First uttered by then President Richard Nixon during the Summer of Love in 1969, The War on Drugs is the official United States campaign of prohibition against certain substances that the government deems dangerous, harmful, immoral or undesirable.
I am not going to argue the about the moral merits of trying to curb drug use, but I am going to argue about the impossibility of success trying to legislate personal behavior and the lessons clearly learned when the government decided having a beer was undesirable and prohibited the use of alcohol. I personally do not drink, or smoke, or use drugs. But if I chose to buy a bottle of Jack Daniels right now and drink myself into a stupor, the government would not try and stop me. If I instead chose to smoke marijuana and watch Comedy Central, the government would put me in jail. How much of your taxpayer money has the US government spent to put recreational drug users in jail? I think you’ll be stunned.
First of all, it is interesting to note that what the government has deemed illegal is the use of drugs, not abuse of drugs. Medical professionals define drug abuse as habitual use of drugs to alter one’s mood, emotion or state of consciousness. The US government defines drug abuse as possession of or use of any of the drugs on the illicit drug list. So an individual could be far from a drug abuser, yet be treated as one by the government. In fact, in most states the distribution of any illicit drugs, whether money is exchanged or not, is classified as drug dealing. So if a kid passes a joint to another kid at a rock concert, he’s a drug dealer.
The United States of America has more of its people incarcerated than any other nation in the world. That’s right America, we’re Number 1. In the 1980’s the number of drug related arrests increased 126%. In the mid 90’s, The New England Journal of Medicine reported that the War on Drugs was causing the incarceration of approximately one million American citizens each year. One has to wonder if there is something inherently wrong with American society that so many of our citizens are engaged in dangerous, harmful, immoral and undesirable behavior. Or is there something wrong with a system that incarcerates its citizens for using substances, many of which are no more harmful than other substances that can be purchased from a Quicky-Mart.
The US taxpayer funds the War on Drugs of course, including television advertising. The television networks and the companies that own them profit from the War on Drugs. The US government pays advertising fees to the networks to run anti-drug ads. Seems like the US government has been providing money to private business for a lot longer than the recent bailout frenzy. Do you remember Operation Just Cause in Panama? The United States attacked the nation of Panama to capture Manual Noriega, the head of the Panamanian government, because he was an alleged drug trafficker.
Perhaps we should look to see what the government is trying to accomplish in this war; to see if our goals are reasonable and attainable. Okay, here they are:
- Eradication of drug crops
- Interdiction of drug smuggling
- Investigation and prosecution of drug traffickers
- Reduction of demand by increased penalization of users.
Let’s take them one at a time. The US government wants to eradicate drug crops, but drug crops are mostly in countries other than the United States. Afghanistan, Myanmar, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia just to name a few. So we’re going to need the cooperation of these governments, and we end up financing crop eradication in foreign lands. I’m sure these governments use all the money we give them exclusively for eradicating their drug crops.
Interdiction of drug smuggling would require securing our borders and ports of entry into the US. Oh well, moving on to the drug traffickers.
The DEA has admitted they cannot prosecute all the drug traffickers operating in the United States. So they support mandatory minimum sentencing to entice truthful testimony from low-level dealers to continue up the supply chain. Of the four bullet pointed goals, this is probably the one where the government has had some impact, although the impact of mandatory minimum sentences for drug violation on the size of our prison population are shocking.
Interestingly, demand for illegal drugs in the United States remains stable despite our efforts to reduce it. The National Drug Threat Assessment indicates that the percentage of Americans using cocaine, heroin, crack, marijuana and amphetamines is about the same as it has been since they began tracking it, but due to increases in population, the total number of Americans using these drugs are now estimated at 35 million people. This demand keeps fueling the supply, despite law enforcement efforts.
So how much money have you paid to fight this losing battle? Since the 1970’s we have spent $500 Billion dollars in our effort to stop people from using drugs! As of today’s date, the US has spent almost $11 Billion dollars in the first 2 ½ months of 2009!
So what should we do about the War on Drugs? I take my cue here from Dr. Ron Paul who advocates decriminalization at the Federal level of all drugs. I suggest you read his brief interview on the subject. The man knows his stuff. I’ll leave you with this Position Statement.
As adopted by the General Membership of the Republican Liberty Caucus at its Biannual Meeting held December 8, 2000.
- WHEREAS libertarian Republicans believe in limited government, individual freedom and personal responsibility;
- WHEREAS we believe that government has no money nor power not derived from the consent of the people;
- WHEREAS we believe that people have the right to keep the fruits of their labor; and
- WHEREAS we believe in upholding the US Constitution as the supreme law of the land;
1. BE IT RESOLVED that the Republican Liberty Caucus endorses the following [among its] principles: While recognizing the harm that drug abuse causes society, we also recognize that government drug policy has been ineffective and has led to frightening abuses of the Bill of Rights which could affect the personal freedom of any American. We, therefore, support alternatives to the War on Drugs.
2. Per the tenth amendment to the US Constitution, matters such as drugs should be handled at the state or personal level.
3. All laws which give license to violate the Bill of Rights should be repealed.
Source: Republican Liberty Caucus Position Statement 00-RLC13 on Dec 8, 2000