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Today marks the 46th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of America’s War on Drugs Otherwise Peaceful Americans Who Voluntarily Choose To Ingest or Sell Intoxicants Currently Proscribed by the Government, Which Will Put Users or Sellers in Cages if Caught. On June 17, 1971, Richard Nixon delivered a “Special Message to the Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control,” and he appealed to Congress to give the highest priority to provide funding and authority to the federal government to “destroy the market for drugs,” with “increased enforcement and vigorous application of the fullest penalties provided by law” and to “render the narcotics trade unprofitable.”
Specifically, Nixon asked Congress to “authorize and fund 325 additional positions within the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to increase their capacity for apprehending those engaged in narcotics trafficking here and abroad and to investigate domestic industrial producers of drugs.”
In addition, Nixon asked Congress to provide $45 million in funding for America’s new war ($271 million in today’s dollars) “to enable the Bureau of Customs to develop the technical capacity to deal with smuggling by air and sea, to increase the investigative staff charged with pursuit and apprehension of smugglers, and to increase inspection personnel who search persons, baggage, and cargo entering the country. Funding of $7.5 million ($45 million in 2017 dollars) would permit the IRS to intensify investigation of persons involved in large-scale narcotics trafficking.”
According to Nixon, “These steps would strengthen our efforts to root out the cancerous growth of narcotics addiction in America. It is impossible to say that the enforcement legislation I have asked for here will be conclusive–that we will not need further legislation. We cannot fully know at this time what further steps will be necessary. As those steps define themselves, we will be prepared to seek further legislation to take any action and every action necessary to wipe out the menace of drug addiction in America. But domestic enforcement alone cannot do the job. If we are to stop the flow of narcotics into the lifeblood of this country, I believe we must stop it at the source.”
Nixon concluded his special message with this prediction: “The final issue is not whether we will conquer drug abuse, but how soon. Part of this answer lies with the Congress now and the speed with which it moves to support the struggle against drug abuse.”
MP: It’s been 46 years since Nixon declared a “War on Drugs,” and we know now that it has been a completely failed mission. We haven’t conquered drug abuse with an expensive, 46-year “War on Drugs,” just like Prohibition didn’t conquer alcohol abuse. What the War has done is dramatically increase the number of Americans jailed for drug offenses, especially male offenders, as the chart above shows. As of the end of May, almost half (46.3%) of all inmates in federal prisons are serving time for drug offenses. We’ve also exported our “War on Drugs” to other countries like Mexico, which has resulted in +60,000 drug-related murders there, more casualties than the U.S. experienced during the Vietnam War.
And even though we Americans take great pride in our +200-year history of “economic and political freedom,” we should be ashamed of our War on Drugs, and our status as the “World’s No. 2 Jailer,” part of which is the result of our drug war. According to the International Center for Prison Studies, the United States leads the world with an incarceration rate of 666 prisoners per 100,000 population, see table below and full list here. The US jails more of its people than Cuba (510 per 100,000) and Russia (430). In contrast, Canada’s incarceration rate is 114 per 100,000 population, Germany’s rate is 76, and Japan’s rate is 45.
So as much as we think of America as the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” our record of locking Americans in cages for using intoxicants not currently approved of by the government tarnishes America’s great legacy of freedom. Isn’t it time to call a truce or cease-fire on our shameful, deadly, expensive and failed War on
Drugs Otherwise Peaceful Americans Who Voluntarily Choose To Ingest or Sell Intoxicants Currently Proscribed by the Government, Which Will Put Users or Sellers in Cages if Caught?
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