The war on drugs is not a problem that just effects Americans. Countries have been setting laws on the legalization of drugs since the Opium Wars in China. Laws against drugs are not always helpful and most of the time tend to focus on the lower classes of society. Legalizing drugs on a global scale could end many crisis worldwide like the rise of the drug cartels in many developing nations and the high arrest rates for lower class citizens with non violent drug charges. Legalization could also lead to an economic boom with the rise of a new industry that will have many jobs to fill.
The first major war on drugs was the Opium Wars durning the the early 1800s. It began in the mid-1700s when the British began trading opium into China and in return they got silver. Prior to this Opium was used medicinally throughout China but recreational use was illegal and not very common. This did not last long and by 1839 opium was band throughout China. The banning angered the British and war quickly ensued. By 1842, the Chinese signed a peace treaty allowing the British free rein to trade whatever they like into China, including opium. The Chinese fought wars against the western nations throughout the nineteenth century. The Opium Wars had a huge impact on the Chinese government, they, “led to the ultimate collapse of the centuries-old Qing Dynasty, and with it more than two millennia of dynastic rule” (Roblin 2). The war on drugs can dismantle entire governments.
Drug laws typically focus on “lower class” citizens when drug use is distributed evenly throughout all social classes. In America cannabis use was widely recognized as a valid medical treatment. That all changed in the early 1900s with the rise of Mexican immigration to the US. Mexicans referred to cannabis as marihuana and the media of the time used that as an excuse to demonize the immigrants saying they were dangerous. The government needed a way to control the new immigrant population and since cannabis use was very common among them that was the government's in. In the 1970s the United States passed The Controlled Substances Act which affectively banned the use of any “illicit” drugs. These laws often tend to hurt the citizens rather then help them. According to the ACLU and the Human Rights Watch, in 2015 there were 574,641 arrests made for possession of marijuana for personal use. Which is “about 13.6 percent more than the 505,681 arrests made for all violent crimes” (Williams NYTimes). Studies show that whites are more likely to use illegal drugs, but they are also two and a half times less likely to be arrested for it than their colored counterpart. A study conducted by Police Reform Organizing Project done in 2016, found that in New York City 86.5% of arrests for a misdemeanor involved minorities. In that same study they found that possession and sale of marijuana was amongst the charges filed the most. Low level drug arrests are an easy way for a police department, or government to make revenue. In NYC a single misdemeanor drug charge can be up $2000 covering police and court costs, and pre-arraignment jail costs. An eight year veteran of the NYPD has been quoted saying “Marijuana becomes the easiest arrest because everybody smokes weed — across ethnicities and racial lines. It's a minor infraction, it's the low-hanging fruit” (Abedian).
Once somebody gets a nonviolent drug charge on their record it can throw of their entire life. When employers see that someone has a drug charge most of the time it is an automatic disqualification from the job. This keeps many minorities in a cyclical situation where they cannot get a job because of a non violent charge that they have, so they end up in the streets and start doing more illegal acts getting themselves in trouble again and so on. The more people that do not have jobs the higher likely violence in an area could ensue. Drug charges can also leave low income students in a place where they cannot get any financial aide, having any charge remotely related to drugs automatically disqualifies students from receiving aide from FASFA. Even a small marijuana charge can cost a student their future. This puts minorities at even more of a disadvantage since many rely on aide to get a college degree. Without a college degree low income students are not as likely to improve their socioeconomic standing. Laws against drug use puts a large portion of society at a serious disadvantage socially and economically.
Legalization of drugs would have a huge impact world wide. Besides the advantages it would give minorities who are suppressed the most by these laws, it would also effect many developing countries who are controlled by the cartels. The global drug market is a $300 billion industry and is still rising. Cartels have taken over entire countries turning their entire economy over to the illegal drug market. Many of these countries also have poor living conditions and overall a poor record with human rights. If drugs are legalized the money these cartels are seeing could be used to improve the country rather then lining the cartel leaders pockets. There is one case where the bank HSBC was fined nearly 2 billion dollars for laundering approximately $881 million from drug cartels. That money could do wonders for these developing nations that are barely hanging on economically. Legalization will also cause an economic boom for a lot of the world because a brand new $300 billion dollar global industry would be formed. This would create jobs all around the world. There would be jobs in many subindustries from agriculture to marketing and everything in between. This would help the high unemployment rate for people with nonviolent drug charges because they can fill the jobs that are being created by this new industry. While this industry would have to be highly regulated it could bring significant change to the world. Full legalization works well for low risk drugs like marijuana, cocaine, mushrooms, etc., but when it comes to opioids full legalization may not be the best idea. Since these drugs are highly addictive and extremely deadly, the use should be decriminalized so the users can get treatment instead of prison time, but the sale should remain illegal. Heroin injection sites are a good way to regulate opioid use. They could provide small dosages of heroin or other drugs, that they know aren't tainted, to help junkies ween themselves off the drug by offering therapy and rehab to the users. According to the CDC, “heroin abuse, which, along with prescription opioid painkillers, kills 78 people a day” (Foderaro NYTimes).
The war on drugs is a systematic way for governments to control the lower classes of society. While the laws may not specifically focus on minorities they are the ones who are suppressed the most by these laws (ie higher rates of arrest and higher unemployment rates). The legalization and decriminalization of all illicit drugs can very likely change the abuse that these lower income citizens all around the world face.
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