Laying off teachers won’t solve our fiscal problems but legalizing drugs just might

If the Tea Party conservatives are really as serious about cutting spending,  streamlining government and protecting individual liberties as they claim to, then they should stop wasting their time tilting at windmills like civil service unions and take on the real Big Government elephant in the room: the Federal War on Drugs.

Let’s face it. The War on Drugs has failed miserably and,  as we see with the earlier alcohol Prohibition, likely  doomed to failure from the start.  It is outrageously expensive. It has contributed to a burgeoning organized crime industry.  It is immoral and hypocritical. As of March 3rd, 2011, 2:25 EST close to 7 billion 200 million dollars has already been spent on drug prohibition this year alone.

After 40 years, the United States’ war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.

Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn’t worked.

“In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. “Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.”

This week President Obama promised to “reduce drug use and the great damage it causes” with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment.

Nevertheless, his administration has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels both in dollars and in percentage terms; this year, they account for $10 billion of his $15.5 billion drug-control budget.

If you are skeptical then you might consider that the source of the above information is not NORML but Fox News, a group that is not known for their  ‘liberal’ tendencies.  But drug prohibition was never really  part of a conservative agenda, with just as many on the left bound up with misguided, well-intentioned, yet hypocritical and myopic ideals.  Conversely, there have been visionaries on both the Right and the Left ( like Bill Buckley and Kurt Schmoke) who have joined forces to inject some sanity into our nation’s drub debate.  In the same Fox story of  May 13th,   2010, the previous drug czar, John P. Walters, didn’t agree:

Walters insists society would be far worse today if there had been no War on Drugs. Drug abuse peaked nationally in 1979 and, despite fluctuations, remains below those levels, he says. Judging the drug war is complicated: Records indicate marijuana and prescription drug abuse are climbing, while cocaine use is way down. Seizures are up, but so is availability.

“To say that all the things that have been done in the war on drugs haven’t made any difference is ridiculous,” Walters said. “It destroys everything we’ve done. It’s saying all the people involved in law enforcement, treatment and prevention have been wasting their time. It’s saying all these people’s work is misguided.”

Yes. Misguided but well-intentioned. Anyway, the figures speak for themselves.

It is only March 2nd yet already 293,628 people are incarcerated for drug related offenses in this country. Of those 151,513 were for cannabis. (Every 30 seconds an American is arrested for possession of pot).  On average, since 1995, U.S. prisons have grown 10,000 more inmates a year for drug related offenses.  And the U.S. appetite for drugs continues to grow.  So why continue to press this ‘war’?

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, sitting down with the AP at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, paused for a moment at the question.“Look,” she says, starting slowly. “This is something that is worth fighting for because drug addiction is about fighting for somebody’s life, a young child’s life, a teenager’s life, their ability to be a successful and productive adult.

“If you think about it in those terms, that they are fighting for lives — and in Mexico they are literally fighting for lives as well from the violence standpoint — you realize the stakes are too high to let go.”

Which is how so many Americans think about this problem: emotionally. But Napolitano is very, very wrong ( and as head of  Homeland Security realizes that if drug prohibitions were lifted most of the current financing for anti-American terrorism would dry up). Anyone at any time can buy illegal drugs, in spite of all the forces fighting this “War”.  The real cost of this boondoggle are in the lives destroyed by over zealous prosecution and incarceration, the property of innocents seized, the opportunities lost because of the money being allocated for this losing campaign and the incalculable number of violent deaths. The trials of the addicted are, with all due respect, trivial in comparison to the wholesale suffering that this drug prohibition is responsible for. As for drugs’ debilitating effects, apparently you can smoke dope and snort cocaine and still make it to the White House.

What do they call something that you keep doing and doing and doing, each time expecting a different outcome? Madness?  Meanwhile, we continue to look for ways to cut government spending, while all along it’s right up our nose.

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  1. #1 by Ric Booth on March 3, 2011 - 5:12 pm

    Bravo. As a parent of a recovering user (? what is the pc term for this?) my wife and I learned back in late 90’s that the US had lost the “war on drugs.” The drugs were readily available inside the so-called drug-free zones of our public schools. I think most people who never brush up against it, think the “war” is working. To stand by and claim the “war” is working is like watching 96% (is that the percentage of teens who have tried pot?) banks get robbed each day and saying that the new security cameras are working.

    So we need either 10x the people and money (since the dealers have at least that much more), or we need to relearn the prohibition lesson.

    • #2 by Christian Beyer on March 4, 2011 - 7:27 am

      Oh yeah. Been there as well. You, too Logio, right?

      On another personal note, I used to smoke pot fairly regularly. No problems, loved it, just walked away from it when a job (car sales?) required me to. Don’t know if bourbon or beer would be that easy.

      A big problem with most Prohibitionist is that they are ignorant of the facts and they have made this such an emotional issue, like tobacco and sex offenses. No discussion necessary.


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