Drugs and Drug Policy In America: Relationship Between Drugs and Crime

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The assortment of crimes that remain affiliated with drug use span from aggressive (such as homicide and aggravated assault) to greed (burglary, counterfeit, and deception) to distinct drug-law violations. Also, crimes such as bribery and corruption stay related to drug use as a result of drug policy prohibitions. Traditionally, arguments of the drug-crime relationship have concentrated substantially on violent crime; however, it is essential to identify the complexity of criminal acts associated with drug use.

According to Goode (1997), the background of drugs of drug politics amidst the U.S. can remain depicted by examining the five main approaches: prohibition, risk or harm reduction, medicalization, legalization/regulation, and allowance. Prohibition rests on the point of the deterrence theory. The deterrence theory works in two ways. First, being an abrupt and cruel, and distasteful punishment is used to educate the offender from the sense of right and wrong. Secondly, by punishing a few criminals will show as a forewarning to the rest of the population (Walker, 2006).

Risk reduction implements a public-health appeal to minimize the risk and suffering linked with illicit drug use and highlights schooling on risks and safer use practices, avoiding, and care. In other words, risk reduction directs to deplete the grief done by the criminal justice system through appropriate drug education as an alternative. Medicalization calls for medical practitioners treatment for drug addicts, surveying substance abuse chiefly as a medical issue. However, the medicalization model suggests that drugs are a health problem, thereupon requiring physicians to treat drug users. Legalization/ regulation supports expanded entrance to drugs through governmental regulation of these substances, with the feasible scattering of distinct substances through governmentally- organized distribution pathways. That is to say, legalization and regulation are the differing of prohibition. In conclusion, decriminalization appeals for an overall resolution to the use of criminal law to discuss individual drug use.

Efforts to address the drugs-crime relationship be directed to incorporate an awareness of how the enhancement of policy and law has provided. Policy strategies for drug use in the United States have commonly varied between legal marks in the 19th century to decriminalization, lowering suffering, pathologization, and strict prohibition in the 20th century. Over time, the policy has changed to diversified points along this continuum and often occurs at different points at the same time in separate locations and for varied substances. Every time policy evolves, the act of drug use takes on a slightly different character concerning felonies. Consequently, it is crucial to prompt a brief history of drug policy in the United States, together with possible modern positions in the drug policy debate, as each circumstance for a drug-related crime.

The nineteenth-century national drug policy was persistent with both libertarianism and the open market. While the federal government typically controlled the importation of drugs such as opium and cocaine, few codes of practice were overseeing the issuing of these and other drugs through what came to be labeled the 'patent medicine industry' (Belenko, 2000). One of the first accomplishments of the early 20th-century social reform movement was the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, which enforced the patent medicine field to document product ingredients. Later, the Harrison Act of 1914 and the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The passage of these two acts built the manufacture, sales, and ownership of a variety of drugs illegal, in addition to opiates and cocaine, along with the non-medical use of marijuana. An utterly-prohibitionist steady approach continued through the 1950s with the Boogs Acts of 1951 and the Narcotic Control Act of 1956, when required minimum sentences for federal drug trafficking law violations supported, and arrest without in need of a warrant for drug charges was authorized.

The 1960s and 1970s depicted a significant cultural shift in the United States. In 1966, the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act permitted the foundation of the civil commitment system for federal offenders as an alternative of prosecution, as well as inspiring state and local government to develop their treatment program. However, it was during the 'War on Drugs' was resurrected, and the government constructed the term 'Just Say No' to discourage drug use. This era was regarded as a point in time when drug use was by and large considered a medical/mental health dilemma to be delivered by treatment, with lessened significance on criminal penalties for ownership and use.

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However, due to the apparent growth in drug use evidenced by ascending drug overdose problems and drug treatment admissions, a more prohibitionist movement flooded the nation again. In 1986 the Anti-Drug Abuse Act was born, which reinforced federal effort to fight the war on drugs in various ways. The Anti-Drug Act included taxes on merchandise from countries that do not cooperate with the U.S. efforts to abolish drugs within the U.S. Many states passed legislation banning patent medicine and alcohol sales, as well as marijuana use, a decade or more before identical legislation and was passed by Congress (Belenko, 2000).

Current drug policy is undergoing rapid change, which affects the drug-crime relationship. Some of these significant policy shifts include medical marijuana or decriminalization of marijuana, lessening the sentencing disparity of cocaine, reevaluating the mandatory minimum sentencing concept, and even analyzing treating offenders in lieu incarceration.


The changes drug policy took in the U.S. had an impact on the relationship on crimes influenced by drugs. Changes in drug policy motivated by concerns for public safety and the perception of a direct drugs-violence relationship (Brownstein, 2000). For example, the drug policy movement (changing from legal markets to strict prohibition) to the early 1900s was accompanied by horror stories focused on exaggerated claims of criminal behavioral consequences of drug use. In this era, there was a particular emphasis on appalling, violent crime (including rape), with minority group members often painted as the drug users entangled in violent behavior. Documents have surfaced from the public concern of the time (which leans towards the fixation) with Chinese opiate use, African American cocaine use, and the use of marihuana by Mexicans (Belenko, 2000). Sandwiched between the best known of these efforts were the films 'The Man with the Golden Arm' (1995), appearing to portray the effects of heroin use and injections.

Criminologist Paul Goldstein (1985) introduced what turned out to be the perspective most frequently used model to clarify the relationship between drug use and violence. Goldstein's framework offered three theories, which include a psychopharmacological model that could affect directly or indirectly from the biochemical developmental consequences of drug use. 'Economic compulsive model' being the second model relating to behavior or crimes engaged in to obtain money for drugs. Moreover, the 'systemic violence model,' which could appear in the perspective of drug distribution, control of markets, the procedure of attaining drugs and or the social conditions of drug distribution or use areas. Goldstein (1985) claims that most of these criminals, especially heroin addicts, will not follow violent crime, instead opting for a non-violent solution.

Nevertheless, some evidence points to the environment as being a more powerful explanatory variable in explaining the drugs-violence relationship than the psychopharmacological properties of drugs (Brownstein,2000). Evidence of this shown in Goldstein's (1989) study on homicide in New York. A representation of this is killing someone for selling corrupt or tainted drugs or even killing to control territory to continue to pedal illicit drugs.




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