Over the past four decades, America through its policymakers has enacted numerous counterproductive substance abuse policies primarily aimed at drug prohibition. However, these systems share common grounds as they rely on law enforcement agencies such as criminal justice system in taming consumption of certain drugs. Besides, the counterproductive measures are addicted to the notion of abstinence as the only alternative approach to treatment and prevention as opposed to other evidence-based interventions. Consequently, such zero-tolerance actions have remained costly, punitive, overwhelmingly failing to meet the intended outcomes. As a result, many social scientists and elites have converged that drug menace is a global phenomenon that needs to be eliminated from the society in the interest of the greater good.
History of Drug Policy in the United States
Undoubtedly, drugs first surfaced in U.S. after the civil war, which made Opium popular in the 1800s. Afterward, other stimulating substances such as cocaine and coca that were used in drinks and health remedies followed the suit. Drugs performed different functions depending on the prescription provided. In particular, the country first discovered morphine in 1906, which was used for medicinal purposes. On the other hand, heroin and cocaine were prescribed to treat respiratory illness and manufacture of soft drinks respectively. However, the country witnessed a heightened awareness that abuse of psychotropic drugs such as opium and cocaine had a high potential for causing addiction. Subsequently, the local government implemented measures to ban the importation of opium (Thompson, 2015).
In fact, the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 envisaged and compelled all physicians to label their medicines accurately. In addition, being the first federal drug policy in the United States, the Harrison Narcotics Act restricted the production and sale of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and morphine. The enforcement of this policy resulted in the prosecution of more than 5,000 physicians and pharmacists who violated the provision of the Act (Thoumi, 2003). More importantly, the creation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics molded substance policy, representing tenure where substance abuse was increasingly criminalized with hiked penalties for marijuana use. It is worth noting that the Narcotics Control Act of 1956 ensured repressive and punitive legislation ever adopted by Congress with all discretion to suspend sentences. As a result, only first-time drug offenders were confined in parole. On the contrary, anyone selling heroin to minors could be invoked with a death sentence.