History of the American Drug War

The first act of America's anti-drug laws was in 1875. It

outlawed the smoking of opium in opium dens. This was a San Francisco

ordinance. The basis on passing this law was that Chinese men had a

way of luring white women to their dens and causing their "ruin",

which was the association with Chinese men. Later, other Federal laws

such as trafficking in opium was illegal for anyone of Chinese origin.

The opium laws were directed at the smoking of opium. The law didn't

effect importation of the drug because opium was a common medical

drug. This law was specifically targeted at the Chinese, for the

smoking of opium was a Chinese custom.

Cocaine was outlawed for fears that black men would go on a

sexual rampage and rape white women. In the early 1900's, newspapers

referred to them as "Negro Cocaine Fiends" or "Cocainized Niggers".

There is little evidence that this actually happened.

The Harrison Act had started as a licensing law which required

sellers to obtain a license if they were going to handle opiates or

cocaine. The law contains a provision that nothing in the law would

prohibit doctors from prescribing these drugs in the legitimate

practice of medicine. The people who wrote the Harrison Act and

Marijuana Tax Act in 1937, agreed that a prohibition on what people

could put into their bodies was an unconstitutional infringement on

personal liberties.

Marijuana was outlawed in 1937. The reason for it being

outlawed was that the plant had a violent effect on the degenerate

races. The American Medical Association testified that they were

opposed to the law. The law would never have passed without the

endorsement from the AMA, but when the supporters of the law were

asked about the AMA's view on the floor of congress, they had stated

that the AMA was all for it. When the law had passed, the AMA

protested, but the law was never repealed.

It is difficult to determine how many people in the US use

drugs. The Federal Government's Household Survey on Drug Abuse, is the

most common set of statistics on the use of drugs. According to the

latest surveys, conducted by the DEA, there are about 12.7 million

people who have used an illegal drug in the past month, and about 30 -

40 million people who have used an illegal drug in the past year.

Among the 12.7 people who have used an illegal drug in the past month,

about 10 million are casual drug users and about 2.7 million are drug

addicts. The figures produced by the Household Survey on Drug Abuse

are obtained over the phone. Therefore, there was a problem reaching

those without phones, those who didn't answer their phones, and those

who answered the question honestly. Other surveys put the figures at

least twice as high.

Currently, there are about 1.5 million people in state and

Federal prisons and jails throughout the US At least 24 states are

under Federal court orders to relieve prison overcrowding. Prison

population had been relatively stable from about 1926 to about 1970.

From that point, Nixon's war against drugs, then the Reagan and Bush

war against drugs, caused a dramatic increase in the number of

prisoners. The estimated 30 - 40 million people who have used an

illegal drug in the past year, would fill a prison holding the

populations of California, Arizona and New Mexico altogether. The cost

of holding a single one of these persons would be about $450,000. The

cost for the arrest and the conviction is about $150,000. The cost for

an additional bed would be anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000,

depending upon the jurisdiction. It costs about $30,000 per year to

house a prisoner, with an average sentence of five years, adding up to

be $150,000. The estimated $450,000 (out of taxpayers money), can

provide treatment or education for about 200 people. Out of the

percentage of people in prison, 59.6% are in prison for a drug


The war on drugs could be won if we were successful in at

least one of three areas. If we could stop drug production in other

countries, if we could stop drugs at the border or if we could stop

the sale of drugs within the United States. Stopping drug production

in other countries has already proven to have failed. In 1993, ABC