Article first published as America's €™ War on Drugs; Would Surrender Be So Bad? on Technorati.
I have always felt the laws against smoking pot and sampling other drugs were unusually harsh. Drug use is a crime without a victim. I never understood how our government could interfere with my right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. When did our government acquire the right to tell me what I can eat, drink or smoke? After all, I am not the property of the government.
I can legally jump out of an airplane, bungee jump, fight in the ring, race cars, or even work in a coal mine. Participation in all of those activities can lead to injury, illness or death. What makes “Getting high” so terrible?
I worked in a minor fundraising role for NORML in the late 70’s. The organization was making excellent progress at that time. Therapeutic Use Laws passed in 13 states and many others decriminalized the use and possession of small quantities of marijuana. Jimmy Carter had promised to legalize pot during his campaign. When he won the election, we all thought the battle was over. We were naive and quite mistaken.
President Carter immediately forgot about his campaign promises to all of the potheads. Only he knows why he did not keep them. Soon after the election, the NORML organization stumbled and then fell on hard times. Laws became harsh again. Making war on drugs became politically correct. The United States has been fighting that war for more than thirty years.
What have we won in those three decades? I will answer that for you. We have not won a single thing, nada, zip or zilch. We are losing the war and we have been for a long time.
During the course of the war, street gangs have risen to power and killed thousands; Hundreds of thousands have been jailed for drug possession and trafficking. Giant international cartels have appeared. State and federal governments have built hundreds of new jails and billions of dollars in precious resources squandered to prosecute and house offenders. What have our tax dollars purchased in all of that time? Nothing, we threw the money into a hole.
In 2001, the country of Portugal decided to go a different direction. They totally decriminalized all drugs; they admitted defeat and surrendered.
So what happened in Portugal? Did the sky fall? Did people throw a drug-crazed party and riot in the streets? Was there an uncontrolled rise in pregnancy, HIV, and sexual assault? No, none of these things happened. In fact, the opposite happened.
I have copied part of an article from “The Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet” for you.
“Portugal's Drug Legalization Works
In 2001, Portugal legalized all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs—including cocaine, heroin, and meth—and replaced drug sentences with offers of therapy. If that sounds a bit bleeding heart, well, it worked: In the five years following decriminalization, drug use among teenagers has dropped, as have HIV infections caused by dirty needles…”
Why can’t we try that here? What is standing in the way?
I can see several major obstacles; thousands of police, lawyers and Judges earn their incomes waging war on drugs and those convicted of drug crimes fill over 30% of jail cells in the United States. Housing drug related felons has become a big business. All of the individuals involved in waging the drug war have influence; donate to political campaigns and vote. In actuality, our government did not pour billions of dollars into a hole; our leaders paid it to hundreds of thousands of government employees.
Let’s assume we go ahead and legalize drugs. What could we gain? First, we would cut off the major source of revenue for street gangs and international drug cartels. Second, the ability of a drug user to obtain his, or her, substance legally and inexpensively would dramatically reduce the instances of muggings and other street crimes. We could also expect a decrease in sexually transmitted disease. Taxed, the various substances would provide revenue for our government instead of a multibillion-dollar annual expense.
Most substance abusers are not criminals. They may have psychological issues that ease them into drug dependency. They may be out of work and bored or they may simply be recreational users looking for some fun on the weekend. Most drug related crime, at least crimes by addicted users, are committed while attempting to generate the funds needed for illegal overpriced drugs. Legally produced drugs would be pure, quality control would be constant and the price would be much lower. The criminal element increases the costs dramatically. Removing those criminals would dramatically change the way people use drugs and clean up the streets of our country at the same time.
It is an old argument, but in these difficult financial times, perhaps it’s worth looking at once more. The course we have been taking has been expensive, wasteful and fruitless. It’s time for a change in strategy; why not join the Portuguese and surrender along with them?
My name is Patrick M McCormick and I have created this blog as a platform for my political views as well as those of select contributors.
I believe that American Politicians have lost sight of their goal: To uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of the people of the United States. They argue and bicker on the floor of their respective houses, positioning themselves for the next election, while they accomplish very little business for the citizens of this country.
Meanwhile our economy is sliding downward. Millions of our precious jobs have have been exported overseas. Our social safety net and other public services are being cut. Our middle class is rapidly disappearing and the numbers of citizens existing below the poverty line is increasing dramatically.
I plan to examine the causes of these terrible changes to our American way of life. Your comments will help us all arrive at some important conclusions.