Declare a Victory by Ending the War on Drugs
And Send the Prisoners of That Awful War Home
By Dan Smith
The 47-year-old War on Drugs is an attempt by New York state and the federal government to protect you from yourself. Their rules will put you away if you take or sell certain drugs. Not all drugs, just some drugs. And they’ve made some curious choices. They permit you to drink the powerful drug, alcohol (albeit under a heavily-taxed, heavily regulated, corrupt designed in the 1930’s which only goes to ). They permit you smoke cigarettes, which and which is equally ($6.86 of tax on each pack of 20 in NYC).
Despite them approving and profiting off of those deadly drugs, New York chooses to hunt you down, throw you in jail and ruin your life for something relatively benign like marijuana, which many states have legalized (and which ). They will throw you in jail for otherwise peaceful actions, thereby creating criminals from nowhere and generating violence in the form of no-knock raids and turf wars among drug dealers whose activities have been driven underground by the state.
Other deadly drugs are illegal, too, of course. No one is recommending methamphetamines, crack cocaine or heroin for people. People are right to consider them bad news, very bad news. But making them illegal is . The laws are not curbing use and, worse, they are keeping people who get hooked on these dangerous substances from getting the treatment which could help them. The effort to stop them is expensive and immoral.
In short, it is not for society to make these decisions for others and it is wasteful to try.
As witnessed in America’s experience with prohibiting alcohol under the Eighteenth Amendment, violence was unleashed by a law which forbids the sale and consumption of that drug.
Americans’ problems with alcohol were bad. The government’s solution was worse, much worse.
And just like alcohol prohibition, in the War on Drugs—an unnecessarily violent and often corrupt one—as everyone from the DEA to state and local police departments to corrections departments line up for more equipment and bigger budgets to fight this war. But while budgets grow, police officers unnecessarily risk their lives creating violence where none would have otherwise existed.
Luckily, we got rid of that heinous, mistaken Constitutional Amendment 14 years later. When will Americans learn the same lesson about the War on Drugs?
On a moral level, many of us see that non-violent drug offenses are victimless crimes. Our jails are full of such ‘offenders.’ and scholars have shown that incarcerating such people does not deter crime, as many pro-law enforcement politicians would have you believe. While it’s true that crime falls when you lock up violent offenders, the same is not true with non-violent offenders, as the , the and many others have shown.
Another NYU-Brennan Center that “an estimated 39 percent (approximately 576,000 people) [in federal and state prisons in the U.S.] are incarcerated with little public safety rationale.” In other words, they hurt no one beyond themselves. But because politicians have declared them criminals, despite the absence of a victim or a real crime.
But there are other choices: decriminalize this activity. Set aside your distaste for the drug user and only prosecute a drug seller or user if he or she commits an act of violence. Otherwise, let them be free to make this potential mistake and free to seek help without fear of incarceration.
One international example of what happens when you decriminalize drugs is Portugal. In 2001, they did just that. The results have been stunning. With more than 15 years to examine, we can see that , drug related deaths , drug use , and use of the most dangerous drugs has fallen and . In other words, Portugal’s drug war was itself creating many of the problems.
Portugal isn’t alone. The Netherlands has a “tolerance policy” on soft drugs, which not led to chaos, as anyone who’s been there knows. Uruguay has had . And most Americans know of that Colorado and Washington and others have seen in decriminalizing marijuana.
Our government’s poor choices about drug laws need to come to an end. The rules make no sense. Worse, they are enforced in the most ham-handed, expensive way possible—wasting billions is taxpayer dollars ( in the US since 1971) and costing many, many lives. One can’t be blamed for thinking wasting taxpayers’ money has become a primary goal of the War on Drugs, given the overwhelming evidence of our loss of that war.
End the War on Drugs! Declare a victory for New Yorkers and the American people. Send the prisoners of that war, the non-violent ones at the very least, home to their loved ones so they can restart their lives and deal with their problems.