale in the 1890s. Heroin was initially marketed as a pain-killer, but soon became a cure-all for "whatever ails ya." It was a world-wide hit with doctors — (supposedly) non-addictive, safe, and cheaper than morphine. However, scientists of the day didn't realize that heroin metabolized back into morphine in the blood stream. Whoops. Addiction became widespread as people started using heroin like you'd pop an aspirin today. In 1924, the US Congress outlawed heroin and in 1925, the League of Nations' Health Committee banned it as well.
 The war continues
Various mandatory sentencing laws and other penalties were put in place and repealed a number of times until Tricky Dick Nixon officially declared a "War on Drugs." Nixon's motivations are still debated. Jimmy Carter's Drug Czar resigned when it was reported he snorted cocaine with Hunter S. Thompson and Senator Robert F. Kennedy's son, David Kennedy at a Christmas party. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush made the War on Drugs a priority. The draconian drug laws implemented under the War on Drugs banner were totally offset by the fact that the drug war has provided priceless hours worth of cheesy anti-drug PSAs. What's better than Pee-Wee Herman telling you about the dangers of crack or an after-school special starring the Looney Tunes and Alvin and the Chipmunks helping some kid beat his drug addiction?
- See drug liberalization for more on whether to make it legal or not.
The "War on Drugs" has been criticized by libertarians and liberals as a violation of civil liberties, not least because the war implies ridiculously high penalties for increasingly petty drug offenses. They argue if a person is taking drugs in the privacy of their own home, it is his/her own choice to be able to gather information and make an informed decision, and denying them the right to consume drugs is a basic violation of human rights.(They do not, however, appear to consider too closely the case where someone gets a little too high and goes crazy and terrifies his/her family. Or they have considered it and have decided that, since going crazy and terrifying your family are not inevitable consequences of drug use, banning drugs on those grounds is like banning cake because someone could eat too much, and then sit on their family, crushing them to death. Conversely, the known dangers of drinking and driving, or violence associated with alcohol consumption, hasn't exactly pushed that drug into any bans.) Moreover the so-called "war on drugs" has resulted in widespread problem of untreated or under-treated pain.
It is also worth noting that since the Taliban receive a large portion of their funding from the illegal trade of opium, the illegality of drugs may be considered a contributing factor in making the "war on terror" more difficult to win. Idiotic war impedes idiotic war. What next? Will an idiotic war impede this? Lord only knows.
Critics of the War on Drugs like to deride it using the
snarky honest moniker "The War on (some) Drugs."
 See also
- ↑ Prison Brief - Highest to Lowest Rates, King's College, London
- ↑ The Origins of California's 1913 Cannabis Law
- ↑ Anslinger quote
- ↑ Reefer Madness (Tell Your Children!), free movie!!
- ↑ The LaGuardia Committee Report
- ↑ http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1116/is-hemp-nonpharmacological-marijuana-the-answer-to-our-environmental-problems
- ↑ Debunking the Hemp Conspiracy
- ↑ 
- ↑ Heroin: The History of a "Miracle Drug"
- ↑ "Nixon’s War on Drugs Decision"
- ↑ http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/lsd/highinamerica1.htm
- ↑ Pee-Wee Herman crack PSA, Cartoon All-Stars
- ↑ The Economist - Too many laws, too many prisoners
- ↑ "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty,
andthe Pursuit of Happiness , and Potheadedness.
- ↑ "Drug Cops and Doctors: Is the DEA Hampering the Treatment of Chronic Pain? - Conference". Cato Institute, September 9, 2005.