Drug War Origins:How American Opium Politics Led to the Establishment of International Narcotics Prohibition
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CitationMccaffrey, Patrick. 2019. Drug War Origins:How American Opium Politics Led to the Establishment of International Narcotics Prohibition. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractIn 1914, the United States criminalized the recreational use of opium. From this event developed over a one hundred year span the international War on Drugs. This examination stems from the belief the War on Drugs fails as a policy aimed at addressing public health and safety concerns. Rather, the War on Drugs fosters criminality that presents an even greater threat to public health and safety. This examination seeks to understand the historical framework of the international War on Drugs. Research found the U.S. largely responsible in both philosophy, creation, and enforcement in instituting international narcotic policy. An examination of U.S. motivations found racial prejudice a causal factor that saw criminalization rather than less authoritarian forms of government intervention utilized to combat the negative side effects of narcotic use. The prejudicial treatment of Chinese-American immigrants in the late ninetieth century Western U.S. led to the criminalization of the Chinese cultural habit of opium smoking. The progressive criminalization of opium due to its perceived connection to Chinese-American immigrants is emblematic of the American narcotics criminalization history. Through opium criminalization, the U.S. progressively pushed and achieved near-total international narcotic prohibition.
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