In the 1970s and '80s, the United States went through a national drug epidemic that called for an emphasis on drug policy. The U.S. took the route of going hard on drugs, imprisoning users with mandatory minimum sentences and putting funding into agencies like the DEA in an effort to take drugs off the streets.
However, such policy was, in essence, a failure and is typically renowned as one of the major cons of the Reagan administration. This remains true due to issues that emerged such as mass incarceration, prison privatization, and race-related issues as the policy mainly targeted minorities. Additionally, the policy inadequately affected drug use in the United States, hence failing in its goal.
Now it is September of 2018 and history is about to repeat itself. To date, the U.S. is undergoing its most drastic situation in reference to drug abuse with approximately over 70,000 Americans overdosing in 2017, according to the CDC. Evidently, such death calls for action and the Trump administration does indeed have a response, but one for too similar to that of the past. In essence, we are potentially witnessing the "War on Drugs" 2.0, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has readopted anti-drug policies and has guided federal prosecutors towards hard sentencing in drug-related cases. This can all be seen in a memo of Sessions presented back in March of 2018 where we see him express for this hard crackdown on drug-related crimes, both violent and non-violent, in the federal court system. In essence, this memo preaches the idea of strengthening "law and order," a common term used typically amongst the GOP and other right-leaning sources, that simply calls for enhanced enforcement of laws and stronger punishments with the idea that it will scare individuals from committing more crime.
The problem with the ideology Sessions uses and the similar rhetoric of Reagan is that it simply does not work. The idea that crime will decrease this domino effect is far from reality. It has little to no effect on crime rate and damages relations between citizens and the government. Now, I could sit here and reiterate the numbers of mass incarceration and drug-induced deaths that came from such policy in the 1980s and how that same effect will carry into today but it is something that readers have seen everywhere.
Let's simply look at this from a principle standpoint, the United States government looks at drug distribution and drug use as a criminal offense, and that is where they go wrong. The use of narcotics, yes, is an immoral act and it is not something that should be encouraged but it should not be looked at as a punishable act. Those who use such products are in that situation for a spectrum of reasons. You can argue that such use derives from poor decisions and individual mistakes or maybe a lack of guidance, etc. However, whatever the reason may be the one thing that connects users is addiction and that's where drug policy plays its role.
Now the problem with current standards is the primary issue being neglected (this issue being addiction) as these forms of punishments being given focus on just that, punishment. Thus, you have a bunch of addicts in prison receiving insufficient help and then once they are released they go back into this cycle of addiction. The real solution here is from the perspective we view addiction, the reality it is it's not a criminal issue but a health issue. Addiction is an uncontrollable disease and the only means to cease illicit drug use is by focusing on rehabilitation amongst users. Not only does this target the drug epidemic from a possession standpoint but it carries over into distribution as it targets the notion of supply and demand. If more users are being rehabilitated then that leaves for less demand on the market and hence less drug-related crime, along with an inflated market of high drug prices that pushes away users even more.
The solution to this mass epidemic is right there to take but unfortunately, the U.S. government is continuously moving in a direction of criminalized drug policy and consistent failure.