Friday, February 27, 2009

Drug Prohibition

***The following is written by my friend Jack Nelson***

Drug prohibition is a multi-billion dollar subsidy to our worst enemies; the Colombian F A R C, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and similar
monsters. And millions of Americans learn their values in gangs and
prisons, a sort of collateral damage from the War on Drugs. As for the friendly governments of the producing and transit countries, injecting DEA money into their corrupt institutions must often be counterproductive.

Alcohol prohibition 80 years ago criminalized a social and health problem, handing a giant market to the underworld. A market impossible to expunge. The mafias of 1920 were just little gangs of thugs, but giving them the very lucrative alcohol market turned them into international businesses, with all the sophistication and power associated. Today, international terrorists are the beneficiaries of misguided policies on drugs. Struggling democracies are corrupted by the threats and monies.

Like alcohol and tobacco, we should license noxious drugs to control that market too. Alcohol and tobacco are in essence cheap agricultural products. The market tolerates the high markup of taxation. Illegal drugs are likewise cheap products, but in their case the markup goes to the traffickers. Dope is already so available; we have little reason to think legalization would increase net use and addiction rates. The ready availability on the street is proof that prohibition does not work.

We should stop spending billions on failed persecution and start collecting high taxes. Again, like alcohol and tobacco. This enormous budget windfall should be spent on the causes of drug abuse. We need education, health, jobs, and community programs. That rational policy would have positive societal effects, free the military and police to deal with real priorities, and strip hundreds of billions of dollars from gangs and terrorists.

Yes, hundreds of billions. The market is enormous. Likewise, the fatuous waste of military and police and courts and prisons adds up to more hundreds of billions. This huge waste of funds is the corollary to the waste of lives by turning a social and health problem into a crime.
We should learn the lessons of history.

Jack

Those who have followed this blog for awhile know that I agree that drug probibition is a failed proposition. I have also opined that politics lags social change. This is one of those cases where getting ahead of that curve is political suicide. Talking about it can start the social change that would allow for political change.

3 comments:

Zak Johnson said...

Good points all around. You no doubt also understand that currently illegal drugs are more readily available to minors than alcohol, also as a result of the WOD. Since addiction is more likely to occur to earlier you start something, legalization would probably result in lowering the population of long-term addicts; not to mention teenage prostitutes and petty criminals. California seems to be taking the lead with attempts to legalize marijuana, though they have not taken the full leap that you advocate.

The one caution I see is with the government becoming dependent on tax revenues from narcotics the way it is currently dependent on revenues from other socially destructive behaviors, like alcohol and gambling. The profit motive in the prison-industrial complex has created incentives for government and companies to push for stronger sentencing; it would be unfortunate if the profit motive in a narcotics tax led government and companies both to promote their use for purposes of sales and taxation. But as you point out, what we're currently doing isn't working. No less notable a conservative than William F. Buckley once proposed a similar idea to yours--full legalization for adults with the death penalty for anyone who sells narcotics to minors. Not a bad premise to start with IMO.

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