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Thoughtful words on the War on Drugs

March 8, 2007

There is no doubt that Walter Cronkite provided some of the best coverage of the failed war in Vietnam, but now read his thoughts on another failed war. Using his incisive style of investigative journalism (so different from the obnoxious investigations we see on the local Fox news), Mr. Cronkite brings a few stories of people that the War on Drugs has unfairly affected. Let’s take a look:

Nicole Richardson was 18-years-old when her boyfriend, Jeff, sold nine grams of LSD to undercover federal agents. She had nothing to do with the sale. There was no reason to believe she was involved in drug dealing in any way.

But then an agent posing as another dealer called and asked to speak with Jeff. Nicole replied that he wasn’t home, but gave the man a number where she thought Jeff could be reached.

Nicole was sent to 10 years without possibility of parole in Federal prison for conspiracy to deal drugs. It is reprehensible that while her boyfriend was able to negotiate a shorter incarceration in trade for information, Nicole was not able to, as she actually knew nothing about the drug trade.

Mr. Cronkite pretty much sums up how I’ve felt about the War on Drugs ever since I’ve actually considered it, but is able to voice it better than I could ever hope to. Give a read, it’s good stuff.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Tyler Nixon permalink
    March 8, 2007 11:47 am

    The “War on Drugs” is a misnomer. It is a war on people, singled out for as little as mere use of certain substances that remain arbitrarily banned from a bygone era of antiquity.

    Most drug laws are based on the narrow, uninformed, ignorant judgments of politicians and patricians from literally a century ago. They are most firmly rooted not in health, social, or crime policy but rather proxy racism. They got the Mexicans with marijuana, the blacks with cocaine, and the Asians with opium. The laws still linger as a bizarre testament to bad policy made worse and then run amok.

    Prohibition not only does not work, it has a devastating ripple effect whereby disrespect and disregard for essentially indefensible drug laws foment a larger disrespect for law and law enforcement. If you are facing life in prison for black market drug activity why not murder anyone who gets in your way? What difference is there between one life sentence and 10?

    Alcohol prohibition was started by crusading pseudo-moral zealots and then ended by a rational people who saw that the evils of alcohol were nothing compared to the evils of alcohol prohibition. There is absolutely no difference between alcohol and selective drug prohibition. Both create violent illicit criminal networks and immense profits for people who are much worse than even the worst drug addicted louse. I would rather have more drug abusers who can get it cheap than what we have now : drug dealers who can sell it at incredibly inflated prices that push users into crimes of desparation to get the money for their fix. If you want to get rid of drug dealers and drug-related property crimes, the only answers are medical dispensaries, rationally-regulated outlets (like, for example, LIQUOR STORES), and free-market prices that don’t profit criminals with ill-gotten treasure from desparate buyers.

    The victims of the drug war are people caught in the violent street crossfire caused by an “anything goes” market that is purely the creation of the drug laws and the high profits they create for violent, greedy, anti-social risk-takers. The victims are the people arbitrarily ground into penal dust by overzealous, politically-ambitious prosecutors and cops who want to be tough guys and justify their existences as “drug warriors”.

    The whole shoddy system of drug prohibition is just a sickening out of control mess that needs to be halted. Drug abuse, much less just plain use, is not a societal woe worth the unbelievable human, social, and financial toll wreaked by the insane policy of arbitrary drug prohibition and enforcement.

    Abe Lincoln knew the deal. We could use some of his common sense these days.

    “Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”

    Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. President.
    Speech, 18 Dec. 1840, to Illinois House of Representatives

  2. March 8, 2007 12:10 pm

    It’s not only the buyers that are desperate, the whole system reeks of desperation. Buyers desperate for a fix, sellers desperate to make a buck, cops desperate to quell the violence, prosecutors desperate to make a name, and politicians desperate to hide the fact that all of these are symptoms of their war.

    “It becomes no man to nurse despair, but, in the teeth of clenched antagonisms, to follow up the worthiest till he die.” ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    It seems the worthiest is to abandon the war and put in safeguards that work: clean production, inspection, regulation, and tolerance of safe use.

  3. March 10, 2007 2:12 am

    I have been working on this problem for a while.

    The solution came to me in a Wal*mart. To keep myself from falling asleep while shopping with my wife, i challenged myself to think through our drug policy and find a workable solution.

    For some reason I decided to look around and create a thought model that said, what if everything here was a recreational drug, how would that work……….

    Simply put. ( the real argument is much fuller) Q & A style.

    Q: Drugs are addictive. Addicts MUST have it
    A: So is food. We don’t kill for it.

    Q: Would you kill for food if someone was preventing you from getting it?
    A: Hell yes.

    Q: Drugs are bad. They distort reality.
    A: So does mixing alcohol and television. But we survive.

    Q: What is the fastest way to stop smuggling.
    A: Take away the profit from it.

    Q: How can one do that?
    A. Put the government in control of selling drugs below cost.

    Q: How would that help?
    A: Which would you prefer, driving down to Market and 25th and buying from some hooded undesirable, or standing forever at a Wal*mart checkout line?

    Q. That’s crazy. You would sell crack, coke, heroin, weed in a store?
    A. Not only that, we would sell it for CHEAP

    Q Then everyone would be an addict.
    A. Does everyone sniff glue? It’s cheap. Does everyone inhale hairspray? it’s cheap. Does everyone smoke banana peels? They are not expensive. Price or accessibility are not the reasons fewer people use drugs.

    Q. What about those who become addicted…….
    A. That will be part of the social cost, funded by taxes. They want treated, we treat them.

    Q Drugs will weaken our society.
    A And alcohol won’t.? Man has survived on alcohol since the original drink. Society still functions. Many today survive on illegal substances. Their lives, jobs, reputations are not in jeopardy.

    Q if drugs are free, why would someone work………Just lay around and have someone bring you food, clean you up, sort of like Tennyson’s “Lotus Eaters.”
    A. Currently the one’s who lay around and get high, are the ones without jobs or responsibilities. Those with responsibilities still use drugs, but impose their own restraints. “No, I got to work tomorrow.”

    Q: What makes you so sure that society will not collapse if the government sponsors drugs real cheaply.

    A. Suppose I overdo it and one day get fired. I’m a loser. But everyone else who sees me get fired, tells themselves they need to keep their habits under control. Society will survive because someone will always be there to replace a loser

    Q. Drugs are bad for health.
    A And tobacco isn’t. This is America.

    Q You must use drugs to want to legalize them so much?
    A. No, they scare me. My gut emotional response is to keep doing what we have been doing. Keep them out. This is a thought process designed at solving a problem using a series of models and predicting the outcomes.

    Q So you are ignorant of the effect that drugs have on people since you abstain from them?
    A. I am the last real person in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” Everyone else uses drugs in society but me, and I have to accept it and fit in to survive. (Excuse me, I have to go check out that discordant shrieking noise outside……….)

    Q How will this plan stop violence, smuggling, murders, police corruption currently associated with drugs?
    A. Imagine you own a cartel and have 3 Billion dollars tied up in drugs. The next day and forever more you can’t sell it for a penny……How do you pay off the cops, how do you pay your thugs, how do you pay your runners, how do you pay your assassins? More likely they will turn and come after you.when they realize you cannot pay them.

    Q: How much would this cost.
    A Much less than we are spending now.on prevention.

    Q What bothers you most about this idea.
    A It is too conservative for it uses the market place to solve a social problem. And that scares the hell out of me…………………………

  4. Tyler Nixon permalink
    March 10, 2007 12:15 pm

    Damn, kavips. I am going to find out who you are some day. You are too insightful to stay behind a pseudonym.

    Seriously, that was a truly excellent synposis, which is no easy task on an issue fraught with so many potholes on the road to sanity and reformation.

    You don’t have to condone drug use to support sane, rational, EFFECTIVE, ACCOUNTABLE drug policies.

    I, for one, am tired of seeing my city becoming a nasty haven for street dealers prowling every corner and disintegrating all vestiges of a safety and civility in our community. War is not the answer.

    Please email me, kavips. You have my utmost attorney-client privilege and confidentiality if you do.

  5. March 10, 2007 12:39 pm

    Well done, kavips!

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