Four decades have passed since Nixon coined the term ´war on drugs´. In a message before Congress on July 14, 1969, President Nixon called for an anti-drug policy at the national and state level. President Nixon officially called for a ´war on drugs´ June 1971 citing drug abuse as ´public enemy #1.´ July 1973, The Drug Enforcement Agency was created to coordinate all drug related law enforcement with other agencies.
In 1975, the Colombian police siezed 600 kilos of cocaine from the cartel and drug traffickers responded with violence killing 40 people in what became known as the Medellin Massacre. This is the start of the Medellin Cartel.
In 1982 Panama´s president Manuel Noriega allowed Panama to be used by the cartel to ship drugs through Panama to the United States. Pablo Escobar even rose to power and gained a seat in the Colombian Congress, but was forced from his seat a year later by the minister of justice. In 1984 evidence was obtained that the Contras were also involved in drug trafficking and assisting the cartel. By the mid-80s drug trafficking routes would change from the entry point of Miami to the Mexican border. It would be later discovered that the CIA assisted Noriega in drug trafficking activities even while we were supposedly fighting against them.
Since that time the amount of money spent on the drug war has increased to the point that we spend $69 billion a year on the drug war. With all of our efforts drug abuse has not been stopped and the US has more of it´s population incarcerated than any country in the world. The drug war has cost 28,288 lives in Mexico alone, corruption is out of control and 90% of arms that are seized in Mexico are trafficked from the US to Mexico. Honduras is also quickly becoming a narcotics drop off point for planes that are coming in from Venezuela, Colombia and Panama and armed rebel groups are seen on levels that have never been seen before and the murder rate has skyrocketed at the same time.
With all of our efforts to stop drugs, drugs have only increased over time and drug availability is more than it was previously. Instead of spending money on interdiction and incarceration we need to focus on treatment. Almost all arrests for drugs are for possession. People who use drugs cannot be cured by incarceration and a criminal record that prevents them from employment or receiving any federal assistance.
Drugs should be decriminalized and our focus needs to be on education and rehabilitation. In today´s economy we cannot afford to fight a war that has given us more drugs, violence and corruption instead of less. Instead we need to focus on making drugs safer by control at the government level and taxing these drugs to use the revenues for education and treatment. We will find costs reduced at all levels of government, violence in Latin America will likely come almost to a standstill. With a single shot the United States can bring the violent drug cartels to a cold standstill by legalizing drugs and the whole world will be a safer place when they do.