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The War On Drugs: A Losing Battle

In 1968, when American soldiers came home from the Vietnam War addicted to heroin, President Richard Nixon initiated the War on Drugs. More than a decade later, President Ronald Reagan launches the South Florida Drug Task force, headed by then Vice-President George Bush, in response to the city of Miami’s demand for help. In 1981, Miami was the financial and import central for cocaine and marijuana, and the residents were fed up. Thanks to the task force, drug arrests went up by 27%, and drug seizures went up by 50%.

With that, the need for prosecutors and judges also rose. Despite these increased arrests and seizures, marijuana and cocaine still poured into south Florida. At this stage, the root of the problem, the Colombian Cartels, was not attacked. The DEA soon realized that they needed to crack down on the cartels. In 1982 the DEA went to Colombia to eradicate fields of marijuana and coca plants. These fields were located and burned. The hard part now, was finding the labs used to turn the coca leaves into cocaine. These labs were in very remote locations, to avoid surveillance.

The DEA suspected that the cocaine labs were very large, but the Colombians kept eluding them. Finally the DEA was able to track down the chemicals used in the processing of cocaine to one of the labs, and the DEA scored their first major bust. On March 10, 1984 twelve tons of cocaine were seized from a very remote lab. The DEA thinks they made an impact, but amazingly the cocaine availability on American streets remained the same. The DEA is shocked, and realizes just how big the drug problem in the United States was.

Because the Cartel leaders had money, they also began to acquire power. The dealers run for political office and win. Drug dollars poured into Colombia, building cities. The United States respond to the rise in the drug lords’ power by pressuring Colombia to extradite narcotics traffickers to the U. S. The Colombians, who want no Colombians in American Jails, oppose this. The drug dealers both respected and feared extradition, and recognized the threat. When the Colombian Justice Minister openly supported extradition, he was assassinated.

Still, the U. S. essures the extradition issue. In 1985, anti-Government Guerillas, mainly composed of the drug dealers, attack the Colombian Supreme Court. The extradition requests were destroyed, and eleven Supreme Court Justices were killed. In total, over 200 people lost their lives. At this point, the drug lords are using terrorism to force the Colombian government to back off the extradition issue. During the 1980s, it appeared that Central America was awash in drugs, and drug money. The violence continues today, through drug related gang violence, to botched drug raids.

Drug dealers often carry weapons, some illegal, to defend themselves and their drugs. The drugs themselves do not cause violence; it is the fact that they are illegal that causes the violence. If two drug dealers have a dispute, they have no legal way for it to be settled. The only option for them is violence. At this time, the Parent’s Movement is focusing its attentions on marijuana and children. Nancy Reagan makes her famous “Just say No! ” speech and President Reagan makes marijuana a top priority.

Upon examining the relationship between marijuana use and violent crime, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded, “Rather than inducing violent or aggressive behavior through its purported effects of lowering inhibitions, weakening impulse control and heightening aggressive tendencies, marihuana was usually found to inhibit the expression of aggressive impulses by pacifying the user, interfering with muscular coordination, reducing psychomotor activities and generally producing states of drowsiness lethargy, timidity and passivity.

When also examining the medical affects of marijuana use, the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse concluded, “A careful search of the literature and testimony of the nation’s health officials has not revealed a single human fatality in the United States proven to have resulted solely from ingestion of marihuana. Experiments with the drug in monkeys demonstrated that the dose required for overdose death was enormous and for all practical purposes unachievable by humans smoking marihuana.

This is in marked contrast to other substances in common use, most notably alcohol and barbiturate sleeping pills. The World Health Organization reached the same conclusion in 1995. The World Health Organization released a study in March 1998 stating: “there are good reasons for saying that [the risks from cannabis] would be unlikely to seriously [compare to] the public health risks of alcohol and tobacco even if as many people used cannabis as now drink alcohol or smoke tobacco. ” Marijuana was seen as a gateway to other drugs, giving birth to the Gateway Theory.

Unfortunately, the Gateway Theory is flawed in many ways. In 1937 Harry Anslinger, then head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics testified before Congress, saying that there was no connection between the use of marijuana and the use of harder drugs, and in fact, the users of different drugs typically did not associate with one another. It also does not seem logical that the use of one drug would cause a craving for another drug, never used before. Many drug users say that the first drugs they ever used were the two socially sanctioned drugs, alcohol and tobacco. These drugs are both harmful and legal.

In March 1999, the Institute of Medicine issued a report on various aspects of marijuana, including the so-called, Gateway Theory (the theory that using marijuana leads people to use harder drugs like cocaine and heroin). The IOM stated, “There is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs. ” The Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report on marijuana explained that marijuana has been mistaken for a gateway drug in the past because “Patterns in progression of drug use from adolescence to adulthood are strikingly regular.

Because it is the most widely used illicit drug, marijuana is predictably the first illicit drug most people encounter. Not surprisingly, most users of other illicit drugs have used marijuana first. In fact, most drug users begin with alcohol and nicotine before marijuana, usually before they are of legal age. ” The 1999 federal National Household Survey of Drug Abuse provides an estimate of the age of first use of drugs. According to the Household Survey, the mean age of first use of marijuana in the US in 1997 was 17. 2 years. The mean age of first use of alcohol in that year, on the other hand, was 16. ears, and the mean age of first use of cigarettes was 15. 4 years old. The same survey reports, “The rate of past month illicit drug use among youths was higher among those that were currently using cigarettes or alcohol, compared with youths not using cigarettes or alcohol.

In 1999, 5. 6 percent of youth nonsmokers used illicit drugs, while among youths who used cigarettes, the rate of past month illicit drug use was 41. 1 percent. The rate of illicit drug use was also associated with the level of alcohol use. Among youths that were heavy drinkers in 1999, 66. ercent were also current illicit drug users. Among nondrinkers, only 5. 5 percent were current illicit drug users. ” Over 72 million Americans have used marijuana, yet for every 120 people who have ever tried marijuana, there is only one active, regular user of cocaine. Marijuana is also thought by many people to have medicinal properties, and people do use it for medicine. However, marijuana is illegal, turning the people who use it as medicine into criminals. In spite of the established medical value of marijuana, doctors are presently permitted to prescribe cocaine and morphine – but not marijuana.

In the 1970s, cannabis was “re-discovered” as a medical substance. Controlled studies have revealed its therapeutic utility in the treatment of cancer chemotherapy side effects, glaucoma, and spasticity ailments. Federal regulations continue to make research with the drug very difficult, however, and many promising areas of therapeutic application have received little or no attention. These include: asthma, AIDS, epilepsy, analgesic action, tumor retardation, nervous disorders, glaucoma and mental illness.

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, intended to prohibit marijuana’s social use, was most effective in prohibiting medical use of the drug. Strict regulations governing cultivation of the plant made its production impractical. New synthetic drugs caught the fancy of physicians and marijuana was used less frequently, Finally, in 1942, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics convinced the U. S. Pharmacopeia to remove the drug from its listing. The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 established five categories, or “schedules,” into which illicit and prescription drugs were placed.

Marijuana was placed in Schedule I, which defines the substance as having a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. To contrast, over 90 published reports and studies have shown marijuana has medical efficacy. The DEA’s Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young concluded: “In strict medical terms marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume. For example, eating 10 raw potatoes can result in a toxic response. By comparison, it is physically impossible to eat enough marijuana to induce death.

Marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis, marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care. ” The most profound activist for marijuana’s use as a medicine is Dr. Lester Grinspoon, author of Marihuana: The Forbidden Medicine. According to Grinspoon, “The only well-confirmed negative effect of marijuana is caused by the smoke, which contains three times more tars and five times more carbon monoxide than tobacco.

Nevertheless, even the heaviest marijuana smokers rarely use as much as an average tobacco smoker. And, of course, many prefer to eat it. ” His book includes personal accounts of how prescribed marijuana alleviated epilepsy, weight loss of aids, nausea of chemotherapy, menstrual pains, and the severe effects of multiple sclerosis. The illness with the most documentation and harmony among doctors which marijuana has successfully treated is MS. Grinspoon believes for MS sufferers, “Cannabis is the drug of necessity. ”

One patient of his, 51 year old Elizabeth MacRory, says “It has completely changed my life... It has helped with muscle spasms, allowed me to sleep properly, and helped control my bladder. ” Marijuana also proved to be effective in the treatment of glaucoma because its use lowers pressure on the eye. Glaucoma is an eye disease that afflicts more than four million Americans and is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. According to the National Society for Prevention of Blindness, there are 178,000 new cases of glaucoma diagnosed each year. Glaucoma can strike people of all ages but is most often found among those over 65.

The most common form of glaucoma is chronic or open-angle glaucoma. It is characterized by increased pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure or IOP) which can cause damage to the optic nerve if not controlled effectively. Other types of glaucoma include narrow-angle and secondary. Treatment of narrow-angle glaucoma is primarily surgical. In approximately 90% of the open-angle and secondary glaucoma topical (eyedrop), preparations along with some oral medications can effectively control the disease, but at least 10% of all cases fail to be completely controlled by available prescriptive drugs.

In some instances, available glaucoma medications can cause side effects such as headaches, kidney stones, burning of the eyes, blurred vision, cardiac arrhythmias, insomnia, and nervous anxiety. These side effects may become so severe that the patient must discontinue use. Scientists have been working to develop a marijuana eyedrop for several years. Until recently, they concentrated on delta-9-THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient. Some researchers, however, have begun to wonder if other constituents in the cannabis plant might be more effective in reducing IOP.

The few glaucoma patients who have continued, legal access to marijuana bolster this theory. In these cases, synthetic THC is only effective for a short period of time. Natural marijuana, however, consistently lowers IOP. Marijuana is the best natural expectorant to clear the human lungs of smog, dust and the phlegm associated with tobacco use. Marijuana smoke is a natural bronchial dilator, effectively dilating the airways of the lungs, the bronchi, opening them to allow more oxygen into the lungs.

That makes marijuana the best overall bronchial dilator for 80% of the population (the remaining 20% sometimes show minor negative reactions. ) Statistical evidence – showing up consistently as anomalies in matched populations – indicates that people who smoke tobacco cigarettes are usually better off and will live longer if they smoke cannabis moderately, too. Dr. Donald Tashkin, UCLA Pulmonary Studies, stated, “Taking a hit of marijuana has been known to stop a full blown asthma attack. ”

On September 6, 1988, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Chief Administrative Law Judge, Francis L. Young, ruled: “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known…. [T]he provisions of the [Controlled Substances] Act permit and require the transfer of marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II. It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance. ” The Institute of Medicine’s 1999 report on medical marijuana summarized the medical value of marijuana saying: “The accumulated data suggest a variety of indications, particularly for pain relief, antiemesis, and appetite stimulation.

For patients, such as those with AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, who suffer simultaneously from severe pain, nausea, and appetite loss, cannabinoid drugs might thus offer broad spectrum relief not found in any other single medication. The data are weaker for muscle spasticity, but moderately promising. The least promising categories are movement disorders, epilepsy, and glaucoma. Animal data are moderately supportive of a potential for cannabinoids in the treatment of movement disorders and might eventually yield stronger encouragement. ”

Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey’s assertion in his Scripps-Howard News Service column that no clinical evidence demonstrates that smoked marijuana is good medicine, is inconsistent with the facts. Whether this is an intentional deception, as part of the federal government’s stated public relations offensive against medical marijuana, or whether it is based on ignorance does not matter. The reality is General McCaffrey’s statements are not consistent with the facts. In the early 1980s the DEA focus was mainly cocaine and marijuana. However, a new problem was on the rise, crack.

Crack was distributed to the U. S. through the Bahamas. The Bahamas were ideal because of the islands and waterways, and the fact that Florida was only 90 minutes by air. At this point the drug smugglers have the advantage over the DEA. The smugglers were always just a few steps ahead of the law. The DEA tried using helicopters to catch the smugglers’ boats, but by the time the helicopters got close enough to make the grab; they would have to turn back because they were close to running out of gas. The DEA was seen as a dog trying to catch rabbits; the dog would catch one or two, but most of the time the rabbits get away.

Crack really began as a problem in Harlem, New York. The spread of crack moved like fire through dry brush in the New York Tri-State area. This drug hit the Black and Latino communities the hardest. Crack became more popular in inner cities because it was cheap compared to cocaine. Cocaine was seen as a drug for the rich, and crack was for the poor. Crack was also more addictive than cocaine, since smoking it made it more concentrated. Before the onset of crack, women were not statistically addicts. When women started using crack, it brought about a total disintegration of the family.

Babies born to mothers who used crack were addicted themselves. Heroin has been an abused drug since it’s conception in the late nineteenth century as a patent medicine. Today there are treatments available to heroin addicts, however users are still stigmatized and because of that stigma of being a “junkie”, many do not seek help. The health problems brought on by using heroin are usually associated with the use of needles. Hepatitis C and HIV are two of the biggest heath problems that IV heroin users face. Users that snort heroin or smoke it (referred to as “chasing the dragon”) have very few of these problems.

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