The Evil War on Drugs

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Speak out too loudly against the drug war, and you might be targeted. Peter McWilliams had AIDS and cancer and was dependent on marijuana to stay alive. It turns out that the people who had been using the stuff medicinally for thousands of years were onto something. No one has ever been recorded as dying from the physiological effects of marijuana. But the federal government wouldn’t let McWilliams, a vocal anti-prohibition activist, have his medicine. They threatened to take his mother’s house away if he used the substance that was keeping him alive. He was found dead in his home in June 2000. The drug war killed him directly.

And now Steve Kubby is in jail, being deprived of the medical marijuana that has kept him alive. About a quarter-century ago, he was diagnosed with an exceedingly rare strain of adrenal cancer that no one else has been able to survive for more than five years. He was expected to die within the same timeframe. His physician, Dr. Vincent DeQuattro, an expert on this rare condition, has credited marijuana with saving his life. Several years ago, Kubby was forcefully deprived of his medicine for three days in jail, during which he suffered extreme vomiting and shivering and went temporarily blind in one eye. In U.S. custody again, after having taken refuge in Canada and being extradited back to the Land of the Free, he now has a good chance of dying, of being murdered by the state, all so it can make an example of this courageous anti-drug war activist.

For Kubby, as was the case for McWilliams, prohibition of life-saving medicine could prove a cruel and unusual execution, all for the non-crime of self-medication, the right to which all humans are born with. Apparently, he has been allowed to use some Marinol, but the synthetic THC simply isn’t a replacement for the complex mixture of cannabinoids in marijuana. Smoking about twelve grams of pot a day has worked for him, allowing him to live a healthy life; the government’s approved version does not quite do the trick, though it might barely be keeping death away. It is very uncertain at this point what will come of his health and legal situation.

The drug war is misdirected. It is foolish. It is stupid, unworkable, disastrous, tragic and sad. But beyond all that it is evil.

The drug war is grounded in an evil premise: that people do not own their bodies, that they have no right to control what they do with their own lives and their own property, that it is appropriate to lock them in cages if they produce, distribute or consume chemicals in defiance of the state.

This is a monstrosity. As long as America has the drug war, it is not a free country. Politicians who support it and expand it, knowing the evils it entails, have no business lecturing us on morality.

The ideology of the war on drugs is the ideology of totalitarianism, of communism, of fascism and of slavery. In practice, it has made an utter mockery of the rule of law and the often-spouted idea that America is the freest country on earth. The United States has one of the highest per capita prison populations in the world, second only to Rwanda, thanks largely to the drug war, all while its federal government imposes its drug policies on other countries by methods ranging from mere diplomatic bullying to spraying foreign crops with lethal poison, from bribing foreign heads of state to bankrolling and whitewashing acts of mass murder conducted by despots in the name of fighting drugs.

Like so many other wars, the drug war is constructed on a mountain of lies. Politicians have lied over and over about the dangers of specific drugs, the percentages of drug offenders in prison, the success of various anti-drug programs, and the motives they have for waging the war. But even if it weren’t for these acts of brazen dishonesty, the drug war would still be evil.

The war on drugs is murderous. Militarized police forces frequently raid homes and assault or even slaughter innocent people — some of whom did not even break the unjust drug laws. And those laws are just that — unjust. Remember it always. The war on drugs is an unjust war of aggression. Its agents are in the wrong. Under the current system, if you defend yourself against this homegrown war of aggression, you might be killed instantly or put on death row like Cory Maye. The authorities will get away with it.

The war on drugs is not a program that should be reconsidered, reformed, or reinvented. It needs not a different set of priorities or a restructuring. It needs to be repealed completely. Its prisoners need to be released without an instant of hesitation. Its greatest victims should be compensated as much as possible out of the pockets of the aggressors. Those at the top of this war must be held responsible for their illegal and immoral acts.

I am sometimes told that libertarians are too obsessed with the war on drugs. I disagree. I think that people in general, including many libertarians, should be more concerned with it. We are talking about the longest war in American history, one that has hundreds of thousands of innocent people locked in cages, many of whom are raped and beaten by convicted brutes as the prison guards laugh, all at an exorbitant cost in tax dollars and liberty. We are talking about a program that has decimated every article in the Bill of Rights. We are talking about a modern-day witch-trial and inquisition, all wrapped up into one, and multiplied in its evil effects and destructiveness many times over. We are talking about the precedent for so many other evil policies, from prohibitions on so-called "money laundering" and the criminal enterprise known as civil asset forfeiture to the egregious civil liberties violations conducted today under the guise of combating terrorism.

They often say that all they want in the war on terror are the tools they’ve been using in the drug war for years. There is some truth to this. But they should have never had such sweeping powers to begin with, not for investigating crime, not for fighting terrorism, and especially not for a war on victimless activity.

The practical complaints against the drug war have been repeated ad nauseam: Black market violence escalates, more people die of drug impurities, and so on. These are compelling enough to end the whole crusade. But the most fundamental reason to end it is it’s evil, very evil. It treats sick people like criminals. It wrecks millions of lives. It puts young people in jail, sometimes for a lifetime, only for engaging in activities that some of our presidents engaged in when they themselves were young. It criminalizes speech between doctors and patients, and producers and consumers. It starts wars in other countries. It’s one of the greatest social evils in America. Unfortunately, a distinct political class profits immensely off the oppressive program, and has succeeded in bamboozling the public into thinking the program is a necessary evil or even a positive good.

Several years ago, drug warriors mistook some missionaries flying to Peru for a plane of drug dealers, and so shot them down. Lew Rockwell asked, "Isn’t it time the Christian Right begin to rethink the drug war, which has now taken two of their own?"

Sadly, most of the Christian Right, as well as most of the rest of the right and all too much of the left, still believes in the evil drug war. They are afraid of what will happen if drugs are made legal. Will more people do drugs?

Maybe. I don’t personally think the long-term increase would be so dramatic, if there were one at all. At various times, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, and amphetamine were legal. The problems associated with legal drugs many years ago still exist today, but at least we didn’t also have a deeply immoral war on drugs tearing society apart.

Even if some problems did increase, the drug war simply cannot be justified. It is rotten and immoral to the core. To put someone in a cage, or to kill someone, for engaging in private behavior or mutually voluntary trade is purely evil. That is the first and most important argument against the war on drugs.

Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research analyst at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.

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