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The War on Drugs is an American term usually applied to the United States government’s campaign of the prohibition of drugs, military aid, and military intervention, with the stated aim being to reduce the illegal drug trade. This initiative includes a set of drug policies that are intended to discourage the production, distribution, and consumption of psychoactive drugs that the participating governments and the UN have made illegal. The term was popularized by the media shortly after a press conference given on June 18, 1971, by United States President Richard Nixon—the day after publication of a special message from President Nixon to the Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control—during which he declared drug abuse “public enemy number one”.
In June 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report on the War on Drugs, declaring: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.” The report was criticized by organizations that oppose a general legalization of drugs. On May 21, 2012, the U.S. Government published an updated version of its Drug Policy. The director stated simultaneously that this policy is something different from the “War on Drugs”.
Despite over $7 billion spent annually towards arresting and prosecuting nearly 800,000 people across the country for marijuana offenses in the US, according to FBI reports the federally funded Monitoring the Future Survey reports about 85% of high school seniors to find marijuana still “easy to obtain”. That figure has remained virtually unchanged since 1975, never dropping below 82.7% in three decades of national surveys. The Drug Enforcement Administration states that the number of users of marijuana in the U.S. declined between 2000 and 2005 even with many states passing new medical marijuana laws making access easier, though usage rates remain higher than they were in the 1990s according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
A 2013 study found that prices of heroin, cocaine, and cannabis had decreased from 1990 to 2007, but the purity of these drugs had increased during the same time. The War on Drugs is often called a policy failure. Since taking office on June 30, 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has carried out a “war on drugs” that has led to the deaths of over 7,000 Filipinos to date, mostly urban poor. At least 2,555 of the killings have been attributed to the Philippine National Police. Duterte and other senior officials have instigated and incited the killings in a campaign that could amount to crimes against humanity.
The Philippine president sees drug dealing and addiction as “major obstacles to the Philippines’ economic and social progress,” says John Gershman, an expert on Philippine politics. The drug war is a cornerstone of Duterte’s domestic policy and represents the extension of policies he has implemented earlier in his political career as the mayor of the city of Davao. In December 2016, the United States withheld poverty aid to the Philippines after declaring concern over Duterte’s war on drugs.
Human Rights Watch research has found that police are falsifying evidence to justify the unlawful killings. Despite growing calls for an investigation, Duterte has vowed to continue the campaign. Large-scale extrajudicial violence as a crime solution was a marker of Duterte’s 22-year tenure as mayor of Davao City and the cornerstone of his presidential campaign. On the eve of his May 9, 2016 election victory, Duterte told a crowd of more than 300,000: “If I make it to the presidential palace I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, holdup men, and do-nothings, you better get out because I’ll kill you.” Rejecting all criticism against his popular and bloody war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte last July 24, said that the campaign against illegal drugs in the country under his watch will be unrelenting. Duterte said he would not allow those involved in illegal drugs to “have the luxury of enjoying the benefits of their greed and madness.”
On the other hand, the Commission on Human Rights is still fighting to stop to what they call as “Extrajudicial Killings” of the government. According to them, if we cannot get justice here on earth, those behind the killings will be accountable in heaven. Duterte’s police have indeed shot dead thousands of people as they have scoured slums hunting drug traffickers and addicts, leading right groups to express alarm at what they say are a wave of extrajudicial killings. Solving the drug problem was among Duterte’s key promises during the 2016 elections. He campaigned on a platform of ending criminality in the country, including the illegal drug trade, in 6 months, but he had since extended this self-imposed deadline to the end of his term in 2022. The war on drugs is a battle yet to be won!
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