We have had the “War on Drugs” since the 70’s. In the 80’s, the “War” went from just skirmishes to an all out nuclear war on drugs.
Now, thirty years later what have we accomplished? Has the “War on Drugs” become just another epic government failure like the “War on Poverty” with the only thing accomplished being massive government spending and an equally massive erosion of our Constitutional Rights?
My perspective on the “War on Drugs” is a little different from most people. I practiced law for 24 years. Ten of those years were as a prosecutor. The rest were as a criminal defense lawyer. Three of my years prosecuting I spent as a drug prosecutor.
In my line of work I have met and worked with more drug dealers and users than the average person would see in a lifetime. I have no sympathy for drug dealers and while I have some pity for drug users, controlled substances of all kinds including Marijuana are something to be avoided at all costs.
The “War on Drugs” has created several things. None of them are really good. First it has created a massive government bureaucracy at not only the Federal level of government but also at the state and local levels as well. The Federal Government pumps billions of dollars out in the “War on drugs.” This money is spent on law enforcement, prosecutors, defense lawyers, prisons, corrections employees, social workers, advertising and the list goes on beyond belief.
The “War on Drugs” like the War on Poverty has been a total failure. Despite thirty year of the “War on Drugs” being an all out assault, drug use is still at record levels. By any stretch of the imagination, this war has failed. Like the War on Poverty, if it were a real war, we would be borrowing John Boehner’s freshly laundered white flag of surrender.
The second casualty has been Constitutional Rights. The Fourth Amendment has been shredded. One of the worst abuses has been the asset forfeiture laws, which allows law enforcement to seize cash; even without a crime being committed on the “suspicion” the cash is drug proceeds.
Unfortunately for those caught on those Kafkaesque nightmares, the presumption is the money is contraband and the only way someone can get their money back is to file suit. That of course costs money because lawyers do not work for free.
Finally, the “War on Drugs” has created powerful criminal enterprises. These are the narco-terrorist gangs in Mexico, Central America and South America as well as street gangs here in America. The end result of these gangs has been a trail of bodies and other carnage that rivals a real war. These gangs work in various areas but their bread and butter is drugs.
If the “War on Drugs” has been a failure and has created more problems that it has solved, what do we do?
Many libertarians and liberals think nirvana would be the simple legalization of all drugs. Everyone could just sit around stoned; chilling out to the Grateful Dead and all would be good.
No, it isn’t going to work out like that.
First, there can never be decriminalization of drugs. But there can be regulation and registration.
If we want to dismantle the massive government creation called the “War on Drugs” and save billions of dollars as well as destroy the criminal enterprises we call gangs, regulation and registration would do that.
If you want to be a legal drug user, then you register. There should be draconian penalties for the use of drugs by non-registered drug users.
If you want to use drugs, you will be allowed that choice. Liberty means we have the right to make choices. Liberty also means we have the right to make stupid choices. Using drugs is a stupid choice, but you do have the Constitutional Right to be stupid.
However, with choices there are always consequences.
If you register as a legal drug user, there are certain things you are not going to be able to do. You are not going to pilot a jumbo jet or drive a forty ton truck. You aren’t going to be doing open-heart surgery on someone, nor will you be a cop.
But if you want to be a stoner, you can do it. You will just have to understand that certain jobs will be off limits to you and you will have to wait until you are 21 to register.
If you want to be a registered drug user, you are not going to get public assistance. If you want to get high, you can do it on your own dime.
Registering drug users will change the whole dynamic. Instead of having to travel to crime-ridden areas to buy drugs from gang members, registered drug users can go down to a store and buy what they want. Prices will collapse since the drugs are no longer contraband and the street gangs in America and the narco-terrorists in Mexico, Central and South America will be out of business. Mexico might even be pulled back from the brink of being a failed state.
The “War on Drugs” has been a complete failure. We have created a massive, expensive government apparatus to combat illegal drugs at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars and we have nothing to show for it. Because of this “prohibition” as some like to call it, we have created massive criminal enterprises that would die if drug use and distribution were regulated instead of being made contraband.
If we are looking for places to reduce spending and perhaps increase taxable activities, this is a no-brainer.
We have tried to fight the “War on Drugs” for close to 40 years. Those efforts have failed. At what point to we realize insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?
At what point do we say we need to do something different?
Again, well said Judson, its too bad too many conservatives here dont recogize that conservatism is also about practicality.
Im afraid too many conservatives keep thier heads in the sand. If they dont personally use anything but alcohol its easy for them to point a finger, but they would have been the law breaking citizens in the 20s wouldnt they? The ones now going to jail even though they pay taxes and live overall good lives, etc. They dont realize many ppl perfer something else to keep them sane and 'let loose' and that those ppl live in fear every day for all they have even though they are otherwise lawabiding citizens.
I dont doubt for one minute all you naysayers posting against this article would change your toon if it alcohol prohibition was afoot instead. Yet that causes more than 60billion every year in lost revenues, death, drunk driving etc. I dont hear you crying for making drinking illegal???
The pot and LSD of the 60's and 70's destroyed the moral fiber of an entire generation. We lost the Viet Nam war because of it. Do we really want parks full of hippies again?
Lynn that is absurd that we lost the Viet nam war because of it! I cant imagine what military strategy school taught you that! And really do you think the morality of America has IMPROVED because of making drugs illegal? Cuz I dont see that happening=not even little.. And frankly hippies were alot better than drunks and perverts. Distroyed the moral fiber? Oh it couldnt be watching the stupid box 24/7 or the video games that promote senseless violence or the fact that God has been removed from everythining not specifically a CHURCH. Your logic is epic failure Lynn and either you believe in individual choice or you dont-and the rational consequences that occur is no different than sticking your hand on a stove and figuring it out. There are 18.1 million current users of Marijuana NOW and It is used by 80.5 percent of current illicit drug users. About two thirds (64.3 percent) of illicit drug users used only marijuana in the past month. Most/many of these people hold jobs and pay taxes and raise very loved children Lynn. But you believe they should continue to be arrested and imprisoned and the kids taken to foster care hey? While alcohol remains perfectly legal to of age users in spite of drunk driving, alcoholism, etc? Thanks yes Ill take the hippies.
Lynn, legalization is not advocacy. It is the recognition that the drug problem is a mental health issue not a criminal issue.
Monique, Conservative's credibility erodes when they pick and choose which constitutional rights they will support instead of simply supporting freedom and liberty.
Everybody loves freedom, but of course at some point one person's freedom can begin to encroach on another person's freedom. Whether we are talking about drugs, smoking, or other mental health disorders and/or addictions, at some point there has to be some type of limitation on one individual's "freedom" in order to protect the next individual's freedom (from harm) from being compromised.
If the government is not to be involved by making something illegal, and if religion/moral codes are not to be involved (as many liberals insist), then what methods of protection remain for the potential victims of such behavior?
And also, if we classify drug addiction as a mental health issue, then we could argue that the individual with that problem doesn't have the mental capacity to make decisions, and that therefore we need to make decisions (such as taking the drug away, perhaps by incarceration of some kind) for them.
Either way, the discussion ends up needing a solution somewhere in the middle between total drug freedom and total drug restriction. Unfortunately, nonlogical decisions usually are the result of the politicians.
Freedom, I can see that you are not open to re-assessing your position on the legalization of drugs. However, providing some hyper-abundance of counseling, pre-and post-drug use, does not begin to address the problems caused by narcotics.
First, review the Opium Wars. There are a lot of interesting points to discuss, but I want to stress that narcotics are only outlawed after the widespread societal harm they cause becomes evident. That's not nanny-state interference with an individual's right to self-destruction. It is combating the significant, gross effect of widespread drug use.
Second, the majority of drugs are produced in countries which lack the means to combat production. Drug exportation brings huge amounts of money into countries. Any attempt to reduce that income will, of course, be resisted. It doesn't follow that any difficult thing should not be attempted. The 'easy money' which drug trade represents fuels terrorism and insurgency around the world. Do not underestimate the eventual necessity of international efforts to limit narcotic production, however unhappy you may be with the effectiveness of the effort. I'm not happy with the results either, but like combating terrorism, it eventually becomes obvious to the international community that it doesn't make sense to combat terrorism after you have politely waited for your terrorist neighbors to fund and arm themselves as they see fit. I am aware of numerous misdeeds, and failures, of these efforts to restrict drug production and smuggling, but I don't accept that failure is an option.
Finally: As far as domestic consumption, of course legalization would completely contradict the message that drug use is incredibly harmful. It is essential to introduce drugs (including alcohol and tobacco) to the youth market. Exception: unfortunately, due to the widespread medicinal use of opiates, those addictions will continue to occur across all age ranges. Drug dealing is often a very social activity, and young people as a group can be trusted to have the poorest judgment and the highest gullibility of any market. Don't make light of the increased ambivalence which legalization will create. Whether you look at the cost to the individual or the cost to society, discouraging drug use by any and all means necessary is essential.
This is one of the areas where libertarianism fails to make a convincing argument that it is different from anarchy, because widespread narcotic use certainly facilitates anarchy!