The drug war is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the mainstream political dialogue, even among people who are sympathetic to the plight of responsible drug users. It is rare for someone to come out and say that all drugs should be legal, but in all honesty this is the only logically consistent stance on the issue. To say that some drugs should be legal while others should not is still giving credence to the punishment paradigm and overlooking the external consequences of drug prohibition, or prohibition of any object for that matter.
There is no doubt that drug abuse is a serious issue in our culture, primarily because people are so depressed and beaten down that they self medicate just to be able to tolerate the average day. However, a prohibition policy is a policy of violence, because if you happen to be caught with any of these banned items you will be forcefully taken against your will and put in a cage, and if you dare to prevent this kidnap from taking place you will inevitably be killed. This is the fundamental issue surrounding the drug war that we need to be focused on. Instead of bickering over how to slightly reform drug policy, or arguing about which drug is more harmful than the other, we need to be pointing out that prohibition itself is an inherently violent policy that rests upon the stone age concept of punishment.
As I alluded to earlier, there are many external factors that are effected by the drug war that many people don't take into account. That is because when you carry out acts of violence, even in the form of punishment, you then create a ripple effect which extends far beyond the bounds of the original circumstance to effect many innocent people down the line. The following list delves into those external factors to illustrate how drug users and non users alike, would be a lot better off if prohibition ended immediately.
(1) Reduce Violent crime – The steady increase in violent crime over the past few decades is directly correlated with the escalation of the drug war. As we saw during the times of alcohol prohibition, when you ban any inanimate object, you create an incentive for people to get involved in the black market distribution of that object. Since there is no accountability, or means of peaceful dispute resolution within the black market, buyers and sellers are forced to resort to violence as their sole means of handling disagreements.
Eventually, this violence spills over into the everyday world and effects everyone's lives. No one could imagine Budweiser and Miller Lite in a back alley gunfight, but less than a century ago during alcohol prohibition, distributors of the drug were involved in shootouts on a regular basis, just as drug gangs are today. Of course, all of this violence came to an immediate end when alcohol was legalized, however, it was not long before the establishment found a new crusade in the drug war, which allowed them to continue the same policy just with different substances.
(2) Improve seller accountability and drug safety In the black market one of the major drawbacks is that there is no accountability among the people selling the drug. Since anyone can get kidnapped and thrown in a cage for even dealing with the stuff, it really doesn't make sense for people to be plastering their names and logos all over the drugs. In this age of corporate mercantilism logos and branding may seem like a really tacky idea, but when looking at the black market we can see the value in such things. Someone who is selling a product with their name on it, is going to go through far greater lengths to ensure the quality of their product, as opposed to someone who would remain anonymous.
This anonymity creates an incentive for people to be dishonest with what they sell. This could lead to rip offs, or downright contamination of the drug with unwanted harmful substances. This is why there was bathtub gin that would make you go blind if your drank it during alcohol prohibition. This is also the reason why some of the harder street drugs today are cut with toxic chemicals that increase the chance of overdose ten fold. The fact that the drugs need to be smuggled also creates the incentive to make drugs more potent, and thus in some circumstances more dangerous. The increased potency and decreased availability inevitably leads to a massive increase in cost. The increased cost is a whole other issue with its own unique side effects in regaurds to drug safety. When the price of the real drugs go up, people just start huffing paint thinner, smoking bath salts and cooking up crystal meth in their basements, which is then even many times more dangerous than the unbranded drugs on the black market.
(3) Reduce Drug Availability to Children – Many children have houses that are filled with alcohol, yet most of them find it way easier to get drugs than to get alcohol even though alcohol is legal. Even if there were no legal age restrictions on alcohol, the societal and family norms would be just as effective at deterring children from then a formal prohibition policy. If we look overseas at countries that don't have age restrictions on alcohol, younger people are oftentimes much more mature and informed about its effects than children in the west, and are more likely to make responsible decisions about mind altering substances. In Portugal where drugs have been decriminalized for some time now there has actually been a double digit drop in drug use by school age children.
(4) Reduce nonviolent Prisoner population – A vast majority of the prisoners in the united states are there for nonviolent non crimes, many of which stem from the drug war. Currently, there are more people in US prisons than were in the gulags of Soviet Russia at its worst. Putting nonviolent people in cages, bringing violence against nonviolent people is a horrible violation of natural law. However, if you have no sympathy or compassion for the casualties in this drug war, I would point again to the external consequences which effect even the most vocal prohibitionist. According to the most cited Judge in the United States, Richard A. Posner, the government spends $41.3 billion per year of your tax money on law enforcement measures against mostly small time drug users.
(5) Real crime can be dealt with – Even in areas with a declining homicide rate, the murder cases that are going unsolved are continuing to climb. Police departments and buerocrats have a million excuses, but the drug war is one of the primary reasons for this occurrence. On one hand indiscriminate killings become more common than crimes of passion that are easy to figure out, but there is a much more sinister aspect of this as well. If you look at the rate of incarcerations for drug offenses, and how incredibly often drug cases are u201Csolvedu201D and found in favor of the state, it becomes obvious that the police have more of an incentive in their day to day activities to hunt down drug users than murderers. These people aren't selfless public servants as the propaganda on primetime television would lead you to believe, they are average people just like you and me. They will even tell ya u201Cim just doin my jobu201D, so like most of us, when they are on the job they try to get the most amount of money for the least amount of work, and murder cases are really tough work.
A cop could even miss his quota by taking the time and effort to hunt down a murderer, instead of grabbing a kid with a bag of pot, which is a lot easier to find and a lot easier to catch. Quotas are another thing that many police departments deny, but time and time again evidence surfaces that proves otherwise, recently a former NYPD officer has come forward saying that he used to ticket dead people just to meet his quota. This is not to say that all cops are nasty people, but the way that their jobs are monopolized by the state and focused on the drug war corrupts their position and forces them to hurt innocent people and violate people's rights even if they have the best of intentions.
(6) Encourage genuine treatment for addicts – As a result of international drug treaties most of the world has remained trapped in a punishment mindset when it comes to dealing with the social problem of drug addiction. While an addiction may be problematic for the person involved and everyone that they come in contact with, they are not a criminal until they actually hurt someone or damage their property, and even then they are a criminal because of their aforementioned transgression not because of their drug addiction. Even the treatment that we see today is not genuine because it is forced on people and doesent address the reasons why they are doing drugs in the first place. In other words, today’s treatment programs just try to bash the idea that u201Cdrugs are badu201D into peoples heads, instead of really communicating with these them, treating them like human beings and overcoming the underlying issues in their lives that are pushing them towards lives of drug addiction.
(7) Prevent drug overdoses – As I mentioned earlier most drug overdoses that happen today wouldn't occur if it wasn't for the artificially high potency of drugs that we see today. However, what is even more sad is that of those overdoses that do happen, many more of them could have been prevented but were not because witnesses were too afraid of the police getting involved to call for help. 9 states out of 50 in the US currently have good Samaritan laws to give legal amnesty to anyone who brings an overdosing person to the hospital, but that measure wouldn't even be necessary if prohibition wasn't a factor in the first place. The fact that people are actually afraid to call an ambulance in this country should really tell you something about the level that the police state has risen to.
(8) Protect individual rights – Thanks to the drug war, merely on the whim of saying that they smell something cops are now able to enter homes, search cars and totally violate the rights of nonviolent people. The drug war and terrorism are the two biggest excuses used to violate peoples rights, yet according to the national safety council you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist. The very existence of the drug war to begin with, or a prohibition on any object is a fundamental violation of natural rights that should not exist in any civilized society.
Reprinted with permission from Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance.