Drug trafficking at the U.S.border is a problem with its origins north of the border, not south of it. The large amounts of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, and other dangerous drugs are a result of a demand created by broken society. It is easier to point fingers at Mexico, blame them and chant “build a wall” than to own up to the truth. The truth is that the drug trafficking problem has been created by an insatiable thirst for them by Americans, mostly broken and disenchanted Americans. These are people for whom the American Dream is a nightmarish landscape of low wages, mass incarceration, and a struggle to survive.
One definition of disease is “a particular quality, habit, or disposition regarded as adversely affecting a person or group of people.” This definition fits those people that crave these drugs perfectly. Another way one can look at “disease” is by separating the prefix from the noun, dis-ease. Dis expresses negation or an absence or lack of the following word. So in this observation it would indicate a “lack of ease.”
Poverty and Incarceration as a Catalyst
When we examine the facts of the current American socioeconomic situation we find that even by 2016 statistics, over 40,000,000 Americans are living in poverty. Looking at these numbers more closely we find that there is an extreme disparity among race when it comes to poverty. According to 2016 US Census Data, the highest poverty rate by race is found among Native Americans (27.6%), with Blacks (26.2%) having the second highest poverty rate, and Hispanics (of any race) having the third highest poverty rate (23.4%). Whites had a poverty rate of 12.4%, while Asians had a poverty rate at 12.3%.
According to DrugPolicy.org, the “Drug War” drives also drives the racial disparities in the so-called “criminal justice system.”
Misguided drug laws and draconian sentencing have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for communities of color.
- People of color experience discrimination at every stage of the criminal justice system and are more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, convicted, harshly sentenced and saddled with a lifelong criminal record. This is particularly the case for drug law violations.
- Nearly 80% of people in federal prison and almost 60% of people in state prison for drug offenses are black or Latino.
- Research shows that prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for black people as for white people charged with the same offense. Among people who received a mandatory minimum sentence in 2011, 38% were Latino and 31% were black.
- Black people and Native Americans are more likely to be killed by law enforcement than other racial or ethnic groups. They are often stereotyped as being violent or addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Experts believe that stigma and racism may play a major role in police-community interactions.
When we look at all of the facts and statistics it is also little wonder that due to a combination of low pay, high costs of living, and incarcerated spouses the number of children living in poverty has now climbed to more than 1 out of 5 and is currently continuing to rise.
The current approach to the drug problem in the United States is NOT working. It creates a vicious cycle of users and makes criminals out of addicts. This in turn exacerbates the poverty problem, especially the numbers of children. The solutions to the problems are readily available and have been proven by countries around the world as well as in a handful of states in this country. This author will now offer several solutions and then explore each in more detail. This is going to be lengthy treatise but one that is worth reading every word, no matter how long it takes.
- Increase intervention and assistance to families at risk of causing adverse childhood experiences or ACEs.
- Pay EVERY American a LIVING WAGE, not a MINIMUM WAGE. The proposed $15 per hour is still not enough for people to survive in most of the U.S.
- Release nonviolent offenders currently serving sentences for possession of and selling cannabis.
- Legalize Cannabis and decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs in order to encourage lower opiate use.
- Subsidize drug treatment centers and make them widely available throughout the country.
- Increase taxes on alcohol and tobacco and provide mandatory rehab beginning with underage drinkers and smokers.
- Instead of building a wall send help to Mexico to deal with the cartels while we work to reduce the demand north of the border.
Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs
ACEs can cause extreme stress in children, including feelings of intense fear, terror, and helplessness. When these experiences are chronic, which they often are, toxic levels of stress hormones can disrupt normal mental and physical development. This can even change the structure of one’s brain and cause multiple negative outcomes as one grows into adulthood. Research has identified numerous health issues including drug abuse, depression, suicide, poor physical health, and obesity. In addition ACEs are linked to lower educational attainment, unemployment, and poverty.
According to research, the risk of negative outcomes later in life increases with the number of ACEs a child experiences. A seminal study published in the late 1990s by Felitti, Anda, and their colleagues (that first coined the term “adverse childhood experiences”) found that adults who had experienced four or more ACES had a particularly high risk for negative physical and mental health outcomes, including some of the leading causes of death in the United States.
A theory verified by preliminary evidence is that the effects of these negative experiences can be transferred to the next generation. Women that experience toxic stress during pregnancy can generate negative genetic programming as the fetus is developing. Infants born to women who experienced four or more childhood adversities were two to five times more likely to have poor physical and emotional health outcomes by 18 months of age, according to one recently published study.
Children of different races and ethnicity do not experience ACEs equally. Nationally, 61 percent of black non-Hispanic children and 51 percent of Hispanic children have experienced at least one ACE, compared with 40 percent of white non-Hispanic children and only 23 percent of Asian non-Hispanic children. In every region, the prevalence of ACEs is lowest among Asian non-Hispanic children and, in most regions, is highest among black non-Hispanic children.
A Living Wage
This is one of the biggest causes of drug AND alcohol addiction. When people live in an environment of survival mode constant despair they develop a form of PTSD and seek an escape from reality. For many, this is often connected the the psychological issues explained above, but for others there are a myriad of causes. Regardless of the reason, there is no excuse in a developed industrialized nation for its citizenry working a full time job to be unable to provide food and shelter for themselves.
You would have to earn $17.14 an hour, on average, to be able to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment without having to spend more than 30 percent of your income on housing, a common budgeting standard. Make that $21.21 for a two-bedroom home — nearly three times the federal minimum wage. These figures are from 2017. As mentioned in the bullet point, $15 per hour doesn’t even come close to providing even basic needs.
For the “anti living wage” crowd allow me to share information from a report that was just released that shows the disparity between Wall Street and Main Street:
Over the last decade Wall Street bonuses are up over 50% from a decade ago. Since 1985 bonuses for Wall Street bankers have exploded over 1,000 percent. In comparison, during this same time, the federal minimum wage has only gone up around 116% according to
By comparison, the federal minimum wage has increased about 116 percent during the same period, according to an analysis from the Institute for Policy Studies, a research center that used the comptroller’s latest data. If the minimum wage had grown at the same pace as Wall Street bonuses, fast-food workers and other low-wage workers would earn a baseline wage of $33.51 an hour, the group said.
The total Wall Street bonus pool last year was $27.5 billion, or more than triple the combined earnings of the 640,000 U.S. employees who earn the federal minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 an hour since 2009. More states are boosting their minimum wages in response to criticism that the federal baseline pay isn’t enough to provide a living wage.
As the information above indicates we need to stop increasing the income disparity by overpaying those at the top and underpaying those at the bottom. It is this income disparity that is responsible for many of the social ills we are now facing and it will also eventually cause the collapse of our society as we know it if left unaddressed.
Release Nonviolent Offenders Incarcerated for Cannabis and Minor Drug Charges
In 2016 alone, nearly 600,000 people were arrested for simple marijuana possession. These arrests on their own can create huge problems — leading to criminal records that can make it harder to get a job, housing, or financial aid for college.
The stats below are from DrugPolicy.org
Amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs: $47+ billion
Number of arrests in 2017 in the U.S. for drug law violations: 1,632,921
Number of drug arrests that were for possession only: 1,394,514 (85.4 percent)
Number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2017: 659,700
Number of those charged with marijuana law violations who were arrested for possession only: 599,282 (90.8 percent)
Percentage of people arrested for drug law violations who are Black or Latino: 46.9% (despite making up just 31.5% of the U.S. population)
Number of people in the U.S. incarcerated for a drug law violation in 2016: 456,000
Get more FACTS on the Drug War Facts website
Legalize Cannabis and Decriminalize Other Drugs Possessed in Small Amounts
According to a national poll from April of 2014 by the Pew Research Center 67% of American citizens think that the government should spend more time and money to provide treatment for drug users instead of incarcerating them. Seattle is leading the charge towards a more compassionate approach to enforcement of harder drugs by introducing a program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD). Offenders in the city are assigned a case manager that helps provide them with treatment, counseling, mental health services and even housing, instead of sentencing them to jail.
There are critics both nationally and globally that feel the United States is pursuing an ineffective and draconian course in drug policy that is behind the times culturally and scientifically.
Other countries have proven that legalizing and decriminalizing is far more useful and successful than locking citizens up for recreational drug use. Legalizing cannabis has not only been proven effective in reducing illegal drug activity and opiate overdoses but is also bringing in enormous tax revenues. These tax revenues can be used for positive programs such as building schools, drug treatment centers, and eliminating unwanted pregnancies. These are some of the programs that Colorado’s cannabis policy has funded.
The state’s first dispensaries began legal recreational sales on January 1, 2014. In 2014, combined recreational and medical sales totaled $683.5 million, and are expected to top $1.5 billion in 2018. Over the 5-year period, recreational sales generated 78% of sales revenue. The most recently published sales data shows combined 2018 sales though October of $1.27 billion.
$247 million in tax revenue
Tax revenues jumped 266% during the period, from $67 million in 2014 to $247.4 million in 2017. Colorado’s tax revenues have risen each year since recreational legalization, and currently represent about 1% of the state’s 2018 – 2019 fiscal year budget.
Taxes on cannabis are spent on public school projects, human services, public affairs, agriculture, labor and employment, judicial affairs, health care policy, transportation and regulatory affairs.
The financial data, read together with a social impact report released this week by Colorado’s Department of Criminal Justice, is insightful for Colorado and states considering legalization.
Number of people in the U.S. who died from an accidental drug overdose in 2017: 72,000
Number of people killed in Mexico’s drug war since 2006: 200,000+
Number of states that allow the medical use of marijuana: 33+ District of Columbia
Number of states that have legalized marijuana: 10 (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington State) + District of Columbia
Number of states that have decriminalized or removed the threat of jail time for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana: 22
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that syringe access programs lower HIV incidence among people who inject drugs by: 80 percent
Tax revenue that drug legalization would yield annually, if currently-illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco: $58 billion
It’s time to admit that the “War on Drugs” is an abysmal failure and take a lesson from other industrialized nations that have solved the problem with violence and incarceration. This is not a religious matter so the far right “Christians” need to stay out of it, this is a moral and ethical issue that should be dealt with appropriately.
Subsidize Drug Treatment Centers and Make Them Widely Available
Over the course of two decades, the Portugal government’s response had been one that Americans will recognize: it introduced increasingly harsh policies led by the criminal justice system, while conservative critics spoke out against drug use. By the late ’90s, about half the people in prison were there for drug-related reasons—creating a large addicted inmate population. Nothing was working. On the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S. was doing the same: spending billions of dollars cracking down on drug users.
But in 2001, Portugal took a radical step. It became the first country in the world to decriminalize the consumption of all drugs.
Seventeen years on, the U.S. is suffering its worst addiction epidemic in American history. In 2016 alone, an estimated 64,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses—more than the combined death tolls for Americans in the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq Wars. In Portugal, meanwhile, the drug-induced death rate has plummeted to five times lower than the E.U. average and stands at one-fiftieth of the United States’. Its rate of HIV infection has dropped from 104.2 new cases per million in 2000 to 4.2 cases per million in 2015. Drug use has declined overall among the 15- to 24-year-old population, those most at risk of initiating drug use.
The U.S. needs to catch up with the rest of the civilized world and embrace a more progressive and compassionate approach, one that works.
Increase Taxes on Alcohol and Tobacco
Tobacco kills nearly 500,000 people a year, while alcohol related deaths, not counting alcohol related accidents are over 80,000 per year. Contrast those figures with the fact that there has never been ONE DEATH attributed to cannabis and we know the reason for cannabis prohibition has nothing to do with disease prevention. On the contrary, numerous studies have proven that the medicinal plant has the ability to treat a host of diseases and illnesses.
Those who have railed against cannabis often cite that it is a “gateway” drug. The facts indicate that the true gateway drugs are tobacco and alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported those aged 12 to 20 drink 11 percent of alcohol consumed in the U.S. What’s worse is the lack of understanding about the dangers of drinking and binge drinking, which is how many young people consume alcohol. Those aged 12 to 20 consume over 90 percent of their alcohol in the form of binge drinking.
Alcohol was the first substance used for over 65 to 68 percent of participants.Spending on alcohol advertising increased to over $540 million in the U.S. from 1971 to 2011, and those born in the 1990s were the largest group to have tried alcohol before any other substance.
Stop vilifying cannabis, a naturally occurring plant with proven medicinal qualities and put the blame where it belongs, on the socially acceptable use of alcohol and tobacco that kills over a half million Americans every year. The only reason they are acceptable is because of the billions of dollars they have spent lobbying the government not to hold them accountable.
Build Bridges with Mexico Instead of Walls
The current administration of the United States wants Mexico to shoulder the blame for a drug problem that originates with the users north of the border, not the suppliers to the south. If drugs came across the border and there were no users, there would be no buyers. It is simple supply-demand economics. In addition, drugs also come in on the nation’s coastlines. How does a wall stop that?
Trump’s latest solution is to threaten Mexico with tariffs unless they do something to stop the flow of immigrants into the United States, people whom Trump also blames for drug trafficking despite evidence to the contrary. These tariffs only harm American consumers and businesses, and like the Chinese tariffs will have no effect on the country they are levied against.
The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Drug War has created the violence seen across Mexico with over 200,000 innocent people killed since it began in the 70s. It is reprehensible and unethical to demand that Mexico take responsibility for a drug problem with its roots in the United States.
Mexico’s new President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador calls for decriminalizing illegal drugs and transferring funding for combating the illicit substances to pay for treatment programs instead. It points to the failure of the decades-long international war on drugs, and calls for negotiating with the international community, and specifically the U.S., to ensure the new strategy’s success.
Drug reform advocates have welcomed AMLO’s plan. Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Newsweek that the Mexican president’s plan “reflects a shift in thinking on drug policy that is taking place around the world, including here in the U.S.”
“The war on drugs has been extremely costly, not just in terms of government resources, but also human lives, and it has failed to accomplish its objective,” he explained. “Prohibition policies have, by and large, caused more harm to people and communities than the drugs they were intended to eliminate, and they haven’t come anywhere close to eliminating the supply or the demand.”
One would think that in a nation that has been responsible for so many advances in the world that we could use the same intelligence to come to the correct solution to a situation caused by backwards thinking greedy men. We can no longer be controlled by the alcohol, tobacco, and Big Pharma lobbies that are concerned only with their own self interests at any cost.
Mexico is an ally and we rely on goods that come across the border on a daily basis. Mexico used to own well over a third of this country and many ancestors of those people live on both sides of the border. It is time to treat them as friends and family and work together to solve this problem. This is the only reasonable and sustainable solution to a problem that has gone unsolved for decades.