The war on drugs turns 50 years since President Nixon launched it in 1971. A trillion dollars has been spent by the United States in campaigns to limit domestic consumption and curb production outside its borders. However, consumption and demand have risen to record levels, so much so that Donald Trump declared the drug problem a public health emergency. Now the Joe Biden Administration wants to rethink the war on drugs that many point out, has served to incarcerate African American and Latino minorities.
According to him Health Department In the United States, 57.2 million people used illicit drugs in 2019. An increase of about 10 million compared to 2015.
In addition, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), more than 184 people die a day from overdoses. A public health emergency decreed by Donald Trump that thanks to Covid 19 has lost the focus of attention.
“We don’t have support because everything is closed and obviously one is suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolarity and from having drug addictions, obviously one is going to use more at this time because we don’t know how to deal with it and we don’t have the support we need. ”Complains José Ramírez, a Latino addicted to crystal methamphetamine.
The war on drugs that began in 1971, has attempted to solve the problem of drug addiction and overdose on two fronts: the internal one focused on reducing drug demand and consumption; and the international front whose purpose was to limit the production of drugs as much as possible and prevent them from reaching the United States.
“If those were the objectives, the war has been a spectacular failure. Drug use rates in the US have fluctuated over time but remain high and supply constant. Meanwhile, the costs of this policy are tremendous, ”says María McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, former director of the Alliance for Drug Policy in the United States.
Billions of investment that fail to stifle the business
In 2015, the federal government spent an estimated $ 9.2 million each year to incarcerate people charged with drug crimes. That’s more than $ 3.3 billion a year, highlights the Center for American Progress. Money that to today’s figures has not helped reduce the amount of cocaine that is produced and trafficked from Colombia, Mexico, Peru or Venezuela.
“The war on drugs has disproportionately affected black and brown people in the United States. Those who are arrested and incarcerated for drug abuse are disproportionately black and brown, ”says María McFarland Sánchez-Moreno. The expert adds that the war has served as an excuse to increase the police force in black communities, something that can generate more negative interactions between the police.
Every 25 seconds a person is arrested for drug possession. 1/5 of the population incarcerated in the United States is in prison for a drug-related crime and almost 80% of those incarcerated for these crimes are African American or Latino. In fact, African Americans are nearly six times more likely to be wanted or incarcerated for drug offenses.
The system “is meant to make a profit because most of the prisons where people are serving their sentences for drug-related crimes are private prisons. In reality, this is not a movement to end drugs but to enrich many people, ”Ruby told France 24 Corado, director of Casa Ruby, a non-profit organization that provides health, shelter and food services to drug addicts and the LGTBI community.
For her part, María McFarland maintains that it is necessary to “move away from the war on drugs and move closer to a supportive approach that invests in the health of these people and in their communities.”