Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jacob G. Hornberger: The Drug War is finished

  The drug war is finished. Kaput.  It’s now just a matter of time when the federal government calls an end to this evil, immoral, destructive, and racist government program.

  This week the New York Times became the latest addition to those calling for an end to the drug war, with an editorial entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again.” That was followed by two more editorials written by members of the NYT editorial board, one entitled “Let States Decide on Marijuana” by David Firestone and the other “The Public Lightens Up About Weed” by Juliet Lapidos.

  That’s about as mainstream as one can get.

  Comparing drug laws to Prohibition, the Times wrote:

       It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

  The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

  While the Times unfortunately limits its call to marijuana instead of expanding it to all drugs, once people see the benefits that come from ending the criminality of marijuana, the rest of the federal drug-war apparatus will soon fall as well.

  The federal government never should have enacted drug laws in the first place. For one thing, there is no authorization in the Constitution for such power. That’s why, in fact, Americans amended the Constitution to make the possession of booze illegal — and then repealed that amendment. The same thing needed to be done with drugs.

  Second, governments have no business punishing people for what they put into their mouths. Freedom means the right to live your life the way you want, so long as your conduct is peaceful. That obviously encompasses what you put into your mouth. Other people might object to what you ingest for health concerns or any reasons, but such objections should never have been translated into having the state incarcerate and fine people for ingesting what they want. Drug addiction and drug usage are none of the state’s business.

  Third, look at the consequences of the drug war: gangs, cartels, drug lords, gang wars, robberies, muggings, thefts, burglaries, illegal searches, ruination of lives, years of incarceration, enormous fines, asset forfeiture laws, military-type raids, infringements on civil liberties and privacy, racist enforcement, bribery, corruption, murders, assassinations, and the militarization of the police.

  All that is about as far from a peaceful and harmonious society that one can get. And it’s all because of the prohibition of drugs.

  In fact, try to think of one legitimate reason to keep the drug war going. You can’t do it.

  Get the U.S. military involved? It already is involved, heavily. Just ask the people of Latin America, where the Pentagon has played a heavy role in waging the war on drugs in that part of the world, which has done nothing more than convert Latin American countries into cauldrons of violence. Ask the people of Mexico, where some 60,000 people have died in the last 7 years owing to a massive, military-style crackdown in the war on drugs.

  Increase jail sentences for drug-law violators? It’s been done. In fact, the feds are now granting early release to many of the people whose lives they are ruined. The feds are recognizing that those long jail sentences didn’t do the trick.

  Asset-forfeiture laws? They’ve been tried. In fact, they’ve been converted into a convenient way for law-enforcement people to steal cash and other valuable property from poor people. They’ve accomplished nothing else.

  They’ve tried everything, and everything has failed. The drug warriors have nothing left in their arsenal.

  So why the delay in ending the drug war? One reason: jobs. There is an enormous segment of society that has become dependent on the war on drugs, a segment that not only depends of things like bribes but also on legitimate income streams like salaries.

  These are the drug-war addicts. We’re talking about assistant U.S. Attorneys, DEA agents, deputy sheriffs, Border Patrol, policemen, assistant district attorneys, clerks, state and federal judges, and so many others. This segment is now the principal obstacle to ending the drug war.

  I can just picture a big protest in Washington against ending the drug war. There would be two groups of people all rallying together and sharing the same signs saying “Keep the Drug War Going!” The two segments would be (1) U.S. drug-war law-enforcement agents and (2) the drug lords and drug dealers. Both segments know that drug legalization would put them both out of a job immediately.

  That’s what happened when Prohibition was ended. No more booze gangs, no more gang wars over turf, and no more booze bribery of prosecutors and judges. That’s because there wasn’t a black market anymore.

  The same thing will happen with drug legalization. In fact, that’s one of the ironies of the drug war. It purports to go after drug lords, cartels, and gangs but in fact is the cause of their existence. The more the drug laws are enforced, the stronger the black-market sector becomes. With drug legalization, the goal of smashing the drug dealers is achieved, not by arrest and incarceration but instead by putting them out of business through the restoration of a legal free market.

  The question now is: Who will be the last person punished in the war on drugs?

  About the author: Jacob G. Hornberger is the founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

  This article was published by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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