Since 1971, Americans have been victims of the war on drugs. Nixon began the war on drugs to target anti-war hippies and people of color, and we still pay the consequences today. As polls show that over 62% of Americans support marijuana legalization and psychedelics continue to help those in need, we are left to wonder why this drug war continues. Isn’t the government supposed to serve us? Aren’t our representatives supposed to represent American interests? Or are there other, less immediately apparent interests at play?
1. Marijuana is a Substitute for Painkillers
The opioid crisis is no secret. No longer is it a fringe political issue. Rather, many realize the full gravity of the situation that we’re in, yet we are doing little to solve it. As The Nation explains, 84 percent of the entire worldwide supply of oxycodone and almost 100 percent of hydrocodone opioids are consumed in the United States.
Prescription opioids are derived either from the opium poppy or are produced synthetically. Either way, they’re being fed to the masses and are responsible for over 16,000 U.S. deaths annually.
So why don’t people use marijuana as an alternative? There have been no reported deaths from marijuana use, making it worlds better than the traditional opioid painkiller. Sure, marijuana is no panacea. It has its downsides. But it isn’t killing off lower-class America with government subsidies to give it the extra boost it needs. That’s the pharmaceutical companies.
You barely have to look to see why the government favors pharmaceutical profits over American lives. The pharmaceutical industry donated $43 million in campaign funds to candidates of both parties in 2018. In 2016, contributions peaked at $63 million. In addition, pharmaceutical manufacturing also contributed $17 million and $20 million in 2018 and 2016, respectively.
This is not a partisan issue, either. Both the Republicans and Democrats are getting their pockets lined to screw you over. It’s not a party problem; it’s a government problem.
2. Psychedelics and Mental Health
The world of psychedelics is another discipline where the government seriously dropped the ball. There is extensive research going on in the world of psychedelics. Researchers are finding that using psychedelics can help with depression, drug addiction, anxiety, and fear of death. Since the 1960’s psychedelic wave, they have gotten little attention until recently.
In Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind, he explores the entire world of contemporary psychedelics to create a comprehensive overview of the psychedelic renaissance. When it comes to the issue of societal integration, Pollan identifies a pretty big roadblock. Phase 3 trials for drugs of this sort require tens of millions of dollars. “Normally Big Pharma foots the bill for such trials,” he says, “but thus far pharmaceutical companies have shown scant interest in psychedelics.”
And why would they? Antidepressant prescriptions have to be refilled over and over, putting more money into the pharma CEO’s pocket. They have the market cornered, and they’re going to keep a hold on it via politicians on leashes. “Big Pharma mostly invests in drugs for chronic conditions, the pills you have to take every day,” Pollan concludes. “Why would it invest in a pill patients might only need to take once in a lifetime?”
3. Psychedelics and Nicotine Addiction
Psychedelics also have a lot of potential when it comes to breaking a smoking habit. Johns Hopkins researchers found that 80% of subjects who took psilocybin had a six-month break from their smoking habit. This stands in stark contrast to the verenicline, which has a 35% success rate but is still considered to be the most effective smoking cessation drug.
To understand why this makes psilocybin illegal, you only have to look as far as big tobacco contributions. Sure, they aren’t what they used to be, but politicians don’t want to lose out on money. In 2018, the tobacco industry spent $23 million on lobbying efforts. If consumers can stay addicted, tobacco companies make money. If politicians streamline this process, they can join in the money as well.
4. The Drug War and Cheap Prison Labor
Another reason that the drug war continues is the slavery it allows for. The 13th amendment banned involuntary servitude, except in the case of punishment for a crime. This seems fine until you understand that the United States already holds 25% of the world’s prisoners.
People of color are disproportionately convicted of drug crimes. As the Drug Policy Alliance explains:
People of color experience discrimination at every stage of the judicial 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.
In addition, prosecutors are twice as likely to pursue a mandatory minimum sentence for a black person than a white person when dealing with the same crime. Clearly, there is a problem here. The drug war paired with the prison labor industry has allowed our society to carry forth the systemic racism of past decades, only less obviously. Why would the state end this money-making operation just for a few extra rights for its citizens?
5. Police Unions
In the United States, there are a few ways to make money. For instance, you can open a business and provide a good or service for consumers. In addition, you can invest in a company, giving someone else the capital to do the same thing for a future return. You can also get a job, working for someone else. But one tried and true method of money-making stands above the rest. If you want to make money in America, get a badge and start stealing property from marijuana users.
As The Nation continues, nearly two-thirds of police officers believe marijuana law needs to be reformed. Furthermore, 36 percent agree that it should just be legalized. However, the individual police officers don’t decide what the institution of police as a whole believes. It’s the police unions and organizations that are working to continue the drug war.
The Justice Department shows that between 2002 and 2012, police collected about $1 billion from marijuana arrests. It’s clear that police departments rely on civil asset forfeiture to supplement their department incomes. These organizations are going against the interests of the citizens and the police officers just to make money. But when it gets down to it, the government is just a get-rich-quick scheme. Because of the drug war, police benefit at the expense of your rights.
The Drug War Must Go
Clearly, we can see that the war on drugs doesn’t exist today to protect the everyday American. In many ways, it does more harm than good. The only reason that the drug war continues to this day is to benefit the special interest groups the government exists to serve. We must realize that the government is not here for the benefit of the average citizen. Rather, it’s here to create a crony-capitalist market and benefit the American oligarchy.