War on Drugs is a Dismal Failure Essay

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With a bipartisan vote of 263-146, the House recently approved a bill that included $1.7 billion to combat the drug cartels of Columbia with additional military aid. In doing so, they perpetuated what could be one of the United States' most misguided policies of recent history.

At least some Republicans can give themselves a pat on the back for attempting to remove the Columbian aid from the $13 billion foreign aid bill. Unfortunately, today's drug war is largely a Reagan-era Republican creation, so intoxicating that even the vast majority of liberals mindlessly defend it. Regardless, both parties now overwhelmingly champion the war on drugs, leaving its opponents a mix of unlikely allies, from Nobel Laureate and economist
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Establishing the real facts about drug use is the first step in understanding the flaws inherent in the policy of prohibition. First, cocaine is not an addictive drug, and according to a 1993 National Institute on Drug Abuse report, less than one percent of cocaine users become daily users. Cocaine's non-addictive status comes from the fact that users who stop using it have no withdrawal symptoms, which is one of the three criteria to define something as addictive. Like marijuana, cocaine only induces dependence, or a desire for use, much like chocolate.

Despite its decline throughout the '80s, drug use has been rising since 1992. While, 13 million people use some illicit drug each year (5 percent of the U.S. population), over 37 percent of Americans have used drugs at one time or another, despite their illegal status. Use among twelfth graders increased between 27 percent and 40 percent between 1992 and 1997.2 15,000 people died of drug abuse in 1998, compared to roughly 400,000 from smoking and 100,000 from alcohol.3 What's more, a significant number of drug overdoses are the result of poor quality drugs - often poisoned in the process of dealers maximizing profit by diluting and substituting ingredients. There has never been one recorded death from the use of marijuana.

Best estimates place the drug trade as a $57 billion industry, roughly the equivalent of seven Microsofts. Prohibition has

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