Friday, September 2, 2011
A Truce in the War on Drugs
Since we've been beating ideas back and forth for reducing the national debt and making the federal government operate within its means, how about we put an end to the war on drugs? This multi-billion dollar boondoggle has been underway since someone in the Nixon administration noticed that most of the anti-war protestors were dope smokers and continues to suck money and resources out of our country to this day.
Let's face facts. You are never going to make any significant impact on drug use by trying to impede the supply. People have always used substances to alter their reality and always will. Sometimes the substances are food or caffeine, sometimes they are marijuana and methamphetamine. Even gambling is a form of escape from ordinary conciousness. Some would even argue cell phones have become a nationwide addiction. Certainly, they cause their share of traffic accidents.
Now, before you write this off as a rant by some drug-ingesting overaged flower child, let me reassure you. One drink is a big party night for me. I no longer smoke marijuana, although I will admit it's part in my distant history. I don't smoke cigarettes, drive too fast, or eat magic mushrooms. I will admit to a skinny white-chocolate mocha three or four times a week. A party animal I'm not.
I also recognize that drugs and alcohol ruin many lives, fracturing families, causing horrible traffic accidents and sometimes leading people to commit acts of violence. But . . .
The only thing we accomplish by tightening the supply of drugs and arresting users is filling our prisons and jacking the prices of the drug to levels that make organized crime organizations more determined to find a way to get the substances to those willing to pay the freight.
Many states, Oregon and Washington included made it harder for small-time crank cookers to put their hands on large quantities of pseudo ephedrine which is used in the manufacture of speed. In succeeding, they froze out many biker gangs and the like who were producing meth in smaller quantities, but created a very lucrative opportunity for organized crime families to import the product in bulk from Mexico and sell it for escalated prices. When we sprayed paraquat on Mexican marijuana plantations, choking off the supply of the cheap, relatively mild weed many children of the sixties remember cashing in their pop bottle money to buy, they helped provide stimulus to the massive marijuana plantation of Northern California that grows more potent and much more expensive cannabis.
The other argument you hear against legalizing drugs goes like this. If it's legal, that's telling kids it's acceptable and young people who wouldn't otherwise try drugs will light up. This rationale has been dreamed up by people who either (a) don't have kids (b) don't spend much time around their kids or (c) don't remember what it was like being a kid. For the kids who do choose to use, the very illicit nature of the drug, the danger involved in using it, is part of the attraction. Being a kid is all about defying your parents and what better way than to risk jail with your behavior. The more we can do to shift the depiction of drug users from glamorous outlaw to pathetic losers who need help, the better off we'll be.
Here's a common sense approach. Lets legalize all heretofore illegal drugs. Pot, cocaine, heroin, methampetamine, whatever. Create government run stores that would sell regulated amounts of the product to registered users at a fair market price. Use any money generated, after you pay the store's employees and the people who make or grow the substances their cut, to create large-scale rehab programs. Have signage in the stores and run TV and internet ads reminding addicts that they can get into a rehab program instantly to quit their destructive habit.
What would this accomplish? First it would take the profit out of drugs and freeze out organized crime and the violence associated with it. Second, it would allow us to identify and treat people with drug issues. Third, the sucking sound of "The War on Drugs" billions circling down the drain would no longer be heard. Instead we'd move the balance sheet into the black and finance programs to rehabilitate drug users.
One caveat before I give you a chance to have your say. Despite being against jailing people for drug use, I am for being harsh on people's actions when under the influence of controlled substances. If you amp up on meth and run your car into someone and hurt or kill them, I'd be against you seeing the light of day ever again. If you rob a convenience store at gunpoint for the money to feed your habit, you should also go away for an extended stay behind bars (with a chance at rehab while in). If you abuse or neglect your kids because of your drug use, we should find them new families.
Instead of hacking programs intended to help the poor and elderly, why don't we look at some common sense ideas for putting a dent in our national debt. I welcome your thoughts.