The UK Guardian Times just put out a piece about a new, but not so new it seems, drug that is making its rampage through South America. It seems we have had many new, lethal, cheap drugs pop up over the past four decades. So why should you support ending the drug war? Read on to see all of the “goodness” produced by the war on drugs.
Meth, Crack, PCP, Paco, even K2, all drugs that have popped up in recent years, all having severe effects not just because of how dangerous they are to use, but also because they are far cheaper to buy than other drugs. Since the beginning of Nixon’s Drug War in 1971, to Reagan’s subsequent crackdown, Bush Sr’s creation of the “drug czar”, and Clinton, Bush, and Obama’s efforts afterwards to stem the tide of drug problems, we have seen no improvement of the situation. What we have seen are rising drug prices and drug-related deaths.
While many would view the rising of drug prices as a good thing, everything has it’s unintended and unseen consequences. The unintended side-effects of making drugs cost more are the creation of new cheap drugs that the poor can afford, and higher crime rates as these highly addictive drugs drive people towards their inner, less desirable dangerous traits that they otherwise might not embrace and act on in order to fuel their addiction.
Another unintended side-effect of the War on Drugs has been the amount of people killed due to drug cartel violence, gang violence, and unintended killings by the people executing the war. Over 35,000 people have been killed in the last few years alone. In what seems as backwards reasoning, Obama nominee Michele Leonhart, head of the DEA recently said that the deaths we have seen is considered a benchmark for success in the war. Can human death and misery really be seen as a result of success?
Some other unintended consequences of prohibition have seen our national parks harmed, the highest incarceration rates in the world, the funding of terrorist organizations, a trillion dollars wasted, and even easier access for kids as drug dealers have absolutely no incentive to check an ID, and every incentive to get them addicted to their inventory. It seems that prohibition has promoted all of this, just as prohibition of alcohol produced many of the same results until it was repealed. An unintended consequence of the Afghan war is that opium production has soared as we’ve occupied the country, and even have our own troops guarding poppy fields.
One major issue that has been spurred on inadvertently by the war is illegal immigration. With prohibition doling out massive profits to drug cartels, it has given them the ability to easily buy or assassinate public officials, and to raise armies that are better trained and equipped than the government armies, which has turned the countries that these people are fleeing from into a perpetual war zone where it is not uncommon for women, children, and men to die daily; where gunfire outside of a school is the norm. Children aren’t able to play outside for fear of being shot or abducted. Economic opportunities in this type of environment are scarce, and will remain that way as long as the drug war rages.
Imagine a world in which you fear leaving your house every day, where you have to constantly worry about your children not only being killed, but being recruited to work for drug cartels. This is a world in which it is common to see dead bodies in the streets daily, people being beheaded and disfigured, and bodies hung from bridges and street posts. Think of the horrors that children must go through to live in such a society, all due to misguided drug policies which enable these criminal organizations to produce these conditions. This exists not only in Mexico and other South American countries, but also here in the US as well, as many can attest to that live in poorer neighborhoods where gangs compete in turf wars for the right to sell drugs to addicts and children.
Another less known, major issue with prohibition can be attributed to the incarceration of drug users. A person that has non-violently used a drug is far different from a murderer, rapist, and people that see assault as a daily enjoyment. Putting these non-violent people in prison with these violent people has a severe negative effect, forcing them to adapt to their environment of constant violence, helping to produce even more violent people that will return to society once their sentence is served.
While many people have not been able to realize their goals through prohibition, surprisingly enough, decriminalizing drugs in Portugal has actually been a benefit to their country, with lower usage and addiction rates, among other benefits. However, decriminalization does not go far enough in fixing many of the problems associated with drugs.
Since drugs are illegal, a major problem exists with quality control. With no proper regulation due to the drugs being forced on to the black market, we have people buying drugs who often have no way of knowing if what they are buying is tainted. While some drugs are going to be inherently dangerous on their own, we can at least ensure through quality control that the drug can be delivered in the safest form possible. We could also require that the drugs be produced solely in the US so that drug cartels would not be able to make any money off of the legalization.
Another positive outcome of legalizing and regulating drugs is the untapped economic gains that are to be made, which will produce new businesses, jobs, and taxes. Combine this with the savings made from ending the war on drugs and we will be financially much better off. There would be many new businesses that spring up and others that will be helped by legalization, ranging from production, shipping, marketing, distribution, and businesses that produce accessories.
Also by no longer wasting valuable limited resources on the drug war, this leaves our police more time and money to deal with other problems that face us, such as murderers, rapists, assailants, and thieves. Without having to worry about drug users, or the dealers and gangs that could no longer operate due to a lack of drug funding, the police can serve our society much more efficiently, in a safer environment. Police would no longer have to worry about being killed over drugs, or breaking down the door to the wrong house.
Many people also have misconceptions about various drugs, but recent research has shown that many drugs are not as dangerous as were once thought. Marijuana, Alcohol, Cocaine, Ecstasy, and LSD all have been shown to have effects that are not as bad, or were once unknown, and have even been shown to have positive uses here, here, and here, among others.
One other point that deserves mentioning is that we as human beings have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so long as what we do does not prevent others from exercising their rights as well. If a person decides to do a drug, whether it be heroin, cocaine, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, etc, we all have the ability to talk with them about it, and advise them of what we believe would be in their best interest, but what they decide to do with their body is ultimately their own decision.
With the legalization of drugs, a person would still be subject to intoxication laws. No driving under the influence, consuming, or being under the influence of them in a publicly owned area. Many supporters of prohibition fear that this would happen, that their children will be exposed to people that are “whacked out” daily. This would absolutely not be the case. The buying and consuming of drugs would be restricted to privately owned property subject to the same regulation as liquor stores. Those caught providing drugs to children would face stiff penalties. Businesses would still be able to do drug testing and keep their same drug policies.
Ending the war on our own people is a good start to getting us on the road to where we need to be, but ultimately full legalization and regulation will be the solution to our drug problems. Drugs will never go away as there will always be people wanting to use them. It would be a benefit to our society if we instead worked with what naturally occurs rather than against it, in order to decrease the death and misery that surrounds the drug trade, take away terrorist funding, encourage more people who abuse drugs to get help, get rid of the worst drugs, and make it harder to access drugs for children.
By: Stephen Carter