Drug-War Hogwash

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About the only industries the American government is skilled at creating are the war industries and the smuggling industries.

The fiasco some people call the "war on drugs" is proof positive that most people learn nothing from history. What happened when the government outlawed the sale of alcohol? It created organized crime, vast organizations that smuggled booze into the country and set up wholesale and retail distribution of it. Since criminal organizations are denied the benefit of the law for settling disputes, you got gang wars for turf and distribution rights.

Prohibition, as it was called, was supported by the same barnyard-style rhetoric that you hear about drugs. Enormous government organizations were formed to fight illegal alcohol. Corruption became rampant. It became a standard joke that the big supporters of prohibition were the cops and bootleggers. The American public finally got fed up with corruption and hypocrisy, and repealed the amendment that had created Prohibition.

The politicians were smarter the next time. They didn’t use a constitutional amendment for outlawing drugs, which would give the people a choice to reject it. They outlawed them by statute, and it is a well-known fact that the group with the least influence on the legislative process is the American people.

The exact same thing happened that had happened with prohibition. Organizations were formed that smuggled drugs into the U.S. and set up wholesale and retail distribution systems. Law enforcement expanded, and so did corruption. Illicit money in vast quantities always breeds corruption.

The illegal drug business boils down to a retail industry. There are suppliers and wholesalers, but in the end the money comes from the individual users. Therefore, if your local gendarmes tell you there are a lot of drugs in the area, but they can’t find them, you need to ask this question: How is it the customers can find them, but you can’t? You need to look closely at drug arrests. If they are all street sellers, then you’ve got a problem. Chances are, the suppliers are paying somebody off.

Never underestimate the power of money to corrupt, especially when it’s untraceable and tax-free.

Like the earlier gangs in Prohibition days, drug gangs can’t go to court to settle disputes, so you have killings. As long as one drug dealer is killing only another drug dealer, the cops shouldn’t even bother to investigate. A lot of today’s criminals, however, can’t shoot straight and often hit innocent people. Those criminals should be caught and executed.

The real answer lies in one of two alternatives. Alternative one is to crack down hard and levy severe penalties on users. The present policy of giving users a slap on the wrist, especially if they are celebrities, just creates a market. No amount of law enforcement will keep drugs out of the hands of eager customers with money. For one thing, drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin are dirt-cheap to produce. Drugs flow to the market. Eliminate the market and the drug flow will cease.

Frankly, if I were a cop in Colombia, I’d be darned if I would risk my life to stop drugs when I can see celebrity drug users in the U.S. going free with a smirky smile.

The second alternative is to legalize and regulate drugs. These drugs are so cheap to produce that they can be sold legitimately at a far lower price than illegal drugs. The whole illegal-drug business would go bust. If addicts could buy their drugs at a reasonable price from a noncriminal enterprise, then you would eliminate the necessity of addicts having to commit crimes to feed their habit. You could also provide education and treatment in a noncriminalized environment. You would eliminate a lot of corruption, and you could greatly reduce the prison population.

To continue as we are is to fulfill the definition of insanity and chronic stupidity by repeating the same acts that result in the same repeated failures.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.

© 2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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