Forum: The War on Drugs

When & Where
World Affairs Council
312 Sutter Street 2nd Floor Auditorium
San Francisco, CA 94108
October 21, 2013 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
415 293 4600


The war on drugs is an issue that has far exceeded the containment of national borders, causing a ripple effect of rash consequences for countries around the world. Whether in Central and South America, Eastern Europe or the Middle East, the market for illicit drugs has continued to flourish both in production and sales fueling terrorism, corruption and the overthrow of executive powers. Join us as we dive into the complexities of the drug war, the factors relating to its immense expansion and the current political climate of government agencies trying to tackle what has been labeled as one of the most pressing international issues of our time.

Questions for Discussion:

1) Drug use among the general population has become a feature of life in many developed countries. What is your view of drug use in general? Do you consider it a problem or a fact of life? Do you distinguish between different types of drugs? Do you see drug abuse as a cause or a symptom of social ills? 

2) Afghanistan has the highest rate of drug abuse in the world, resulting in a total of one million citizens currently addicted, according to a UN report released in 2010. Staggering rates of poverty, the ongoing war, lowered cost of drugs and the abundance of opium as a natural resource remain contributing factors to the overwhelming problem that exists. Given these factors, is there a way to curb the influx of users among the population? Can this be controlled through the induction of new national policies? Or will this issue eventually need international intervention? What are the implications in the restructuring process of this war-torn country? What happens when an impoverished and struggling country builds a large part of its economy on the drug trade?

3) Can US fingerprints be found on the war on drugs? How has the drug trade and our geographic proximity with Mexico helped or worsened drug cartel violence and activity? What implications do Mexico’s narcotrafficking issues have for the US? What implications does the US’s prohibitions on drugs or the loosening of such prohibitions have for Mexico?

4) Recent claims from the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy have suggested that the war on drugs has failed due to increasing rates of addiction, production levels and greater accessibility. Suggestions are being made that this problem be assessed as a public health crisis, rather than a criminal justice issue. How might this negatively or positively contribute to finding a tangible solution in addressing this problem?

5) What is your view of the fact that one-quarter of American prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses? What implications are there for our society when huge amounts of our populations (particlularly a disproportionate number of young black and latino males) are behind bars for drug crimes? Do you believe the privately-run prison industry has lobbied for increasingly stringent drug-policies in order to maximize their profits? A number of states in the US and countries around the world have began loosening drug laws (Washington, Colorado, etc.) or abandoning criminal drug prohibitions in general (Portugal), what positive or negative effects have been or may be observed in these places?

This event is free and open to the public