Dec 13, 2016 1577 Words 7 Pages
The United States of America is losing a major war the war on drugs. And it is time for us, as a nation, to admit our country’s drug laws are doing more harm than good. The fight against drugs is not as effective as it was originally envisioned. Both the federal government and states have taken extreme measures and enforced strict laws to keep our cities and neighborhoods free of drugs. However, it is time for a change. And I believe this change should start by settling the conflict between federal and state drug laws. The federal government should decide all drug laws nationwide and give less say to the individual states. With that being said, I think the federal government should legalize recreational marijuana use nationwide and lessen the harsh policies enforced and severe punishment for recreational use of other drugs.
By giving the federal government control over the nation’s drug laws and giving the states less say, America’s economy can benefit greatly, it would be easier on law enforcement nationwide, tourism would increase, problems with jurisdiction issues can be resolved, incarceration and crime rates will dramatically drop, and so much more.
To start, it is important to know both the federal and state laws. They both cover a broad range of drug-related crimes. So basically, federal drug laws are enforced by officers in the DEA, FBI, Secret Service, and US Treasury Department. On the other hand, state level drug laws are enforced by county, local, and state police. Both federal and state also have different standards for the actual crime and different prison systems. This depends on which side has prosecuted the crime or violation. When arrested by a federal agent, criminals are booked at a specific federal facility and are kept there until they make bail or go to trial. If you get arrested on the state level for a drug offense, you will be brought to the local police headquarters and you will be booked there. In that situation, you would be incarcerated at a county jail where you would wait for trial or make bail. However, one thing both sides can agree on is that possessing, manufacturing, and selling illegal drugs is completely illegal (Federal Drug Charges, 2016).
There are key distinctions to be aware of when comparing federal laws with those at the local or state level. For example, the mass amount of federal drug cases involves drug trafficking. On the other hand, possession charges make up most of the arrests at the local and state level. Another important difference is the harshness of the penalty sentencing after a conviction. The penalty is much more severe at the federal level than state level.
One of the major problems with federal and state drug laws is jurisdiction issues. State laws are only enforced in the state where the person committed the crime. On the other hand, federal laws are not limited and can be enforced at any location in any state. Additionally, when there is a state law that corresponds with a federal law, you can only enforce the federal law if the crime was committed on federal property. Sometimes, federal laws may have problems with state laws. For example, in California, laws state that “medical” marijuana can be grown legally and sold to people who have a prescription and need it for medical use. However, there is no difference involved at the federal level and the growth or possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law. For instance, the DEA can, and often does, raid and arrest licensed marijuana farmers or growers in California.
So let’s say that federal agents did not take part in the act of making widespread arrests for low-level federal marijuana laws in all states. Yet, if they did, it would totally be within their rights. But, as history shows, the federal government has trusted on states to make and enforce their own marijuana prohibition laws. With that being said, an unbelievable number of people in the U.S. are being arrested every single day and incarcerated (which we all pay for) due to a marijuana law violation. This is due to the majority of the people breaking a state law and thus the arrests were made by state law enforcement agents, not federal ones. By having the same drug laws nationwide enforced federally, this will put an end to that issue.
The only things to show for all the money and time invested in this war on drugs is the number of people incarcerated for drug law violations. With that being said, we as a nation are wasting an incredible amount of money on keeping drug violators behind bars and the issue is not being solved. In just the past 30 years, we have seen for ourselves an outrageous increase in the criminalization of drug use. This is due to a major escalation of harsh sentencing and penalties imposed on drug users which increases the rates of incarceration. These same policies have had little impact on defeating or lowering drug use. That is why federally, we need to make laws on drugs less severe nationwide and focus more on other important issues we are facing.
So when it comes to the war on drugs, it isn’t hard to see why such problems and disagreements happen for circumstances such as the medical marijuana issue discussed above. Also, it is no surprise why law enforcement and legislators are so uneasy about the possession, manufacture, and sale of controlled substances. Over $110 billion is spent every year such as accidental death, criminal behavior, dependency treatment, health care, and more that are drug-related (Consequences of Illegal Drug Use, 2016).
I think it is acceptable to say that the fight against drugs has been somewhat of a disaster. The absurd amount of money that has been spent on the war against drugs and the number of lives that have been damaged at the hands of the war on drugs is a giant fail. The government has been attempting to convince society for an extremely long time that prohibition on all drugs is the way to go. In my opinion, this clearly is not working and the federal government needs to take control of all drug laws and legalize marijuana and reduce harsh penalties on possession of other drugs.
Photo credit Stop The Drug War
According to the National Drug Control Policy, the federal American government spent $15 billion on the war on drugs in 2010. State and local governments added at least another $25 million to that. The USA was spending at a rate of $500 per second to sustain the war on drugs (Ghaly, 2015). Also, the costs of the fight against drugs has increased an average of 5.3 percent through the next couple years following 2010. This rate was just above the 5.1 percent annual growth in the gross domestic product for the entire U.S. economy. The most rapid increase in costs have been in criminal justice efforts, specifically increased rates in incarceration for drug offenses and drug related offense and increased spending on law enforcement and adjunction (ONDCP, 2004).
When it comes to drug laws and penalties, each country has its own set of rules and regulations. What may be thought of as socially okay in one country, could be severely punishable in another country. When comparing other countries drug laws to the United States, other countries are having much more success. For example, Portugal was the first country in Europe to decriminalize all drugs. However, that doesn’t mean that people are walking around the streets of Portugal selling crack to anyone who wants it or selling it in the local food store. But it does mean that people are not going to prison for using drugs or having any on them. However, people still face minor criminal penalties like fines, for reasons such as selling drugs. Instead of incarcerating so many people like the United States does, Portugal has put their efforts and attention towards rehabilitating drug users and treating addiction.
Rather than punishing people instead of helping them make better life choices, Portugal offers drug addicts counseling, service at hospitals, and even needle exchange programs. Since they started doing this, Portugal has gone from arresting 14,000 people per year for drug offenses to just around 6,000 (Benson, 2015). They went from having a bad heroin epidemic to now having the lowest drug usage rate in the European Union. Also, their jails are less full and less people are using drugs. If the United States federally enforced policies and laws like this, I believe we as a nation would be far better off.
All in all, I am in favor of America’s drug laws to be decided federally. It should not be up to the states to decide their own drug laws. We are a united nation and laws dealing with an important topic such as drugs should be applied to all of us, no matter what state. By giving the federal government control over the nation’s drug laws and giving the states less say, America’s economy can benefit greatly, it would be easier on law enforcement nationwide, problems with jurisdiction issues can be resolved, incarceration and crime rates will dramatically drop, and much more. Rather than each state creating their own drug laws and policies, the United States would benefit greatly as a nation and society to have the same federal drug laws throughout our great country.