Why We Will Not Win the War on Drugs


By William Bixby

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Since the eighties, our government has proposed an all-out “war on drugs.” The prevalence of cocaine and heroin related deaths and crimes sky-rocketed during the eighties and it has never fully receded to the ratios that were set prior to that decade. The American government vowed to stop the flow of illegal recreational drugs into this country, but have failed for a myriad of reasons. These are the reasons why the United States will not win the war against drugs.

1. People Want Drugs

The first reason that America can not win the war on drugs is also the most obvious reason. The American people want drugs. According to the National Drug Threat Assessment 2010 which was published by the United States Justice Department, the United States uses more illegal drugs than any other country. In fact, our country uses more than twice as many drugs as Spain, the next country on the list, and nearly as much illegal substances as the next three countries combined, Spain, Italy, and Canada, respectively. The United States spends 215 billion dollars annually on illicit drugs.

2. New Technology

Drug cartels have used speed boats for decades, and have used parasitic devices on cargo ships for even longer, but they are becoming more inventive and deceptive in how they move their drugs into the United States. Cartels utilize scientists to traffic their drugs in ways that law enforcement officials did not believe were possible until now.

A. Semi-submarines – 60 foot semi-submersible water vehicles are capable of carrying 6-8 tons of cocaine which is worth $160 million dollars in street value.  Over the last decade, 63 of these vehicles have been captured, but it is estimated that only 1 of 10 of the semi-subs are taken by law enforcement, so over a billion dollars in cocaine reaches the States annually through these vehicles.

B. Submarines – Drug cartels are now hiring engineers to build actual fully functional submarines. The first one was discovered in South America about 6 years ago. Made from from lightweight materials, diesel fueled, and coated in Kevlar, these subs are over 100 feet long and capable of holding 7-8 tons which translates into about $160 million at street value. These subs dive 65 feet underwater, and are almost completely undetectable by sonar. So, the amount of illegal drugs that reaches North America through this method can not even be calculated.

C. In 2000, a torpedo named the Neptune project hit the black market for sale to drug traffickers. The torpedo could be dragged by a fishing boat from shoreline to shoreline, so it was economical and relatively inexpensive. Each torpedo only carried about 3 tons of cargo, but that still equates to about $24 million of drug money and law enforcement officials have no way of detecting the submersible. The Neptune project has two special attributes that made it infinitely more desired and profitable than most other ways of drug trafficking. First, because it has no fuel based engine, it has no heat signature that makes it detectable by sonar or radar. And second, it has a unique feature that has made it preferable to other trafficking options. The torpedo is attached to fishing boats by up to 1,000 feet of line by a clasp. If the boat is approached by law enforcement, then the navigator of the boat releases the cargo into the ocean where it is undetectable. But, whereas before drug traffickers would have had to accept the loss of product, this torpedo has a buoy attached to it that resurfaces via radio signal and sends a signal so that runners can retrieve it once the trouble has past.

Ultralights – An ultralight is a lightweight single wing aircraft that can only hold a single person. The Mexican drug cartel has drug runners fly across the border, make drops, and return without touching down. The aircraft itself only weighs about 300 to 400 lbs. and it carries about the same weight in marijuana to cartel members in the U.S. Each drop equals about a quarter million dollars on the street, so the this new method of making deliveries figures to be used for a long period of time.

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3. Drug Enforcement Profits

There is no simple solution to controlling drug trafficking, and law enforcement only poses a small obstacle for the criminals who sell illegal drugs. The criminals have unlimited, nontaxable financial resources, adequate if not equal firepower, and no restrictions of morality, no restrictions on the methodology used to get to an end, and no applicable repercussions for the people making the decisions (the soldiers at lower levels pay the price with jail time or their lives). The United States has spent over $12,206,399,000 this year alone on the war of drugs, and over a trillion dollars since the inception of the “war.” According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation 858,408 people were arrested on charges related to cannabis alone. 89% were charged with possession. There is no concerted effort to stop drug use, only a ploy to make money off its users. Federal administration has spent record numbers on interdiction – intercepting traffickers – and law enforcement spending 10 billion dollars solely in those two areas.


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