The American Constitution and Drug War

2021-04-28 16:16:21
6 pages
1592 words
George Washington University
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Research paper
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The agreement with regards to the laws on drug in the United States favors more rigorous and draconian laws, intended to prevent use and castigate offense. The issue on drug war has been a major concern to key stakeholders especially the civil liberty groups and the preservation of the Bill of rights under the constitution. Many claims have been tabled against drug prohibition as it causes increase in crime, moral degradation, corruption of the law enforcement and most importantly, the destruction of inner circles around families and diseases (Echegaray, 2006). When one keenly delves into the impact of the drug prohibition, one has to query whether the cost of implementing the process has been worth it. Unquestionably, an argument wishing for abolition of prohibition does not necessarily mean a favor to drug use, but just simply portrays the unsuccessful attempt to control individual choices. Based on these arguments, it is clear that the unintentional consequences of such attempts may bar any benefits. Additionally, one has to wonder whether the laws are at the federal level, constitutional level or not. This paper critically analyzes the issue of drug prohibition from a constitutional standpoint , an economic viewpoint and the societal impact created by these laws.

War on Drugs

First and foremost, the term War on Drugs in the American concept is used to mean a campaign promoting prohibition of drugs, military aid and intervention aimed at curbing the illegal drug trade (Gray, 2010). The term involves the establishment and setting of drug policies which are intended to prevent the production, distribution, and consumption of drugs that have been declared illegal by the participating governments and the UN. The issue of drug prohibition can be traced back to the early twentieth century, 1914, when the first ever U.S law on drug prohibition was ever made. The policy back then restricted the use of certain drugs that is in the Narcotics Tax Act. in the year 1919, another policy was passed against sale, manufacture, and prohibition of alcohol except when intended for medical or religious uses. Since then many others law on prohibition of various drugs, with the use of the term war on drugs coming out openly in 1971, when the President of the United States, Richard Nixon, made his speech on Drug Abuse and Control. It is during this time that he declared drug abuse the public enemy number one and recommended allocation of federal resources to prevent new addicts and rehabilitate those who were already addicted (Echegaray, 2006). Henceforth, the war on drugs has now become an everyday activity with the federal government and other key players forming an alliance to effectively enforce the restriction of drug supply thus reducing demand and build recovery eventually supporting the addicts.

Constitutional Standpoint

It is of key importance to note that according to the laws of the United States, the Constitution is indeed the supreme law of the land. Nevertheless, in as much as the declaration seems axiomatic, it is necessary to determine the explications and the implications it has caused in regards to the war on drugs (Bradley, 2010). It has always been assumed that whatever the federal government passes is by the fact itself constitutional, notwithstanding the Supreme Court. However, to some, this statement is blatantly false. They believe the constitution has been ratified based on the condition that the only powers possessed by the federal government are those specifically delegated to it by the States. This is often reinforced by the 10th amendment of Unremunerated rights and reserved rights. In this view then, the federal government is limited and defined in its executions on drug prohibitions. The only way through which the federal government can garner new powers can only be through the article Vs amended process. in fact, this is the exact approach the United States used in regards to the alcohol prohibition.

The objection which has often been used to show that the federal government uses powers it has been given include the Supremacy Clause, the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause. These four clauses have been very controversial, to say the least. Scholars and polemicists have debated the meaning and understanding of these clauses since the outset of the Constitution Gray, 2010). However, examining these clauses, only one meaning would seem ratifiable: what the people and states ratifying the Constitution would have understood the meaning of these clauses to be. Moreover, a clear understanding of these clauses will dictate faithful obeisance to its meaning and not transgression; for if the life of the drug war hangs on a breach of the constitution, justice demands remediation.

Understanding the Supremacy clause and its consequences would settle many of the drug-related disputes. The federal preemption of the state tort laws remains one of the most important and yet controversial defenses used by drug and medical device manufacturers to defend themselves against the product liability lawsuits (Bradley, 2010). The defense depends on the existence of the constitutional Supremacy clause to invalidate the state laws that conflict with the federal laws. It clearly states that the state laws that are in variance with the federal policy should be generally preempted and thus declared void. Nonetheless, it remains a great concern, about the extent to which the federal government can prohibit the drug trade.

Economic Perspective

From an economic perspective, the federal and state government in the United States faces extensive looming fiscal deficits in terms of drug prohibition. The government spends almost $51 billion annually to help prevent drug addiction and rehabilitate those already addicted (Clements & Zhao, 2009One of the major ways in which the government can reduce these deficits is by ending its war on drug. By legalizing various drugs, then it would mean that the government ends up spending less in terms of enforcement. Addition, an adoption to legalization would mean an increase in tax revenue from legalized sales. In fact, according to a report carried out by Miron (2010), a legalization of drugs could result to a save up of about $41.3 billion annually from enforcement of prohibition, with $25.7 billion going to local governments and $15.6 billion being accrued by the federal government.

Moreover, Prohibition of drugs and corruption are highly interrelated. The prohibition of the drugs results in an increase in profitability of illicit drugs, which in turn gives room to corrupt practices. Through the prohibition policies, the key stakeholders in the drug industry earn massive monetary profits annually and it is this money that the drug manufacturers use to gain both incentive and the ability to corrupt officials (Miron, 2010). For one to easily understand why prohibition policies create higher monetary profits to the drug manufacturers, it is necessary to consider the risks these producers undertake. The government has limited resources. They thus opt to target the large drug producers than the street dealers or users with the intention to incarcerate drug production at its root. This means the producer is at a higher risk since he is constantly engaging in illegal activities such as bribing or smuggling, unlike a user who uses it only briefly. The heightened risk causes the supply of drugs to fall more than the demand, thus resulting in an increase in price. Therefore, economically, the prohibition policies are doing more harm than good.

Society Impact

In terms of society, most critics argue that violence does not result from drug trade but instead arises from the drug prohibition aspect. Others claim that that drug crimes are victimless. That carrying out of drug trafficking or consumption are both as a result of voluntary transactions. The activities cannot be traditional crimes such as rape or murder since both parties are ready and willing to participate in the transactions. Therefore it is only prudent for one to say that the drug crimes, from this perspective, are less victimizing. Additionally, the drug prohibition policies have led to the destruction of family ties. The number of people behind bars that have been charged on drug account has risen to over 50,000 since 1980, to almost half a million at the present day (Gray, 2010). this means that most people in America have at least a father, mother, sister or close relative behind bars having been charged on drugs. Another impact of this prohibition is the increase in cases of contracted diseases such as HIV/AIDS. The spread of such diseases is attributed to using shared syringes, yet the federal government limits access to these sterile syringes resulting to increases in the people contraction the diseases.

Conclusively, the drug prohibition policies, in as much as they were intended to help protect the citizens, they have become a reason for increased practice, violence, and corruption. They have become a major issue of concern constitutionally, prompting serious court battles on whether what the extent to which the state can go in amending these policies while still observing the constitution of the land. Nonetheless, it remains crystal clear, the state and the federal government has to look for alternative strategies to deal with drug trade since prohibition, as it is per now, is causing more harm than good to the American society.


Echegaray, M. M. (2006). Drug Prohibition in America: Federal Drug Policy and its Consequences. Rev. Jur. UPR, 75, 1215.

Clements, K. W., & Zhao, X. (2009). Economics and Marijuana: Consumption, Pricing, and Legalisation. Cambridge University Press.

Miron, J. A. (2010). The budgetary implications of drug prohibition. Manuscript, Harvard Univ.

Gray, J. (2010). Why our drug laws have failed: a judicial indictment of the war on drugs. Temple University Press.

Bradley, C. A. (2010). The United States and Human Rights Treaties: Race Relations, the Cold War, and Constitutionalism. Chinese Journal of International Law, jmq014.

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