23 Jul 2014 No Comments
How did we get here and why are we virtually alone in ramping up the demonization of certain drugs?
In 1971, President Richard Nixon coined the term “War on Drugs.” His campaign to eradicate illegal drug use was picked up by the media and championed by succeeding presidents, including Reagan. Canada was a willing ally in this “war,” and is currently cracking down on drug offences at a time when even the U.S. is beginning to climb down from its reliance on incarceration.
Elsewhere in the world, there has been a sea change. The Global Commission on Drug Policy, including international luminaries like Kofi Annan, declared that the War on Drugs “has not, and cannot, be won.” Former heads of state and drug warriors have come out in favour of this perspective. Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton agree with legions of public health officials, scientists, politicians, and police officers that a new approach is essential.
Paula Mallea, in The War on Drugs, approaches this issue from a variety of points of view, offering insight into the history of drug use and abuse in the twentieth century; the pharmacology of illegal drugs; the economy of the illegal drug trade; and the complete lack of success that the war on drugs has had on drug cartels and the drug supply. She also looks ahead and discusses what can and is being done in Canada, the U.S., and the rest of the world to move on from the “war” and find better ways to address the issue of illegal drugs and their distribution, use, and abuse.
Published: July 2014
“We should reserve our prison space for people we are afraid of, instead of people we are mad at.”
This book is a broad look at the 40-year war that has not only failed to make lives better, but has in fact made things much worse. The author’s main focus is on her home country of Canada, though she covers a lot of ground on US policies. She also briefly touches on other countries as examples of laws that work and laws that don’t.
I think this is an important read for everyone. Prohibition, particularly in the way we’ve been attempting to force it on society, simply does not work. We’re spending billions – trillions – of dollars fighting a war we cannot possibly win. In the process, we’re filling our prisons to overflowing, ruining lives, and giving gangs multiple ways to get rich and even more reason to fight bloody battles.
It is not going t0o far to suggest that drug prohibition has been employed as a means of social control.
Paula Mallea does an excellent job of laying out the facts. She has obviously done extensive research on this topic. The one drawback for me is the broad scope of material in a fairly short space doesn’t allow room to delve deep into certain areas. I felt some material was glossed over too quickly and would have liked more discussion. But, for the casual reader, this works well in that it provides what you need to make an informed decision about our war on drugs.
“Almost entirely, from the first moment, the orders given to the police as to how to deal with drugs were, “You don’t go into the suburbs and arrest the white stockbroker sniffing coke in the evenings, but you do go into the ghettos, and if a kid has a joint in his pocket, you put him in jail.”
Thanks for reading.