This week I am taking a look at how reefer madness, propaganda and successive disastrous anti-drug campaigns have created the opportunity for political prohibitionists around the world to break up families, destroy lives, incarcerate vast numbers of people and even murder people in this failed “war on drugs”.
Born out of the Nixon and Regan “Just say No” school of drug policy DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) an anti-drug campaign was launched in 1983 in Los Angeles, California.
It has since grown nationally and internationally and has subsequently been instrumental in the escalation of the global war on drugs, creating the situation we’re in now where supposedly democratic countries can incarcerate and kill vast numbers of their own citizens.
The vast majority of those locked up are disproportionately poor, ethnic minorities predominantly dealers with the so called “low hanging fruit”those often just caught in possession such as the novice and naive youth, the intellectually challenged and those with mental health conditions making up the rest of the caged consumers.
The program which is a strong proponent of the now debunked theories and the reefer madness ideologies of the gateway theory, cannabis is addictive and causes Schizophrenia claims to “provide students from kindergarten (Infants) through to high (secondary) school with the skills necessary to recognise and resist pressures to experiment with drugs and to avoid gangs and violence”.
In reality the approach of DARE and other similar organisations actually replace any opportunity to teach kids truths about drugs that could serve them well for the rest of their lives instead it merely provides a brief respite from the mundanity of the syllabus, much like the drugs themselves, which as a result of prohibition are rife in schools across the world.
The program is used in nearly 80% of the school districts in America and in 54 other countries around the world (including the UK) teaching some 36,000,000 students each year.
The program started in Britain back in 1995 and has received consistent criticism and since it launched it has been indoctrinating children as young as 5 in this backward, antiquated and deeply detrimental world view under the name of “Life skills Education”
Unfortunately by attempting to overly emphasise and sensationalise the potential hazards and dangers of so called hard illegal drug abuse, DARE actually inadvertently conveys the impression that alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs are innocuous because of their legality and in contrast to the propaganda that they’ve been fed about even soft drugs like cannabis and magic mushrooms.
Even the US Department of Education prohibits schools from spending its funding on D.A.R.E because the program is deemed to be completely ineffective in reducing alcohol and drug use.
DARE itself claims that the fact that the majority of the public like the idea of the anti-drug campaign is enough evidence of the efficacy of the program itself, and that to “test” it would require many years and millions of dollars – it’s a decision that no politician has yet dared make.
This antiquated ideology is, unfortunately, re-emerging in the East and is epitomised by the Philippino president Rodrigo Duterte whose drug policies are currently excusing a genocide on the many island nation after he reignited his own Nation’s War on drugs in full force.
Duterte’s war on drugs has now claimed the lives of 13,000+ people deemed to be drug consumers or dealers.
Incredibility among all of this bloodshed and rampant corruption The Philippines voted just 24hrs after voting to reinstate the death penalty for certain drugs charges to give its citizens lawful access to medical cannabis for a condition such as Epilepsy, Cancer, and MS.
But all is not well for regular cannabis consumers in The Philippines, as it is likely the war on drugs will still affect them:
“If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it, ever. It remains to be a prohibited item and there’s always a threat of being arrested. If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die. “Medicinal marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now. There are drugs right now being developed or already in the market that (have) marijuana as a component.” – President Durete
It is worth noting that Filipino president Duterte has some striking similarities with another recently appointed US president Donald J Trump who, with the help of Jeff Sessions seems poised to reignite the war on drugs in the home of the failed policy.
back in May Jeff Sessions reversed his predecessor’s initiative to end excessive, racist and socially destructive mandatory minimum sentences, claiming, without evidence, that Holder’s sentencing changes had led to America’s sudden 10.8% increase in murders in 2015. This plus the reversal of the plan to end privatised, for profit prison seems to point towards a stepping up of the drug war in the states in coming years.
Recently another Asian nation has been hinting at adopting this monstrous and draconian approach to this failed policy.
Head of Indonesia’s narcotics agency Commissioner General Budi Waseso, recently remarked that “The market that existed in the Philippines is moving to Indonesia, the impact of President Duterte’s actions is an exodus to Indonesia, including the substance.” Indonesian president Joko Widodohaswho was recently quoted at a press conference as saying”I have told you, just be firm, especially with foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist [arrest]. Gun them down. Give no mercy,” sparking fears that they may be the next country to adopt this vile human rights abuse as official government policy.
What the prohibitionist and promulgators of propaganda cannot seem to understand is that humans enjoy altering their consciousness by taking drugs and have done for millennia, be it through smoking a cigarette, drinking alcohol, consuming cannabis, eating magic mushrooms or taking LSD.
They fail to grasp that it is impossible to prohibit a behaviour out of existence. This is epitomised by the temperance movement, which attempted to deal with the “moral decay” caused by rampant alcoholism in the United States by prohibiting it. Readers of history will be aware that this drastically increased the negative effects that the drug had while minimising any potential benefits it could bring to society much like the situation we currently have with Cannabis.
The damage is somewhat negated by legalising alcohol, taxing it and using the funds on education and rehab schemes rather than criminalising all alcohol uses to “protect” the comparative few that abuse the drug. Tobacco, as well, is a greatly destructive drug, yet isn’t prohibited, it is simply taxed higher each year in the UK attempt to deter its use.
Governments around the world are perpetuating this policy of manslaughter by proxy by failing to address this failed antiquated global policy.
The results are in and prohibition doesn’t work – it causes more dependency issues, more violence, more suffering, perpetuates racial, class and economic divides, and disproportionally incarcerates minorities, the poor and society’s most vulnerable.
There is some silver lining – Even the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisations (WHO) is now advocating for the abolition of prohibition and the global decriminalisation of all drugs. And at least the topic is being openly talked about by activists and charities in the UK and worldwide as we fight towards a brighter future. By discussing the failures of drug prohibition you are actively helping to bridge the gulf between the stereotypes cast by propaganda and the real lives of the multitude of cannabis consumers.