War On Drugs
America seems to be war-crazy right now. There is the real war in Afghanistan and the real phony war we just ended in Iraq. Then we have the Republican Party warring on women, the poor, contraceptives, Planned Parenthood, minority voting, and the old. Whew! Perhaps that’s why some voices are calling out for a new look at the War on Drugs.
No one doubts that drugs can be dangerous. Drug rehab facilities are full of people trying to straighten out their lives. Nonetheless, there are many law enforcement officials who advocate the decriminalization or outright legalization of drugs. They argue that the war, started by Richard Nixon in 1971, has failed to solve the substance abuse problem in this country. The strategy of banning drugs and imposing stiff prison terms is a flop. You can procure potent drugs very easily anywhere in America, and about 47 percent of the citizenry admits to using illegal drugs at least once.
It’s kind of insane to think that continuing on the present course will achieve success. Nonetheless legislators at every level of government keep ramping up the penalties for illegal substance abuse, which results in more spending, clogged courts and crowded prisons. Our harvest has been higher taxes and more criminal records. When the police arrest drug dealers, the vacuum is quickly filled by more violent gangs and cartels that battle over the vacated territories. Legalization is an alternative advocated by many, but don’t confuse this stance with a libertine free-for-all in which anything goes. Rather, the idea is to regulate the drug market with tight controls that allow drug makers to operate under supervision. Products could be taxed and inspected, ala tobacco. Clean needles could be freely distributed.
This strategy has several positive implications:
- Decreasing illegal drug smuggling, kidnapping and related crimes
- Removing a source of profit from international criminal enterprises
- Freeing up enforcement and punishment resources
- Lower taxes and increased tax revenues
- Ending the stigma of criminal records for drug addicts
- New jobs
- Less infections and tainted drugs
- Investment opportunities
- Removing one major cause for the disproportionate Black prison population
- Lower drug costs, thereby lessening pressure on addicts to steal and rob.
- Access to the health benefits of marijuana, which can be medically significant for a number of diseases and conditions.
Portugal, Italy and Mexico have found that decriminalization and/or legalization are workable strategies that yield huge social and economic benefits. Contact your state and federal representatives to make your voice heard on this important issue.