Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

Epic Failure: The Uncomfortable Truth about the United States' Role in the Failure of the Global War on Drugs and How It Is Going to Fix It

Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

Epic Failure: The Uncomfortable Truth about the United States' Role in the Failure of the Global War on Drugs and How It Is Going to Fix It

Article excerpt


The global war on drugs has been deemed a failure, an apt categorization considering the billions in exorbitant expenditures applied to its supply-side campaign with little statistics to effectuate its cause. (1) In fact, evidence persistently suggests that the ardent prohibitionist style of the United States may be the leading cause for the current global drug epidemic. (2) The disheartening current state of the international drug problem has lead to the global erosion of support for the U.S.-style war on drugs; furthermore, the emergence of new empirical data has generated a series of advocates for reform who seek fiscally responsible policies grounded in science, health, security, and human rights. (3) Part and parcel of this argument is the encouragement of governments to experiment with the legal regulation of marijuana because of its vast global consumption and low level of associated criminality. (4) Evidence suggesting there are more pragmatic and less punitive approaches to the drug issue, coalescing with various global commissions advocating the assimilation of this data into policies, represents a shift in the global drug consensus. (5) This shift in global consensus places the United States, in the necessary sociopolitical context that may be needed to actually manage the drug epidemic. (6)

This Note argues that the United States has severely aggravated the global drug control problem by forcefully imposing a prohibitionist ideology onto other countries around the world. (7) To remedy this error, the United States should take accountability and stand at the forefront of drug policy reformation by implementing demand side policies within its own nation, something that is within its own capacity. (8) Part II of this Note will set forth all of the pertinent facts that are necessary for understanding the current global drug epidemic, how the epidemic arrived at this state, and what the United States can do to manage it. (9) In Part III, this Note traces the history of international drug control and attempts to correlate the demise of control over the issue with U.S.-led supply-side policies. (10) Part IV provides an analysis of how the United States exacerbated the problem and suggests an avenue the United States can take to place the issue in a manageable position. (11) Part V concludes that the United States should take accountability for its mistakes and reform its policies from a regime of prohibition to one of regulation. (12)


The ineffectiveness of the war against drugs, both domestically and internationally, is not a relatively new or veiled problem (13) Despite the continual emergence of empirical evidence, little has been done to assimilate this information into drug control policies since the war was first waged by international policymakers and President Richard Nixon over forty years ago. (14) Recently, case studies and evidence have accumulated to a level that can no longer be ignored, and the debate concerning more efficient alternatives and revisions to current drug control policies has intensified. (15) International commissions such as the Global Commission on Drug Control Policy are chastising global drug control regimes for their lack of leadership on drug policy and are advocating for multilateral debate on this issue. (16) Essential to the progression of this issue is the United States, who within the past forty years has spent over $2.5 trillion dollars fighting the war, with little empirical data to support meaningful results. (17) In fact, research has consistently indicated that the United States supply-side policies are instead a leading cause of the current international epidemic. (18)

A. The First Step to Solving a Problem is Recognizing That There is One--Current State of International Drug Control

With the implementation of the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs ("UNSCND") nearly fifty years ago, it was clear that the ultimate objective was to improve the "health and welfare of mankind. …

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