Public enemy number one, also known by President Nixon as “The War on Drugs,” is one of the longest running scams in American History. The war on drugs was born out of a need to disrupt marginalized communities and a generation of people seen to be against the war torn Nixon agenda. In Americas past all manner of drugs were mostly unrestricted and readily available. Things began to change when opium came over from China and the abuse of opium created a small population of drug addicts, and drug prohibition of opium largely targeted the Chinese population. Not far after in the earlier parts of the 1900’s we saw the beginnings of the prohibition of more modern drugs such as cocaine, also aimed at a minority population, mainly black males. Flash forward back to Nixon’s announcement of the “War on Drugs,” at this time Nixon was facing two significant political threats, neither which he could change or address with the public in a politically correct sense. Nixon was feeling threatened by both the black communities and anti-war protestors of the time. He claimed he wanted to eradicate the problem of drugs, protect the youth, crack down on criminals and increase incarceration for drug offenders. The reality is it really didn’t matter what the outcome was for the public, it was all about the politics.
As the government marched on in the drug war, more and more drugs were added to the prohibition list, scheduled by degree of perceived danger or lack of medical benefits. Marijuana, is a schedule one drug, the same schedule that Ecstasy and Heroin are in. putting it in the most dangerous class, and saying it has no medicinal value. To put it in perspective, Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, which are highly addictive and have a high rate of abuse, are only, schedule three, two classes lower than Marijuana. We know from medicine, research, history and just everyday use that marijuana is non-habit forming, and has a huge host of medicinal benefits and yet it is still classed as if it is as dangerous as heroin. There is no real relativity to the scheduling system. Recently the DEA had the opportunity to go forward and federally reclassify and or decriminalize marijuana and they passed on it, leaving it on schedule one. The question is why?
The answer is a mix of complications that in many ways all come down to one thing, money. The first and highly significant reason why the war on drugs continues is big pharmaceuticals. In order for big pharmaceuticals and their lobbies to continue their cash cow, they need drugs like marijuana that can replace products they offer from aspirin, to heavy painkillers and anxiety medications to remain illegal. If marijuana became legal, sales would likely drop and they may suffer huge financial losses. They don’t want to lose a dollar and the drug lobbyist’s money pays for a lot of backhanded politics and political campaigns.
Next we look at how the war on drugs profits the post-justice system, like the private prison pipeline. As the war on drugs increases, and penalties become stiffer, more and more people are arrested and sentenced to terms in prison for possessing, selling or making illegal drugs. This creates a large uptick in people needing to be housed in prisons. If there are not enough available places for those arrested to be placed in state or federal prisons, a gap is created that needs to be filled. This gap became filled by the new emerging private prison industry. Private corporations could develop privately owned and operated prisons, but fill them with DOJ prisoners and get paid by our government for each person housed there. So private prisons pack in prisoners, in often sub-standard or inhumane living situations in order to maximize their profits. The less they spend on food, or medical care, maintenance, staff etc , the more the private prison makes its bottom line. Putting it bluntly, the DOJ provides human capital for the private prions that profit off of the imprisonment of massive amounts of people. These prisons have been shown in the past to offer incentives, kickbacks, or other under the table type benefits to politicians or elites who help keep their beds filled.
The third reason is a mix of both greed and power in a slightly different way. The war on Drugs plays a big part in political policy. When campaigning many politicians especially moralist or conservative republicans use The War on Drugs as a wedge issue. They campaign on a tough on drugs platform that gathers voters who are conservative, religious, buy in to fear mongering, and elites. These are all voters and politicians always play to their bases. With playing to this base come financial incentives, being voted in to office and gaining vast salaries, being wined and dined by lobbyists, and other gains from moralist groups. Of course, there is one thing that always goes hand in hand with greed and that is power. Where you find money, you also find a need for power. Politicians who placate to lobbyists, moralists and companies that stand to gain from the continued or increase in drug prohibition and its sentences for violators often will gain office and power. The more people they can get behind the all drugs are evil line the more people they control and the more power they have in their countries and governments. For some power is reason enough to back The War on Drugs Scam.
Looking at 2017, we see the War on Drugs doesn’t work. As a nation we spend an estimated 51 Billion dollars per year on the failed War on Drugs (Drug Policy Alliance). We are still roughly in the same situation we were in before if not maybe in some aspects worse than when The War on Drugs began while simultaneously seeing legalization measures for marijuana at the state level, decriminalizing or legalizing it because it has been found to not only have significant medicinal benefits but also to be low harm to individuals. Yet, our federal government keeps Marijuana schedule one and illegal at a federal level even when we can see it is not a danger, but keeps drugs like oxycodone that lead some to abuse for some people, completely legal by prescription and a schedule three drug when they are extremely addictive to those susceptible and marijuana does not cause addiction. We can see that, it has nothing to do with safety; the big scam of The War on Drugs is all about money, power, and influence.