The United States legal and political system is very complex. There are two major political bodies governing each state: The Federal Government, which imposes laws on the national level, and the State Government, which has its own agenda. In the recent years, four to five States have introduced legislation which conflicts with Federal law. Thus, the question arises, should the Federal Government have the final say or should each State Government have the power to overcome Federal decisions. This paper will use the issue of drug policies in the United States to give an insight on the conflicts that marijuana laws have caused between the Federal and State Governments and will use examples from the States that have already legalized marijuana as a medicinal and/or recreational drug.
Since the late 20th century the U.S Federal Government has been at war, a "War on Drugs." This war is very complex and too elaborate to focus on as a whole; therefore, the predominant focus will be on the prohibition of marijuana. Popular culture has augmented the presence of marijuana in the U.S society and has created many controversies regarding its use. In addition, this essay will provide a short outline regarding what the “War on Drugs” is and will try to answer the question, has this war been effective?
The 1960’s marked a phase of social unrest and rebellion. The two main issues at hand were the "Jim Crow Law," attitude against African Americans living in the south, and the U.S involvement in the Vietnam War. There were many demonstrations which lead to Riots where innocent people died. In 1970 Kent State Massacre was one of the demonstrations where innocent lives were lost. Students' protests lead to four deaths, one paralyzed, and eight wounded. Social unrest was at an all time high. Since the 1960s drugs were seen as a symbol of youthful rebellion, social upheaval, and Political strife. Therefore, to try to end such social unrest, all aspects causing it were attacked by the Federal Government. The "War on Drugs" was used to mitigate the exposure of such revolutionary symbols and to decrease youth consumption of illegal drugs. It was a campaign introduced by President Richard Nixon, in June 1971, where he dramatically increased the presence of Federal drug control agencies. In 1973, congress accepted the proposal to merge the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement. Thus, the Drug Enforcement Administration was formed, a more centralized agency which is the dominant force behind the War on Drugs. This is a great example of U.S Federalism at play.
The “War on Drugs” aims to reduce illegal drug trade by enforcing harsher sentences for violators. The goal is to protect the citizens of the United States, but, when one looks at the war on drugs closely it becomes evident that this war has been rather counter productive. The U.S citizens have suffered the most and the real criminal organizations are the ones who benefit the most. The process of eradicating drugs from the streets of the United States is rather flawed. The Enforcement agencies such as the DEA and local state police make arrests and the violators are prosecuted.
The Federal Government regulates drugs through the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811), which doesn't differentiate between medical and recreational use of marijuana. The Federal Government places every controlled substance in a scheduled base on its potential for abuse and medical gain. Under the CSA, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug alongside cocaine and Heroine. Firstly, this highlights the arrogance of the Federal Government that, despite medical experiments, labelling marijuana is more beneficial than harmful. The Federal Government views marijuana as highly damaging with no medical value. Further, a conviction of marijuana will be treated the same way as the conviction of cocaine related violations. As a student living in Canada...
Bibliography: Davies, Peter. (1973). The Truth About Kent State: A Challenge to the American Conscience. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
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Szalavitz, Maia . “U.S. Rules That Marijuana Has No Medical Use. What Does Science Say?” Time Health and Family. Maia Szalavitz. July 11, 2011. http://healthland.time.com/2011/07/11/u-s-rules-marijuana-has-no-medical-use-what-does-science-say/. 10/09/13.
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