End the War on Drugs

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We have recently
heard many shocking stories of brutal killings and ruthless violence
related to drug cartels warring with Mexican and US officials. It
is approaching the fever pitch of a full-blown crisis. Unfortunately,
the administration is not likely to waste this opportunity to further
expand government. Hopefully, we can take a deep breath and look
at history for the optimal way to deal with this dangerous situation,
which is not unprecedented.

Alcohol prohibition
in the 1920’s brought similar violence, gangs, lawlessness,
corruption and brutality. The reason for the violence was not that
making and selling alcohol was inherently dangerous. The violence
came about because of the creation of a brutal black market which
also drove profits through the roof. These profits enabled criminals
like Al Capone to become incredibly wealthy, and militantly defensive
of that wealth. Al Capone saw the repeal of Prohibition as a great
threat, and indeed smuggling operations and gangland violence fell
apart after repeal. Today, picking up a bottle of wine for dinner
is a relatively benign transaction, and beer trucks travel openly
and peacefully along their distribution routes.

Similarly today,
the best way to fight violent drug cartels would be to pull the
rug out from under their profits by bringing these transactions
out into the sunlight. People who, unwisely, buy drugs would hardly
opt for the back alley criminal dealer as a source, if a coffeehouse-style
dispensary was an option. Moreover, a law-abiding dispensary is
likely to check ID’s and refuse sale to minors, as bars and
ABC stores tend to do very diligently. Think of all the time and
resources law enforcement could save if they could instead focus
on violent crimes, instead of this impossible nanny-state mandate
of saving people from themselves!

If
these reasons don’t convince the drug warriors, I would urge
them to go back to the Constitution and consider where there is
any authority to prohibit private personal choices like this. All
of our freedoms — the freedom of religion and assembly, the
freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, the right to be free
from unnecessary government searches and seizures — stem from
the precept that you own yourself and are responsible for your own
choices. Prohibition laws negate self-ownership and are an absolute
affront to the principles of freedom. I disagree vehemently with
the recreational use of drugs, but at the same time, if people are
only free to make good decisions, they are not truly free. In any
case, states should decide for themselves how to handle these issues
and the federal government should respect their choices.

My great concern
is that instead of dealing deliberatively with the actual problems,
Congress will be pressed again to act quickly without much thought
or debate. I can’t think of a single problem we haven’t
made worse that way. The panic generated by the looming crisis in
Mexico should not be redirected into curtailing more rights, especially
our second amendment rights, as seems to be in the works. Certainly,
more gun laws in response to this violence will only serve to disarm
lawful citizens. This is something to watch out for and stand up
against. We have escalated the drug war enough to see it only escalates
the violence and profits associated with drugs. It is time to try
freedom instead.

See
the Ron Paul File

March
31, 2009

Dr. Ron
Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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