The Great Debate
Celebrated actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death at age 46 from an apparent heroin overdose is yet another indictment of the ongoing failure of drug war officials, interest groups, and politicians to confront the rising, decades-long epidemic of middle-aged abuse of illicit drugs, which now kills an American age 40-64 every 20 minutes.
It’s been nearly a century since the United States began its experiment in prohibiting recreational drugs besides alcohol, caffeine and tobacco — and virtually no one sees the trillion dollar policy as a success. A recent study [PDF] shows that drug prices have dropped more than 80 percent in the last two decades alone; purity and availability has risen; and overall addiction and death rates haven’t been cut, despite an exponential increase in incarceration since the 1980s.
Recent voting in Colorado and Washington exposes a striking discrepancy in the national legal status of marijuana. Under current federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, which places it in the same category as heroin, peyote, LSD and Ecstasy. To be qualified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance, a drug must have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.
By Federico Varese
The opinions expressed are his own.
Hillary Clinton had many “hard issues” to tackle during her recent visit to Myanmar. Yet there was no mention of one of the most, if not the most, difficult issue Burma faces: their lucrative drug trade.
Between 1971, when Richard Nixon launched the war on drugs, and 2008, the latest year for which official figures are available, American law enforcement officials made more than 40 million drug arrests. That number roughly equals the population of California, or of the 33 biggest U.S. cities.
During a visit to Mexico a year ago, President Barack Obama promised he would urge the U.S. Senate to ratify an international treaty designed to curb the flow of weapons to Latin American drug cartels. It remains just that – a promise. Prospects for ratification are virtually zero.