Policing Techniques in the War on Drugs

Since the late 19th century, many techniques have been used in the United States to control drugs and their users. Defining a drug as legal or illegal is connected to the level of perceived danger posed to the public and individuals by those drugs. This perception of threat is central to the ways drugs are policed. These dynamics came to the forefront of public discourse in 1971 when President Richard M. Nixon named drugs “public enemy number one” in response to general social unrest and drug use in American society.

The result was what is now commonly known as the “War on Drugs.” Since the War on Drugs began, “deprofitization” strategies have emerged that argue that legalizing all or certain drugs, or replacing criminal with noncriminal ...

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