War On Drugs Debate: Is The Obama Administration's Approach Working?

09/04/2012 09:13 am ET

Editor's Note: HuffPost College teamed with the International Debate Education Association to produce the following debate.

On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon announced that the United States was fighting a “War on Drugs.” Nixon declared that drug abuse was “public enemy number one in the United States,” a crisis that forced the federal government to realign massive resources toward enforcement of drug law and drug treatment. Two years later, Nixon established the Drug Enforcement Agency, which still oversees drug policy today.

Over forty years and $1 trillion of spending later, the War on Drugs is a controversial policy. In 2011, the self-appointed Global Commission on Drug Policy, consisting of political leaders and public intellectuals, released a report stating, “The global war on drugs has failed.” No president, however, has seriously challenged the policy, and spending on the program has increased annually.

US drug policy also affects the United States’ relationship with Mexico because Mexican drug traffickers sell in high quantities to Americans. As many as sixty thousand people have died in Mexico as a result of drug-related violence in the last six years, and Mexican officials have repeatedly called for a shift in the United States’ approach to drug law enforcement. Instead of employing significant resources toward low-level arrests, as the United States does now, Mexico hopes to “adjust the strategy [to] focus on certain type of crimes, like kidnapping, homicide, extortion.” This would require American cooperation in the form of relaxing low-level drug arrests.

While it is unlikely that either President Obama or Governor Romney would entirely reverse US drug policy if elected in 2012, they would take very different approaches going forward.

IDEA creates local clubs and establishes independent debate associations throughout the world, offering young people the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge by voicing and critically examining issues that directly affect their lives. Through helping individuals start their own local debate chapters, IDEA encourages students around the world to question, to listen to one another and to explore even the most volatile subjects openly and in the spirit of tolerance and cooperation.

HuffPost Live will be taking a comprehensive look at America’s failed war on drugs Sept. 4 from 12-4 p.m. EDT and 6-10 p.m. EDT. Click here to check it out -- and join the conversation.

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