We lost the War on Drugs
A war declared on drug abuse? How does one abuse a pill, a liquid chemical mixture, tea, or leaves? Does one smash them, beat them? How does one abuse them? The true emphasis should be self-abuse. The goal should be to help people to not abuse themselves, rather than to not abuse drugs. Self-abuse can be harmful, but, there is no drug problem. An object that just sits in a cabinet or on a table can't be a problem. People who choose to abuse such objects might be a problem. But government laws are not an effective nor efficient way to help citizens deal with their personal esteem issues. Nigella Lawson, the British television chef, has admitted smoking pot as her marriage crumbled. "I did not have a drug problem, I had a life problem."
A few observations
The USA has spent many years and billions of our dollars in the War on Drugs. It is not working. Why do we keep throwing money at the same old issue (see below)?
The WoD is driven by politics - seeking power and control over the ignorant voting constituent with fear and threats. Suppressing and harassing Black men and the poor.
The WoD is driven by economics and greed. The war supports the law-enforcement industry, attorneys and the judicial industry, and the corporate prison industry.
The WoD ruins lives and families. It may be true that more lives have been ruined by marijuana arrests than by marijuana.
Prohibition doesn't work. People will not tolerate oppression. Never have. Never will. Why won't we learn?
The USA is a drug culture. Drugs help us heal, they make us well, and keep us healthy. Drugs allow us to live longer and be happier. We want our drugs. We do not want a Drug-Free America.
Legalizing marijuana possession
• Allows regulation
• Focuses on education and treatment, not incarceration
• Generates tax revenue
• Saves on enforcement expenses
• Improves human rights, fewer citizens with criminal records
• Places less emphasis on war and bullying and more on caring and helping.
• Improves the job market and employment. Will necessitate fewer people in legal system, but more people in new jobs in treatment, regulation, retail, cultivation.
Issues that should be addressed
Criminals and terrorists control drug production.
Cure: Drug production regulated and licensed by government.
Sales are completely unregulated. Kids can buy drugs anywhere.
Cure: Regulate the sellers - no street sales, no sales to kids.
No taxes are collected.
Cure: Taxes can pay for administration, education, and treatment.
Trade disputes are settled with guns and violence.
Cure: Violence will drop dramatically as it did with the repeal of alcohol prohibition.
We spend $70 billion a year on enforcement.
Cure: Less enforcement, less expenses.
No labeling or purity standards.
Cure: Products must meet purity and labeling standards.
$250-350 billion per year in illegal profits goes to organized crime.
Cure: legal profits go only to businesses that follow the rules. A river of illegal, untaxed cash fuels organized crime in the US, civil wars in Latin America, and terrorism in the Middle East. - From Common Sense for Drug Policy
The Rev. Pat Robertson recently caused an uproar when he stated that marijuana should be made legal, like tobacco and liquor. After 30 years of watching the War on Drugs fail to slow down the use of illegal drugs, and watching our prisons fill with drug users, Robertson is right.
Drugs that should be legal for adults to purchase and use
Too many people profit from the thriving enterprise called the justice system
From a letter to an Oklahoma newspaper: Society would be better off if certain illegal drugs were legalized. I have never taken a single illegal drug, so I'm not a drug user wanting a change for any personal benefit. My family has watched a family member's life destroyed from illegal drug use. So I know all too well the damage that illegal drugs can do to a user.
However, I don't believe that illegal drugs will ever be legalized, certainly not in Oklahoma, because too many people profit from the thriving enterprise called the justice system. This system must have a large number of daily drug arrests to support its bail bondsmen, defense attorneys, pubic defenders, district attorneys, district court judges, court clerks and police. Without arrests for illegal drug use, many of these people wouldn't be needed. So you can be assured they'll never support the legalization of illegal drugs! - BG Nolen, Oklahoma City
Response by Kirk Muse:
Many judges and prison wardens have stated that 70-80 percent of all property crime and violent crime is drug-related. Actually, most of that is caused by drug prohibition policies, not drug use. Many law enforcement personnel are opposed to the idea of legalizing recreational drugs - if drugs were legalized, we'd need far fewer law enforcement personnel, far fewer prison guards, and no prison construction companies. Many now employed in law enforcement and the prison industry would be out of a job. of course, those opposed to legalizing drugs won't admit it because it would affect their livelihood. Instead, they cite noble reasons such as protecting the children - as if our current policies are protecting children from drugs.
Note: Both writers are neglecting to mention the huge job market created by the cultivation, promotion, distribution, packaging, retail, legal regulation and enforcement, education, and treatment.
Half of the USA prison population is there for drug offenses:
Marijuana is the USA's top cash crop
With a value of $35.8 billion in 2006 (corn = $23.3 billion, wheat = $7.45 billion), marijuana is the number one crop in 12 states and among the top 3 in 30 states. Production increased tenfold from 1981 to 2006 - from 2.2 million pounds to 22 million pounds. Since marijuana production is illegal, estimates are imperfect, but a recent report used conservative numbers - other government reports estimate it at 35 million. This massive growth occurred despite intensive government campaigns to eradicate marijuana. The government "has been unable to curtail the growth of domestic marijuana cultivating in the US, let alone make any progress toward abolishing or eliminating this market phenomenon." The report states that, instead of wasting more money and manpower on eradication, marijuana should be place into a system of legal regulation. Marijuana can be used for many things; rope, paper, material, and food (apparently, the seeds are extremely nutritious).
Current policy fails to stop cocaine flow into US
After flying over blackened coca fields, White House drug czar John Walters conceded that seizing cocaine, destroying coca crops, and locking up drug traffickers in Colombia have had little impact on the flow of cocaine on American streets. Walters nevertheless insisted that Washington must stay the course with so-called Plan Colombia, a $3.3 billion dollar, five year program mainly to train, equip, and provide intelligence to Colombian forces spearheading the war on drugs. - From The Oklahoman, August 6, 2004
From an article in USA Today
James Gray, a former drug warrior, a federal prosecutor, and county judge who sent people to prison for dealing pot and other drug offenses gradually became convinced that the ban on marijuana was making it more accessible to young people, not less.
"I ask kids all the time, and they'll tell you it is easier to get marijuana than a six-pack of beer because beer is controlled by the government," he said, noting that drug dealers don't ask for IDs or honor minimum age requirements.
So Gray - who once ran for Congress as a Republican - switched sides in the war on drugs, becoming an advocate for legalizing marijuana.
"Let's face reality," he says. "Taxing and regulating marijuana will make it less available to children than it is today."
From the writers of the HBO series, The Wire
"There are two Americas - separate and unequal - that the War on Drugs has helped produce. This 'war' grinds on, flooding our prisons, devouring resources, turning city neighborhoods into free-fire zones. To what end? Prisons are packed with victims of the drug conflict. A report from the Pew Center shows that 1 of every 100 adults in the US (and 1 in 15 black men over 18) is currently incarcerated. That is the world's highest rate of imprisonment. Lost in an unwinnable drug war, a new generation of law officers is no longer capable of investigating crime properly, having learned to make court pay by grabbing cheap, meaningless drug arrests off the nearest corner. Since declaring war on drugs nearly 40 years ago, we've been demonizing our most desperate citizens, isolating and incarcerating them. All to no purpose. The prison population doubles and doubles again; the drugs remain."
The Gateway Theory
A person likely to abuse harder drugs is of an attitude to start with marijuana. Millions of Americans have smoked marijuana without going on to harder drugs. The cause and effect is just not there. The gateway theory has no basis in fact. It is a myth.
The prohibition also encouraged the success of organized crime. See, people didn't stop using drugs, they just got it from different sources. The black market fills the void and supplies the demand. Criminal gangs love prohibition - they have the opportunity to make lots of money (and they don't have to report any of it for taxes). Prohibition rarely solves the problem - it just transfers it somewhere else. Drug prohibition creates new problems, some of them worse. Lives ruined by arrests for consensual crimes.
Marijuana is not a gateway drug - its not weed itself that causes kids to try new drugs, it's the atmosphere they associate with it. In the current situation, many hard drugs are in relatively close proximity if not the same place as where weed is being sold. If legalized, you would be removing the ease of access to hard drugs and the pressure to try other drugs. In short, you can't buy heroin in a dispensary.
A good argument to entertain the idea of legalizing non-hallucinogenic drugs is the fact that prohibition isn't working. Drugs that are now classified as illegal are still being used and abused. The prohibition doesn't seem to deter users - despite the millions of dollars being spent on finding and eradicating the supply and arresting the dealers and users. Many lives are impacted by arrest and jail time for activities often no less harmful than cigarettes, alcohol, or caffeine (America's number one drug). A high proportion of the cost of law enforcement is wasted on drug-related crimes
"Can any policy, however high-minded, be moral if it leads to widespread corruption, imprisons so many, has so racist an effect, destroys our inner cities, wreaks havoc on misguided and vulnerable individuals and brings death and destruction to foreign countries?" - From Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winner, Economics
Taxes could generate millions of dollars
"Our nation's failure to substantially reduce drug use despite an expensive long-term effort merely demonstrates that we never really learned the lesson of Prohibition. The demand for drugs in America remains huge, and it is not going to disappear merely because the products happen to be illegal. Furthermore, the criminalization of recreational drug use is fueling much of the violence in our cities. Drug Czars looking for solutions that might work should start by considering the model we use for tobacco. Tobacco is legal, but it is regulated and taxed. If we legalized most of the currently abused drugs, we could tax their sales and use the revenue to fund treatment programs, enforcement efforts, and research into truly effective treatments. There would be less incentive for Third-World farmers to raise drug-related plants for cash crops and America's prisons would no longer be overflowing with small time users. We might even reduce the federal deficit by taxing the growers of marijuana, since it is possibly one of the nation's most lucrative cash crops." - From Dr. William Renfroe
The Cato Institute reports that if we treat marijuana like alcohol - regulate it, tax it, and stop prosecuting people for it - America would save 8.7 billion dollars a year.
"Take it from a businessman - the War on Drugs is just money down the drain". - From Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico
Americans have changed their attitudes about legalizing marijuana.
A Pew poll revealed that 54% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal, while only 42% oppose it. That's an 13-point upswing since 2010. According to a recent FBI report, US law enforcement officials make a marijuana-related arrest every 42 seconds. That's 750,000 people per year caught up in the Drug War net on marijuana alone. With millions of people facing prison time or legal quagmires and billions of dollars spent enforcing marijuana laws, Americans finally seem to be coming to a logical conclusion regarding their country's out-of-control War on Drugs.
"There will always be some people who are less evolved in their thinking about marijuana and want to hold on to the past," said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, "but [this poll shows that] most Americans are ready to move forward and adopt a more sensible, evidence-based approach. Marijuana prohibition is on its last legs. The degree to which it has failed is simply too obvious to ignore."
A bit of history
Harry Anslinger was head of the Bureau of Narcotics back around the time of the prohibition of alcohol. When alcohol prohibition was removed and regulated, this was around the time when Mexican immigrants were coming up from Mexico for work. They brought with them the use of cannabis. Eventually, Negroes found out about this and started to use marijuana. The usage spread to the jazz and swing clubs of society, and people loved it - It made music sound better and life seem more fun. Anslinger, a Christian who was opposed to drinking and any other recreational use of substances, realized all of this and decided to use the racial aspect as a scare tactic, even though plenty of Caucasian citizens were using it too. Anslinger used quotes such as, "Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men." and "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others." These quotes were highly revered by clueless white citizens for years. So, one of the main reasons marijuana is illegal is because of racism in early US society. - From Jordan Hill
Richard Nixon created the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse to, hopefully, provide support to fight drug abuse. But after months of testimony from academics, medical experts, lawmen, and health professionals, the facts overwhelmed the myths. The report was devastating: "Marijuana use, in and of itself, in neither causative of, nor directly associated with crime." It found no basis for the gateway theory. Alcohol was probably a greater danger and the report concluded that personal use of marijuana should no longer be a crime. Since the 1972 release of the Commission report recommending legalization, more than 14 million Americans have been arrested, over $100 billion dollars has been spent, and the use of marijuana is undiminished. - From Common Sense for Drug Policy
• Are drugs illegal because we feel we must impose our values on others?
• Is prohibition really the right thing to do for a 'civilized' people?
• Is society better off with black-market underground drug deals rather than controlled and taxed drug deals?
• Can we more effectively address the problem of self-abuse?
Portugal sees drug use as a medical issue. The USA sees it as a criminal justice issue.
Read the great article in The New York Times.
Review of 'Too High to Fail,' by Doug Fine
By Bill Maher, host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO
There are fiscal and moral arguments to be made over how the United States polices pot. Recently, Bill Maher said of Obama: "If I could tell him just one thing, it would be to remind him that each of the last three presidents could have gone to jail in their youth for doing drugs that other Americans are still being punished for. Just getting caught smoking pot once can follow you around for the rest of your life, blocking career and even housing opportunities. Three presidents in a row now have acknowledged partying in their youth. Our drug policy is a glaring hypocrisy."
What are the chances federal policy on cannabis will change in our lifetimes? "In America, we can almost never kill off anything bad once it starts. Whether it's mohair subsidies or the 50,000 troops still in Germany, once something has a constituency, it finds a way to live on. The drug war, just like the war on terror, created jobs and budgets, and the beneficiaries don't want to give them up, even though they know they're fighting an immoral and unwinnable war."
We've become a ruthless society, and almost everything has to be sold as "first, it's good for business." The "war on drugs" is America's longest war. It has cost taxpayers $1 trillion in the last 40 years and it has turned our nation into "the most highly incarcerated society in history." In 2011, a global commission on drug policy (whose members included the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico) declared that "the global war on drugs has failed." 67% of Americans agree. The real addicts of the drug war are the law enforcement agencies that live off this senseless game of cops and robbers.
Throughout human history, cultures from Mongolia to Peru have used the non-psychoactive cannabis plant for food, shelter, clothing and medicine. Early drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper, and the covered pioneer wagons that took America westward were made of cannabis fiber. In 1942, cannabis prohibition was suspended because of a shortage in industrial supply during the war, and the government actually encouraged farmers to grow it, using a propaganda film, "Hemp for Victory." The place industrial cannabis is not found yet, Fine points out, is in the aboveground American economy, thanks to its listing as a Schedule I narcotic. The Drug Enforcement Administration's official stance is that it has no medical value at all: "Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science - it is not medicine, and it is not safe. Tell that to the doctors with evidence of its ability to shrink tumors and ease the effects of chemotherapy; or to the seniors who depend on medical marijuana to treat their arthritis, and the doctor who uses it to treat his glaucoma; or to the 30-year-old Iraq war veteran with the shrapnel injuries who thanks God every day for this drug. It is prescription drugs that are now the leading cause of fatal drug overdoses - more than 26,000 each year. Also each year, over 23,000 Americans die of alcohol-related causes. None have died from cannabis alone.
An Open Letter to Congress and the President
Author Don Winslow on how the only way to win the War on Drugs is to stop fighting.
The War on Drugs is unwinnable. It is America’s longest war and there’s no end in sight. We are addicted to the War on Drugs. A half-century of failed policy, $1 trillion, and 45 million arrests has not reduced daily drug use - at all. The US still leads the world in illegal drug consumption, drugs are cheaper, more available, and more potent than ever before.
Our justice system is a junkie, demanding its daily fix of arrests, seizures and convictions. It needs drugs. It’s as hooked as that guy sticking a needle into his arm even though he knows it’s killing him.
Towns that used to compete for factories now campaign for penitentiaries because caging our citizens has become big business. Prison privatization - corrections as capitalism - has increased 1600% between 1990 and 2010.
More Black men are in prison or in the “system” today than there were slaves in 1850. And you don’t just throw an individual behind bars, you throw his or her whole family. Almost 3 million kids have a parent in jail on a drug charge, and they’re more likely to be on welfare, drop out of school, go out on the corner and sell drugs to start the whole tragic cycle all over again. Drugs begin the destruction of families and the justice system finishes them off.
The militarization of our police departments began with the reaction to the crack epidemic of the 1980s. Heavily armed SWAT teams battering down doors in the middle of the night, arresting thousands of young men, have turned American neighborhoods into war zones and spawned a hostile and deadly relationship with our inner-city communities.
Proof that this militarization isn’t working is its escalation: In 1972 there were a few hundred paramilitary drug raids; 1980 saw 3,000; 2001 had 40,000; and last year that doubled to 80,000. Of course, if the raids were working, there’d be fewer of them, not more.
The War on Drugs isn’t just a failure, it’s a disaster. It’s not the “Mexican Drug Problem.” It’s the American Drug Problem. It’s simple: No buyer, no seller. We fund the killing, fuel the killing, and sustain the killing. As a result, 100,000 people in Mexico are dead just since 2006. You’re so concerned about terrorists thousands of miles away that you don’t see the terrorists just across our border. The cartels are more sophisticated and wealthier than the jihadists and already have a presence in 230 American cities. The cartels were running the ISIS playbook - decapitations, immolations, videos, social media - ten years ago.
Many of you keep talking about building a wall that stretches the entire 2,000-mile land border with Mexico. It doesn’t matter how high a wall you build if the traffickers can tunnel under it. You’ve read about these tunnels, with railroad tracks, air-conditioning, elevators, and dormitories. Now drug traffickers use them, but how long will it be before terrorists figure out that this is a way to get into our country? Those tunnels only exist because drugs are illegal. Your “tough on crime” stance makes us soft on security.
Since 2005, Congress has spent $2.5 billion on the Merida Initiative, providing weapons, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, surveillance technology, and especially training to Mexican counter-drug agencies. But DEA agents in the field regularly report that these agencies have criminal connections to the cartels, even serving as their armed forces, and have been involved in the massacres of innocent civilians. We are funding our own drug epidemic.
Our Mexico strategy is such a complete failure that during Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF violated the very federal laws it was created to enforce, facilitating arms smuggling to drug traffickers in an effort to trace them. The ATF lost track of the automatic rifles that were then used to murder Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Mexican ambassador to the US Arturo Sarukhan said, “The thinking that you can let guns walk across the border and maintain operational control of those weapons is really an outstanding lack of understanding of how these criminal organizations are operating on both sides of our common borders.”
In Afghanistan, Congress authorized $108 million to “incentivize” provinces to reduce poppy cultivation. Instead, they built irrigation systems to water the poppies. So far, you’ve spent $7.6 billion to fight the drug war in Afghanistan, and opium production there has tripled.
We should be using our resources to fix our crumbling schools, create jobs, and fund drug treatment. Because interdiction increases supply while education reduces demand.
Education is cheaper than incarceration. Keeping someone in a classroom costs one quarter of what it costs to keep him in a cell. But, thanks to the War on Drugs, America is home to the largest prison population in the history of the planet.
Desperate to appear tough on crime, Congress overreacted and passed insanely over-the-top laws forcing judges to put nonviolent drug offenders into prison for mandatory terms of 15 years to life.
The prison population exploded. Now we have 5 percent of the world’s people but 25 percent of the world’s convicts. That’s 2.3 million Americans behind bars, half of them on drug-related offenses.
Eric Sterling, a lawyer and one of the architects of the 1986 federal sentencing laws, later wrote that they were a terrible mistake, “among the most reviled Acts of Congress in recent years.” US District Judge Mark Bennett says that he feels guilt and sorrow when he has to sentence nonviolent drug offenders to long mandatory terms and tells them, “My hands are tied…I’m sorry. This isn’t up to me.”
We’ve failed. And both sides of the aisle agree: President Obama, April 2015: “I am a very strong believer that the path that we have taken in the United States in the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has been so heavy in emphasizing incarceration that it has been counterproductive.” Governor Chris Christie, June 7, 2015: “I think quite frankly the war on drugs has been a failure.” Three-quarters of American voters today agree with them. In a May 2014 drug raid with a “no-knock” warrant, a Georgia SWAT team threw a flash bang grenade into a baby’s playpen. That 1-year-old child suffered critical burns. David Simon has said, “Probable cause was destroyed by the drug war.” We torched our civil rights, and now we burn babies along with them.
That’s not who we are. At least that’s not who we should be.
The Cato Institute estimates that legalizing all drugs would save the country $41 billion a year. Taxing drugs at the same rate that we tax alcohol and tobacco (by far the biggest killers among drugs), would yield $46 billion in tax revenues. With that kind of money, you could shrink the deficit, grow the economy, create businesses in inner cities, provide treatment for addicts - things that might actually do something about the drug problem.
We need Congress to have the courage to step up and say not that the system is broken and in need of repair, but that in 1971 we made a colossal trillion-dollar mistake that has destroyed this country, and it has to stop. How much more money do we have to waste, how many more families have to be destroyed, how many more people have to be killed before you summon the courage to tell the truth to the American people?
The War on Drugs is not only futile, it is wrong.
The only way to win is to stop fighting and legalize.