The criminalization policy regarding drugs is based on the understanding that they are socially devastating. Drug use is related to crime and violence and it impacts negatively on education, work, family and marriage. Economically, drugs are also harmful and they can also lead to transmission of serious infections such as Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Chronic drug use leads to addiction which leads to many economic crimes as it creates a physiological and psychological desperation to have drugs at any cost (Shahidulla 2008). Drug use and addiction became a prominent part of policy discourses for crime and justice in the 1960s.
The comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act of 1970, which was passed under President Nixon was landmark legislation as it consolidated drug laws and legislations over the past decades. The Act created a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to replace the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD). The DEA was mandated with conducting scientific research on the addictive nature of various drugs. The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 gave special power to the Attorney General and the court to seize tangible and intangible property of those who acquired them through drug dealing and drug trafficking.
Also passed by congress in the same year was the Aviation Drug Trafficking Control Act which authorized the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to revoke pilot certificates and aircraft registration of those found to be engaged in drug trafficking. The Dangerous Drugs Diversion Control Act provided the Attorney General with powers to bring addictive drugs and those posing serious public health concerns into schedule I without having to go through judicial review. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was primarily passed to curb supply reduction.
It also made significant provisions for demand reduction. This Act represents the Federal government’s attempt to reduce drug dealing by not only dealing with the user but also the seller. This Act was further improved on in 1988 with federal and state judges being authorized to deny federal benefits to persons convicted of any drug offenses including simple possession. These benefits included student loans and small businesses loans (Manski and Pepper 2001). Pennsylvania was one of the first states to enact drug control laws when they banned the use of morphine in 1860.
Fifteen years later, San Francisco enacted a law that banned opium smoking and which was directly aimed at the newly arrived Chinese immigrants. Virginia City in Nevada followed suit by also banning opium and it was effected statewide in 1977. Sale and distribution of Marijuana was prohibited by many states in the 1920s and 1930s. The modern drug war sees all 50 states with their own drug policy institutions and drug enforcement agencies. The core assumptions i. e. the harm principle, moral argument, utilitarianism and deterrence perspective are shared by policy makers at federal, state and local level.
The Control Substances Act of 1970 broadly applies to all states but state legislatures approach to abuse of various substances differs slightly from state to state. Alaska, North Carolina, Arkansas and Virginia have adopted a six-schedule system of drug classification instead of the five that are to be found in the Control Substances Act. South Dakota and Tennessee have a seven-schedule system. Marijuana is in schedule in about 37 states but some e. g. Colorado, Wisconsin, Illinois etc do not include it.
Policies concerning criminalization of marijuana also vary across the different states with 30 states and the District of Columbia having laws legalizing the use of medicinal marijuana from 2006. Recent years have seen states creating special policy making agencies in line with the concept of Model State Drug Laws that was introduced in the mid 1990s. Connecticut, Minnesota, Delaware, Vermont, North and South Carolina have laws requiring private insurers to pay for substance abuse. Also, within the generally prohibitionist regime, penalties associated with drugs vary substantially.
For example, the statutory minimum prison term for possession of any amount of cocaine is 6 months in Ohio and Texas but 3 years in New Jersey. States like California mandate treatment instead of incarceration for certain individuals convicted of drug use or possession (Caulkins and RAND Drug Policy Research Center 2005). Some state policies conflict with the federal approach with the latter seeking to bring states in line with federal policy through measures such as executive orders. While many in the U. S.
view drugs as a recent problem, the use of drugs especially in the workplace has been a problem for quite a while. In fact, private enterprise has historically been at the forefront of programs in drug detection, rehabilitation and prevention. The Federal government has, as stated before, adopted a policy that makes some drugs illegal and drug usage unacceptable. Support for this policy has garnered support from all sectors including federal and state government (Fisher and Green 2004). Drug legalization is neither a simple nor singular public policy proposal.
It could at one extreme involve a return to open access to all drugs as was evidenced at the end of the 19th Century. Partial legalization could entail such policy changes as making currently illegal drugs available in crude forms to certain types of ill patients. The effect of the negative global experience with legal substances such as alcohol and tobacco support the view that legalization of drugs would lead to higher levels of drug usage and higher total social costs (Alexandrova 2004) . The U. S.
experimented briefly with decriminalization of marijuana and it resulted in a related increase of marijuana related visits to emergency rooms. More widely known is the seizure and forfeiture of cars, planes or boats of persons found in possession of even trace amounts of illegal drugs. These forfeited assets in effect impose massive fines greater than would ordinarily be imposed upon a criminal conviction for drug possession. Civil forfeiture, however, is in rem thus no conviction or prosecution is required at all e.
g. in Key West, Florida, a shrimp fisherman lost his 73-foot shrimper to the coast guard who found three grams of cannabis seeds and stems aboard. The debate on proposed legalization of certain drugs has captured the attention of mainstream media. The challenge to the monopoly status on the war on drugs is clearly gaining ground and such levels of dissent have not been seen since the second phase on the war on drugs began 5 decades ago. References Alexandrova, A. (2004). AIDS, drugs, and society. USA: IDEA
Caulkins, J. P. & RAND Drug Policy Research Center. (2005). How goes the “war on drugs”? : An assessment of U. S. drug problems and policy. USA: Rand Corporation Fischer, J. R. & Green, G. (2004). Introduction to security. USA: Butterworth-Heinemann. Manski, C. F. & Pepper, J. (2001). Informing American policy on illegal drugs: What we don’t know keeps hurting us. USA: National academies Press. Shahidulla, S. M. (2008). Crime policy in America: Laws, institutions and programs. USA: University Press of America.