Over the past decade, drug crimes and drug abuse have garnered a lot of attention. It is estimated that every year about $110 billion is cost to the country through drug related accidental injuries and deaths, health care, criminal behaviors, dependency treatment and so on. Both the state and federal laws prohibit the manufacturing, possession, and the sale of certain controlled substances such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and ecstasy. Drug's relation to crimes is through the effects drugs make on the user's behavior by influencing him to commit violence and other illegal action connected to drug trafficking. In 2004, 18% of federal and 17% of state prisoners have admitted that the commission of their current offenses was related to the intention of obtaining money for drugs. As per the report of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) of 2007, 26% of the victims of violence, when asked to describe if their attacker was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, reported that the offender was using drugs or alcohol at the time the violence took place. These statistics point towards the intimate relation between drugs and crimes, and crimes and arrests. This paper would furnish more details as regards the connection between drugs and crimes, delving deep into the statistics of drug crimes, the illegal market of drugs and the concept of the War on Drugs and the future.
Types of Drug Crimes
Drug crimes are divided into three types:
Drug-Defined Offenses: Drug-defined offenses are those related to the violation of laws that prohibit or regulate the use, possession, manufacturing, distribution, and the sale of illegal drugs. Examples include possession of drugs like heroin or cocaine, cultivation of marijuana, Methamphetamine production, and the sales and distribution of marijuana, cocaine or heroin (Spiess and Fallow, 2000).
Drug-Related Offenses: Drug-related offenses are those connected to the violation of laws under the influence of drugs, or motivated by the user's need to obtain cash for the continued use of drugs. Examples include any criminal behavior such as theft, robbery, violence, fight or vandalism under the influence of drugs or stealing or committing violence in order to obtain money for drugs (Spiess and Fallow, 2000).
Drug-Using Lifestyle: When a violation of law is committed as an outcome of a lifestyle in which the tendency to commit illegal activity is higher because of the association with individuals or situations that are encouraging of crimes (Spiess and Fallow, 2000). For instance, forming relationships with criminals over the use of drugs and then learning skills from them to commit an offense.
Statistics of Drug Crimes
Drug Abuse Violations and Arrests
The UCR report defines the drug abuse violations as state or local level offenses related to the illegal possession, use, sale, manufacturing, growing, and making of narcotic drugs including cocaine or opium and their derivatives, synthetic narcotics, marijuana, and dangerous narcotic drugs like barbiturates (BJS #1, 2014). As per the estimation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reports, there were approximately 1,841,200 arrests made on the state and local level for drug abuse violations in the US. Over four-fifths of the arrests made for drug abuse violations are for possession.
The number of drug law violation arrests is increasing significantly. In recent years, the arrests of adults for drug abuse violation have increased, while the arrests of juveniles for the same have decreased slightly. Only 7.4% of all arrests made in 1987 were reported to be drug arrests, but by 2007, this rate has increased to 13.0% of all arrests (BJS #1, 2014).
According to the UCR report, an estimated 14 million arrests were made in 2007 for all sorts of criminal offenses except traffic violations. Their chart shows that the highest number of arrests made was for drug abuse violations (1.8 million).
Crimes Committed Under the Influence of Drugs
The report of the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that almost all kinds of violent crimes are related to drugs. Their chart shows that in the period between 1995 and 2000, 41% and 38% of violent assaults committed against college students and non-students respectively, are committed by an offender who was using drugs (BJS#2, 2014). About 2 out of 5 rapes and nearly a quarter of all robberies against a college student were committed by a drug using offender. A survey in 2004 conducted on the inmates of State and Federal Correctional Facilities revealed that 32% of state and 26% federal prisoners admitted the commission of their current offenses under the influence of drugs (BJS#2, 2014). A survey conducted by BJS shows that the percentage of jail convicts reporting of regular drug use has increased in 2002 than 1996.
The convicted inmates reported marijuana and heroin to be the most common drugs they used at the time of the crime. More than three quarters of driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders were reported to be using drugs in the past. 73% of the DWI offenders admitted that they used marijuana and 41% of DWI offenders used cocaine. In 2002, 56% of the prisoners convicted of robbery, 56% convicted of weapon violations, 55% convicted of burglary and 55% convicted of vehicle theft were reported to be under the influence of drugs at the time the crime took place (BJS#2, 2014).
If the number of arrests is calculated on the basis of the type of drugs, it shows that in the period between 1987 and 1995, the number of arrests involving heroin or cocaine was more than other type of drugs. From 1996 onwards, the number of arrests involving marijuana increased significantly, exceeding the number of drug arrests involving heroin or cocaine (BJS #1, 2014).
The ADAM program of 1999, which conducted a study by collecting data from over 30,000 adult male arrestees in 34 sites and over 10,000 adult female arrestees in 32 sites, reports that the rate of adult arrestees testing positive for cocaine ranges from 14% in San Jose to 51% in Atlanta and that the rate of adult arrestees testing positive for marijuana ranges from 28% in Las Vegas to 51% in Omaha. The rate of female arrestees testing positive for cocaine ranges from 19% in San Antonio to 65% in New York City, and the rate of female arrestees testing positive for marijuana ranges from 9% in Laredo to 39% in Oklahoma City (NIJ, 2000). The report of the ADAM program further shows that the use of marijuana was over 6 times higher than the use of cocaine among juvenile males and females (NIJ, 2000). However, in recent the use of cocaine has decreased slightly, whereas the use of marijuana has increased significantly.
According to the Sentencing Commission, between 2012 October and 2013 September, of all the drug offenders, 27.6% were locked up for crimes relating to marijuana, 22.5% for crimes related to powder cocaine, 22.5% for methamphetamine related crimes, 11.5% for crack cocaine, 8.8% for heroin and 7.2% for other synthetic drugs (Miles, 2014).
Threat of Drugs and Drug Market
Though the laws related to the prohibition of drugs vary from one country to another, some of the drugs that are considered illegal by most of the countries include cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs.
Cannabis or Marijuana
Tobacco-like in appearance and greenish or brownish in color, cannabis, popularly known as marijuana, is made up of the dried flowering tops and leaves of the cannabis plant. 'Hash' or cannabis resin is the dried brown or black secretion of the flowering tops of the cannabis plant, which is ground into powder or pressed into cakes for use. Hash oil or cannabis oil is the cannabis resin in the form of liquid (UNODC #4, 2014). Cannabis or marijuana is the most illegally cultivated, trafficked and abused illicit drug.
In most of the regions around the world, the cultivation of cannabis is widespread, ranging from small-scale personal cultivation to large-scale farm and warehouse operations. Because of this reason, it is difficult to make an estimation of the global level of cannabis production and cultivation. Though almost every country in the world grows cannabis herbs, the production of ‘hash’ is limited to only a handful of countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and South West Asia (UNODC#3, 2012). The use of marijuana and its popularity have increased significantly in the recent years especially after 2007. In the USA, the number of marijuana users has increased by 5.8% from 14.4 million in 2007 to 18.9 million in 2012. Due to the increasing demand of cannabis and cocaine in the USA, the international crime organizations like Ndrangheta and Sinaloa Cartel are cooperating with each other to ease the process of trans-Atlantic drug trafficking.
Cocaine is one of the most popular drugs in the world. In fact, some countries in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East are witnessing an increase in cocaine consumption because of an easy access to coca plants located in the East African region. The majority of cocaine is produced in countries like Afghanistan, Tanzania, and Columbia. Interestingly, even though these countries are the major producers of cocaine, the majority of cocaine smuggled into the USA comes from countries like Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, and Spain. Mexico is the main illegal exporter of cocaine to the US market. Spain accounts for the largest cocaine export to the US market (UNODC #2, 2013).
Unlike cocaine and cannabis, the total quantity of which can be roughly estimated by aggregating the total agricultural production, it is difficult to quantify the global production of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), because ATS can be manufactured at home in small makeshift arrangements and also in large production facilities. The production of ATS is mostly estimated from the quantity of seizures. It is estimated that the 96% production of ATS is methamphetamine (UNODC #3, 2012). Unlike other drugs like cocaine and cannabis, which are mostly imported to the USA from other countries, methamphetamine is mainly produced within the USA. It is estimated that almost 12,000 methamphetamine laboratories exist only in the three states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. In fact, the total consumption of methamphetamine is on the rise in recent years, and the total number methamphetamine seizures has risen from 24 tons in 2008 to almost 144 tons in 2011 (UNODC #3, 2012).
Controlled Prescription Drugs (CPD) are one of the most emerging drugs in the USA. Unlike the other three drugs discussed above, which are easily available, CPD distributors and abusers can easily acquire the drugs through rogue management clinics and corrupt medical professionals. CPD, which was not a big threat to the law enforcement officials in the previous decade, has now become a greatest threat. For instance, in Central Florida, CPD accounted for almost 17% of the total drug related cases in 2009 (NDIC, 2011). CPD dealers and abusers acquire the drugs through robberies of pharmacies, pharmaceutical company vehicles, and from pill mills (rogue pharmacies). CPD accounted for a significant number of deaths (8,696) in Florida in 2009 only next to marijuana. The main problem with CPD is that its abusers often find an alternative pain killers or drug groups for their addiction if a certain drug groups are banned. The most commonly used CPDs are Darvon, Hydrocodone Combination (Vicodin, Lorcet, and Lortab), Morphine, Oxycodone, Diazepam, Valium, and Xanax (NDIC, 2011).
Problems of Law Enforcement in Drug Trade
The first law enforcement in the history of mankind was a prohibition on alcohol consumption as per the Islamic Sharia Law almost 1,400 years back. Then onwards, most of the countries around the world never created any ban on any substance abuse till the last century. The United Kingdom was the first country to have passed a law against opium consumption in the 19th century. Afterwards, a number of countries also implemented the same prohibition. The USA passed the first drug law against opium consumption in 1914, and then in 1937, it passed the Marijuana Tax Act. It was easier in the early part of the 20th century to regulate drug abuse as the production and consumption used to happen only on a national level. However, the illegal drug trade completely altered the scenario in the last 50 years (ICSDP, 2010). For instance, the USA, which accounts for the highest rate of consumption for cocaine and cannabis, has the lowest rate of cocaine and cannabis production in the world. Drug trafficking has become a huge international business. In fact, it is estimated that in countries like Afghanistan, drug trafficking is the major source of earning foreign money. Furthermore, different countries view drug consumption differently. For instance, Canada, in recent years, has seen a major public movement in legalizing the consumption of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, as they believe banning those substances violates the human rights. On the other hand, countries like Bhutan consider even the possession of tobacco a punishable offense. In Scandinavian countries, the possession of drugs like cocaine and heroin is not a punishable offense (Stevenson, 2011). However, selling it over a certain quantity is a punishable offense. In the USA, the federal laws are very strict as regards drug trafficking and drug crimes. The state laws, on the other hand, vary significantly from the federal laws. States like Oklahoma and Utah have legalized the possession and a small consumption of marijuana. States like New York, however, have strict laws in place. A person found in possession of even 5 ounce of any of the hard drugs can end up in 15 years of imprisonment (ICSDP, 2010).
Therefore, it is seen that the law enforcement related to drugs cannot be implemented by a single country alone as many international parties are involved in the drug cartel. Even if the USA tightens its rules, if countries like Honduras and Columbia continue to produce and export drugs through illegal means to the US market, drug abuse and drug related crimes will not decrease. It is, therefore, important for the USA to create an anti-drug cartel with other international parties like Columbia, Honduras, Panama, and Spain so that the production, distribution and the sales of drugs can be monitored and contained effectively.
‘War on Drugs’ and the Future
The concept of ‘War on Drugs’ was introduced by the President Richard Nixon in 1972 in response to the rise in the use of drugs among young people and the increase in the number of drug related crimes. The US President Regan created a special post called ‘Drug Czar’ in his executive office specifically to monitor the drug abuse trend and crime rates. New York was the first state to introduce life sentencing for the possession of drugs and drug abuse. The first comprehensive anti-drug law called the Omnibus Anti-Drug Abuse Act was passed in 1986, and it was further enhanced in 1988 to include drug related crimes as well (Stevenson, 2011). Before 1988, there was no coordination in handling drug related crimes between the state and federal governments. The law passed in 1988 first emphasized a structure to counter drug crimes through coordination between the state and federal governments. The Act also authorized a grant of $500 million yearly for the reduction of drug related crimes. In 1994, the federal government introduced the three strikes laws in which if a person is apprehended for drug abuse three times, then after the third time, he will be subjected to a minimum sentencing of 55 years of imprisonment (Stevenson, 2011). However, there are a number of areas not covered by the drug laws. For example, if a nightclub owner maintains a place of business for drug sellers and buyers and does not get directly involved in the selling and buying process, then there is no specific law to incriminate that person as an offender. Besides, the three strikes law unnecessarily leads to overcrowding of prisons and generates a whopping amount of cost for prison maintenance. Therefore, an overhaul of the drug laws is necessary because the condition and the circumstances when these drug laws were introduced have changed over the years. The laws alone, however, will not be able to address the issue. With collaboration and proper discussion with the involved parties wherefrom the maximum amount of drugs are smuggled into the USA, a robust information network can be made to arrest the drug crimes more effectively.
Drug abuse and drug crimes are one of the most notorious evils of the modern day society. Cannabis, cocaine, and methamphetamine are the three main drugs posing threat to the society. Most of the crimes are committed under the influence of these three drugs. Most of these drugs are illegally smuggled into the US market through Mexican border or via sea. However, there are some drugs like methamphetamine that are produced illegally within the USA. It is, therefore, not only important to tighten the drug abuse and drug crime laws within the US, but also to create an anti-drug cartel with other countries so that the total drug market supply chain can be effectively reduced. Creating laws against drug abuse and crime is not always easy as different countries view drug abuse differently. However, with careful discussions and proper collaboration with other countries, an international law on drug crime can be put in place so that not only the US but all the countries involved get benefited.
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) #1. (2014). Drugs and Crime Facts: Drug law violations. Retrieved on 14th November from <http://www.bjs.gov/content/dcf/enforce.cfm>
Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) #2. (2014). Drugs and Crime Facts: Drug use and crime <http://www.bjs.gov/content/dcf/enforce.cfm>
Edmunds, R., Locos,O.,Brown, D. and Reynolds, D. Identification of the synthetic cannabinoid. FIU Online Electronic Journals.
Hein, W.S. Searching for Answers: Research and Evaluation on Drugs and Crime.
International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP). (2010). Effect of Drug Law Enforcement on Drug-Related Violence: Evidence from a Scientific Review. <http://www.icsdp.org/docs/icsdp-1%20-%20final.pdf>
Miles, K. (2014). Just How Much The War On Drugs Impacts Our Overcrowded Prisons, In One Chart. The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 14th November from <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/10/war-on-drugs-prisons-infographic_n_4914884.html>
National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC). (2011). Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area drug market analysis. Retrieved on 14th November from <http://purl.access.gpo.gov/GPO/FDLP912>
National Institute of Justice (NIJ). (2000). 1999 Annual Report on Drug Use among Adult and Juvenile Arrestees. Retrieved on 14th November from <http://purl.access.gpo.gov/GPO/LPS2993>
Spiess, M. and Fallow, D. (2000). Drug Related Crime. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Retrieved on 14th November from <http://www.policyalmanac.org/crime/archive/drug_related_crime.shtml>
Stevenson, B. (2011). Drug Policy, Criminal Justice and Mass Imprisonment. Global Commission on Drug Policies. <http://www.globalcommissionondrugs.org/wp-content/themes/gcdp_v1/pdf/Global_Com_Bryan_Stevenson.pdf>
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) #3. (1995). Drugs and crime facts,1994.
United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODC) #1. (2008). Forum on crime and society. Retrieved on 14th November from <http://bibpurl.oclc.org/web/25738>
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) #2. (2013). UNODC and illicit crop monitoring.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 3#. (2012). Global illicit drug trends.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) #4. (2014). Cannabis: Bongo/Ganja/Grass/Marijuana/Pot/Thai sticks. Retrieved on 14th November from <http://www.unodc.org/drugs/en/get-the-facts/cannabis.html>