Drug use has always been one of the most controversial and painful issues both worldwide and in the U.S. The history of American government’s attempts to fight consumption and production of drugs is very long. However, very few opinions that approve previous actions of the officials concerning the war on drugs may be found. This paper is purposed to analyze the article Obama says he ended the ‘War on Drugs.’ Don’t believe him written by Jonathan Blanks. It is related to the critique of American government’s strategy determined to solve the problem of drug production and consumption. This article is directed to both discovering controversies in the strategy of the officials and criticizing the implementation of this strategy. The author’s critique of the National Drug Control Strategy is rather evidence-based and rational. It contains clear understanding of the core of the problem and critical evaluation of government’s secret motives regarding the war on drugs.
The key thesis of this article is that Obama’s promises regarding the end of the war on drugs are lies, as the National Drug Control Strategy is not supported by the government’s actions (Blanks). In order to find out which points of the strategy worry the author, it is worth listing the key dimensions. The National Drug Control Strategy 2014 contains seven key strategies determined to solve drug issues (National Drug Control Strategy). The first step focuses on prevention of drug use on local and national levels. The second strategy is the search for early intervention opportunities with the purpose of minimizing negative effects of drug use in the health care system. The third step is integration of treatment for substance use disorders in order to support recovery, as drug addiction is an illness that should be cured. The fourth step is aimed to break the cycle of drug use, crime rate, delinquency, and incarceration. The next stage is purposed to reject domestic drug production and trafficking. As the solution of drug issues is impossible within the U.S. only, the sixth point is focused on strengthening the international partnerships. The final step is aimed to improve information system in order to improve drug issues management with emphasis on credibility of evidence (National Drug Control Strategy. The further arguments of the author are grounded on the above-mentioned strategies.
The author is sceptical regarding government’s policies directed on public health promotion and education (Blanks). Though the officials state that no more police and prisons are going to be the solution to the problem, more humanistic approach to people with addiction is needed. However, the problem of drug consumption cannot be solved completely and, moreover, be transformed into healthcare promotion programs. For example, Mark Kleiman states that “the primary goal of drug policy, then, is to limit the harms drug users do to themselves and the resulting harms to others and drains on common-property resources” (21). The author’s skepticism, therefore, is rather rational and evidence-based. Drug use may be harmful, but the policies against drugs should be aimed at reducing harm instead of attempting to solve other social and economic issues via managing drugs challenge.
The author criticizes officials’ previous strategies that lead to marginalization, stigmatization, and demonization of drug users (Blanks). For decades the policies were directed to discouraging drug consumption in unethical and offensive ways. For instance, public advertisements that depict drug dealers as snakes and users of drugs as rats. Such an offensive message was supported by a number of negative facts regarding drug consumption and its effects on the society. The author of the article claimed that the officials connected drug consumption to the problems of prostitution, terrorism, and police officers killing (Blanks). This idea may be confirmed by other authors, who also realize that drugs are presented as evil and pose a threat to society. For instance, James Gray presented such a widespread view: “Drugs are evil, and if you take them, you are evil, and we will punish you” (4.
Millions of dollars have been spent stigmatizing drug consumption, abuse, and sale, so that the ones who deal with drug use or sales could be arrested and sentenced (Blanks). Efforts made to punish and imprison meet the negative reaction of other specialists. The latter confirm that despite the rising quantity of prisons, the problem has not yet been solved in the U.S. due to ineffectiveness of incarceration. Such a decision has already taken place in history of American wars on drugs. Frydl stated that the U.S. “moved away from its initial drug regulations – literally a tariff and tax regime – incrementally, first by adding more punishment for violations, then transferring the oversight of the illicit drug portfolio from the Treasury Department to the Department of Justice, and finally by shifting the purposes and justifications for that portfolio from regulatory authority to criminalization” (5). Frydl also explained that decision to criminalize drug users is obviously ineffective, while its main purpose is to keep the struggle of power that is also seen as the key true secret point of wars on drugs: “… criminal punishment, and the impressive expansion of the carceral state, a formal term to describe mass incarceration and ‘prison – industrial’ complex” (6).
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The author of the article says that Obama is going to de-stigmatize drug use, but this strategy is not helpful for the United States (Blanks). The matter is that it is impossible to de-stigmatize any criminal behavior, including drug abuse. However, it is the issue of perception of drugs by the American population, who have been told for years that drugs are evil and those, who touch this evil will be punished (Gray 4). Thus, contemporary strategy against drugs contradicts previous actions regarding marginalization and prohibition of drug use.
Despite the officials’ claims to use evidence-based practices regarding de-stigmatization of drugs, strategies directed to legalization of some drugs and decriminalization are absent. It is important to notice that drug prohibition is considered to be a disaster in this article (Blanks). In order to support this claim the author used a variety of arguments. The first one is that “prohibition-related violence has killed thousands in this country” (Blanks). Prohibition of drug consumption led to extremely high incarceration rates. The author stated that imprisoning is considered to be rather harmful because it takes millions of people, who could be useful in society. Therefore, absence of workers negatively affects the economy, families are broken, and the prisoners have difficulties with employment after release. The problem in the latest anti-drug strategy concerning the issue does not include “suggestions for fully or even partially separating nonviolent drug use from the criminal realm altogether are absent” (Blanks). Moreover, legalization of marijuana is called challenging by national anti-drug policies.
The author of this article has found several contradictions in national strategy against drugs (Blanks). Though addiction to drugs is called a disease, the ones who suffer from it are met by police officers or judges and put into jails instead of being provided with medical and psychological support. James Gray confirms that American anti-drug legislation has been based on the criminal justice system, in which the judges play important roles (4). Although courts are believed to play important role in managing drug use cases, “there may be a few judges in this country who still believe that our drug policy is working” (Gray 4). The fact that judges confirm that anti-drug policies are ineffective proves that contemporary strategy should be based both on strict prohibition and punishment. Next, the officials plan to sale the drugs to American Cancer Society, which means that aggressive law enforcement strikes those, who use drugs and then make business on drugs by selling them. This fact confirms that the war on drugs has always been beneficial in terms of connection with money making and power division (Frydl 4).
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Contemporary anti-drug strategies do not consider the harmfulness of different drugs. For instance, less harmful drugs such as marijuana are forbidden as if they were amphetamine or cocaine. The ones who are responsible for anti-drug strategies seem to be unaware of effects and consequences of certain drugs use, which is rather absurd. Both police officers and officials are not informed about true effects of drugs in appropriate doses, which makes them unable to make decisions regarding prohibition of some drugs. Some researchers assume that consumption of light drugs such as marijuana will help improve the situation, while heavy drugs may remain illegal. “Marijuana dependence does not, on average, create the same social and personal problems as alcohol or heroin dependence” (Caulkins and Hawken 59).
Another important issue emphasized by the author is misinformation of the Americans, who are not concerned whether some drugs are not that harmful. Stereotypes regarding drugs use may make society fear any drugs which results in approval of government’s useless strategies to fight with drugs. People who are not informed enough are not able to critically evaluate government’s actions and true consequences (Gray 6).
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In conclusion, the author of the article emphasized the key weaknesses of the National Drug Control Strategy and its implementation. Ineffectiveness of officials’ actions concerning prohibition of drugs has risen huge skepticism regarding government’s true motives and purposes. Though all the researchers confirm that drugs have negative impact on health and the society, none of them agrees that criminalization and punishment are sufficient tools to win in the war on drugs.