America’s Drug War is a highly controversial campaign implemented by the United States government, intended to define and reduce the illegal drug trade and combat leftist political movements in foreign nations. Through prohibition, foreign military aid, and a set of laws and policies aimed at discouraging the production, distribution, and consumption of targeted substances such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.
President Richard Nixon coined the term in 1969, and over the years several governmental institutions were put into effect to aid in America’s Drug War, including Nixon’s Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 and President Ronald Reagan’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (formed in 1988). However, in May of 2009, the Obama administration announced it would no longer use the term “War on Drugs.”
But even with the US government closing that particular chapter in America’s Drug War, the ramifications of this campaign have been greatly wide reaching. In 2008, 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug offenses, with a third of them becoming imprisoned.
One principal player in the America Drug War is the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Established in 1988 under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, its purpose is to establish objectives and policies to eliminate illicit drug use and manufacturing, trafficking, and all other forms of drug-related crime and violence. The Director of National Drug Control Policy is commonly referred to as the “Drug Czar,” and is responsible for evaluating and overseeing both the international and domestic anti-drug efforts. The Drug Czar also advises the President regarding changes within the ONDCP.
While efforts made in America’s Drug War have seen positive results, the campaign as a whole has been mired in controversy since its inception. Many critics of the program have claimed that it is a front to justify military operations under the guise of a noble cause, and that significant amounts of “drug war” foreign aid money, training, and equipment is actually put towards fighting leftist insurgencies, and is often funneled to large-scale narcotic traffickers.
Some of the organizations that stand against the US government’s prohibition in America’s Drug War include NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a non-profit group comprised of both current and former police officers and government agents who now oppose the war that they once fought at the front lines of.
The America Drug War has gone through several transformations and been a heated topic of discussion in the world of criminal justice since day one, and it’s likely that it will continue do so for years to come.