War on Drugs
San Joaquin Delta College
The War on Drugs is a term that is used to refer to the federal government’s attempts to end the import, manufacture, sale, and use of illegal drugs. It is not a specific term only relating to a secret policy or objective, but to a series of antidrug initiatives that are directed towards the common goal of ending drug abuse. These initiatives include different drug policies in the United States that are intended to lower and discourage the manufacturing, distribution, and consumption of illegal psychotropic drugs. The War on Drugs started with President Dwight D. Eisenhower establishing an Interdepartmental Committee on Narcotics on November 27, 1954. The phrase “War on Drugs” originated from President Richard Nixon when he used it at a Press Conference on June 17, 1971. In this conference he stated illegal drugs as “a number one public enemy in the United States.” There is a chronological history of the Federal Antidrug Policy and the history of the War on Drugs as it continued to change based on the alarming threat of illegal drug usage from the past to the present. The first act made as a result of the War on Drugs was the Harrison Tax Act of 1914, which restricted the sale of heroin and cocaine. In 1954 during Eisenhower’s presidency was when the parameters of the War on Drugs was truly defined as illegal drug usage was becoming more prevalent. In addition to Eisenhower’s presidency, a committee led by Senator Price Daniel called that federal penalties on narcotics increased, resulting with the Narcotic Control Act of 1956. This act increased penalties on using abusive drugs like narcotics compared to the Boggs Act of 1951. Because of Eisenhower’s establishment of the Committee on Narcotics, he was viewed as one of the first presidents to address the War on Drug. The next policy was the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which was an attempt to tax marijuana at a high rate to prevent people from purchasing it. This law was passed because the perception of marijuana was a drug to use rather than heroin and it was very popular to the Mexican-American Immigrants which made the demand of this drug rise. History continues with the War on Drugs and the Federal Antidrug Policy during Nixon’s presidency. At the time of Nixon’s presidency, the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 was passed in which the federal government became more active in the role of drug enforcement and drug abusive. It established the federal antidrug policy as we see in the present. As history progresses in the 1970s and forward, many policymakers start developing a viewpoint towards drug abuse. They view it as a social disease which can be treated by aggressive criminal justice policies. The addition of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the 1973 depicted this criminal justice enforcement on drug abuse. As drug use among children increased in the 1980s, Nancy Reagen toured elementary schools and gave speeches on the dangers of illicit drugs. Nancy Reagen even created an antidrug slogan that said: “Just say no.” Because she was able to preach to the kids that drugs are a threat, the administration could pursue more antidrug legislations. In 1994, drugs in society became so prevalent that Joe Biden’s 1994 Ominous Bill included a provision on killing drug lords. As a result of the growing demand of drugs and drug usage in the 1990s; the War on Drugs reached the point that any drug related activities would be treated like murder or treason. The drugs are also becoming more confusing because some narcotics can be used as prescription medicine, but it has to be prescribed to the individual. For this reason, the line between legal and illegal drugs has gotten narrower. In a world viewpoint, all geographic areas of the world and most countries are affected by drug abuse or...
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