Good Riddance to the Nanny State’s Massive, Mindless and Monumentally Meretricious War On Drugs

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At age 27 Lucy Steigerwald still knows how to call a spade a spade:

…. the war on drugs is still raging. And we need to keep remembering it’s truly a war. This means half the people in our bulging prisons are both casualties of and prisoners of war. And while we keep progressing with recreational legal marijuana laws…. we cannot forget about the people who are still being punished due to the most dangerous moral panic in U.S. history. Legal precedent be damned; letting every single nonviolent drug criminal out of prison today would be the right thing to do.

Amen! Washington’s massive, mindless and monumentally meretricious war on drugs is surely one of the largest social policy disasters ever launched from the corridors of the beltway. It has plagued the continent with savage drug cartels that thrive on government-created scarcity and the artificial 1000-fold elevation of drug prices which finance military-scale distribution networks. It has cruelly recruited millions of young people, especially in low-income neighborhoods, to a perilous life as drug smugglers, mules, runners and dealers or busted them for minor possession—-and then consigned them to extended sentences in the criminal training camps which comprise the nation’s bulging prisons. And it has foisted upwards of $40 billion per year on taxpayers for no valid purpose of state than to protect people from their own choices, habits, addictions and self-harm.

At long last the lunacy of the War on Drugs seems to be dawning on even mainstream voters and politicians, as reflected in liberalization referendums across the nation. But as a reminder of how the Nanny State can burrow itself deeply and intractably into the daily life of society,  Lucy Steigerwald makes another cogent observation:

I’m 27, but I still remember a time when nobody – nobody – with any kind of shot at winning political office dared discuss ending the drug war.

Funny thing. I am 68 and went to work in Washington at a time when nobody—really nobody—had even thought of starting a drug war.

So the lesson from the nation’s finally fading War on Drugs could not be more clear. Beware of politicians promising to “fix” problems that are not any business of the state in the first place. These schemes of uplift and betterment presently grow into cruel, intractable abominations.

By Lucy Steigerwald

…the moment the scorched policy of the war on drugs slows at all, it is tempting to pull a “W” on the aircraft carrier and declare “mission accomplished.”   But in May 2009, the Obama administration’s drug tsar, Gil Kerlikowske, declared that they weren’t going to call it “the war on drugs” anymore. After all, said Kerlikowske, “people see a war as a war on them. We’re not at war with people in this country.”

The Obama administration has made some token shifts towards less draconian methods of fighting, such as drug courts – which have their own problems – but Kerlikowske was basically lying. War is a nasty, disturbingly accurate, word for what the government has done for 40-plus years (mostly with public approval or at least indifference). The Korean War wasn’t a “police action,” and the door-busting, life-ruining parts of the war on drugs did not end after their general decided calling a spade a spade was bad PR.That switch, and other meek rhetorical gestures, have been pure show on the part of the hypocritical Obama administration until they began to timidly improve last year with some unofficial sentencing reform guidelines….(but) the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington State in 2012 truly did change the game. Weed was legal, really legal, for the first time in 70 years. And so far, Attorney General Eric Holder— – who is also backing more concrete sentencing reforms now –– has let those states be.

Everyone – particularly the heroic drug policy folks who made this possible– deserves to celebrate this victory. I’m 27, but I still remember a time when nobody – nobody – with any kind of shot at winning political office dared discuss ending the drug war. Not even medical marijuana was a safe enough subject on which to opine. You didn’t so much as come out against such things as they didn’t come up for debate at all. In the past five or so years, we have moved from that to this – this being mainstream politicians like Republican Governors Chris Christie (NJ) and Rick Perry (TX), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, all declaring that drug laws need to be changed.

Marijuana reform is a popular issue for people, and the politicians are finally trying to catch up. It is incredible that it now safe enough an issue for non-libertarian, pro-big government politicians to endorse a truncated version of a drug war truce. But we can’t declare victory yet. This 40-year nightmare has ruined too many lives and busted too many civil liberties to count. The cause, like all of America’s ill-advised, brutal adventures do at first, sounded so nice – a drug-free society.   The result was the largest prison population in the world, and less freedom for all of us.

headshotThis war has long been global as well as domestic. We have a Drug Enforcement Administration that acts like the Central Intelligence Agency in Latin America, and has colluded with the National Security Agency at home. The United States has browbeaten other nations into following its warped example on drug policy. In Mexico, powerful drug cartels have killed 60,000 people and US policy has made that worse. And why bother repealing Posse Comitatus’ restrictions on soldiers enforcing law at home, when you can just make police indistinguishable from an army?

There is very little about this campaign against drugs that is not a literal war, at least since {Richard Nixon} made it so. And it needs to end now.

http://original.antiwar.com/lucy/2014/03/26/the-war-on-drugs-remains-literal/

We need peace more than we need legal propriety. We need to end this war, free all the prisoners, and never again trust the architects of misery and social   engineering – especially when they began to sell their next grand adventure.

Reprinted with permission from David Stockman.

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