L. Neil Smith's
Number 183, July 22, 2002


A Challenge To The Drug Warriors
by James J Odle

Special to TLE

If you are a typical American, you probably believe that prohibition ended with the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. You would be wrong. Only the illegal status of alcohol ended. Prohibition never ceased against other mind-altering substances. In short, we have been fighting the War on Drugs now for some 80+ years.

As someone who has spent many years listening to national media outlets as well as those weak-kneed and weak-minded defenders of the Constitution and my rights on Conservative blather radio, I recently experienced a double epiphany. First, I have never heard a single argument that directly addresses the efficacy of the war as a whole. Sure they can point out that "Today, the XYZ law enforcement agency raided Joe Blow's house and seized 150 lbs of cocaine with a street value of ##@@$$ zillion dollars" or they can point out that "Today, the US Coast Guard seized the M/V Get High Mar 500 miles off the coast of San Diego." Alternatively, they can point out the spraying of cocaine crops taking place in South America or they can point to the arrest of a drug kingpin in Mexico.

These examples only tell us what government bureaucrats are doing and they demonstrate victories in minor skirmishes. But they do not tell us what the drug war is achieving in any 'big picture' kind of way. There have been no 'Midway' or "Normandy Beach' scale victories for the drug warriors to brag about. If there were, they would be screaming these facts from the rooftops.

There can only be one reason for this astounding omission after 80+ years of prohibition. They and everybody else knows that the War on Drugs is a colossal failure and a complete waste of time and money.

And an expensive failure it is too. According to John Stossel's 1999 ABC special, Sex, Drugs and Consenting Adults (1), the War on Drugs is costing us $100,000,000 a day. That's $36,500,000,000 a year. That's a lot of dinero to expend only to wind up with the 90% failure rate that the drug warriors have admitted to.

My second epiphany occurred when I realized that I have never heard a single argument for the Drug War that I could take seriously. The following are typical of such arguments:

Paternalism: "You really don't need those nasty drugs!"

Response: Thank you for your concern, but you know, I'm 45 years old, am an emancipated adult {presumably}, have a college degree and I do believe that I can handle this decision on my own. In short, you ain't my daddy!

Wishful Thinking: "I don't want to drive down the street with some drug crazed wacko!"

Response: This represents a desire to live, not in the world as it is, but as someone wishes it to be. The fact is, people have been using drugs since the dawn of time and they are not going to stop anytime soon. In short, drug-using drivers have always been there and always will be.

Moral argument: "Drug use is immoral. It ruins families!"

Response: Public education and high taxation ruin families too, and I don't see us getting rid of them anytime soon. What happens within the confines of the family is the family's business and nobody else's. Next!

Economic argument 1: "Drug use costs us billions of dollars a year in lower productivity!"

Response: Funny, I always thought that productivity was the proper concern of the employer! Is the government afraid that it might loose a shekel or two in taxation?

Economic argument 2: "We haven't done enough! We need to go after the 'demand-side' of the problem!"

Response: Been there. Done that. This was a widely popular stratagem in the '60's and '70's. Also, in this so-called free country, we have more people behind bars as a percentage of the population than any other nation on the planet. After $36,5 billion a year, don't tell us that we haven't 'done enough.' Next!

Fear-mongering argument: "Drugs are dangerous! You could hurt yourself and others and possibly become a burden to society!"

Response: Well, thank you for stating the obvious! I could do these things sober. I, for one, realized long ago that life is, what it has always been, a risky thing. It is for me to decide what risks I shall or shall not take with my life! 'Taint no such thing as a risk-free life. Should I hurt someone else, drunk or sober, I expect to be held accountable. Besides, the Drug War hurts innocents, too. Look at tombs of Donald Scott (2) of Malibu, CA or Ishmael Mena, of Denver, CO and find out how these travesties happened. As far as being a burden to society, remove the welfare laws.

Message argument: "Drug legalization would send the wrong message!"

Response: The public airwaves have been saturated with anti-drug messages for years. The public schools have been warehousing kids for 7+ hours a day and have had countless opportunities to pound the message home. Anyone over the age of five has heard hours of anti-drug messages. The message has been delivered, understood, and anyone who indulges does so voluntarily knowing the risks involved. Besides, no one is getting rid of the First Amendment. Anti-drug advocates will be free to scream whatever messages they choose.

Guilt-mongering argument: "Have you seen people strung-out on crack! Have you ever seen a crack baby!"

Response: Those of us who have grown-up know that freedom isn't pretty - it just looks better than anything else that mankind has ever tried. We also know that problems don't disappear simply because we give power and authority to bureaucrats. Drug use is common in prisons and a prison is something that bureaucrats are supposed to have total control over. Besides, I can play the guilt-mongering game too. Have you ever seen an inner city neighborhood shot up by rival drug gangs? Do you know that our borders have become Bill of Rights-free zones and that the Supreme Court has given its blessing to Customs officials conducting body cavity searches and locking people up for up to three days and giving them laxatives on no other grounds than that they might be drug dealers? These abuses are made possible by the criminalization of drug use. Besides, I am not responsible for what other people do.

Philosophical fantasy argument: "I can't believe that the Founding Fathers fought a Revolutionary War just so people could stick a needle in their arm!"

Response: Oh, so we are now, on this single issue, going to take the original intention of the Founding Fathers seriously, are we? Let's recall our basic high school history. After suffering with the British forcibly housing their troops in the homes of the civilian populace against their will, the Founding Fathers were so distrustful of government that they didn't even want a permanent standing army. They wanted the population as a whole to be the standing army - an idea I heartily endorse. I believe that if the Founding Fathers had the same experience with the Drug War over the last 80+ years and witnessed the corruption, gang wars, asset forfeiture, strip and body cavity searches, that they would pick drug legalization as the lesser of the evils. Besides, adults have the right to stick needles in their arms. People aren't public property.

Frog-march argument: Here things get a little more complicated. What happens is a Conservative talk radio babbler {in this case Sean Hannity} attempts to frog-march a drug legalization advocate, who is doing nothing more that trying to talk some sense to the host, down a preconceived path toward the preconceived destination of painting the caller as an extremist or a fool. It begins by screaming the following over and over and not letting the caller get a word in edge-wise:

"Do you believe that women should have the right to abort their babies?! Don't you believe that if the Constitution is to mean anything, that it should protect the most innocent among us! Don't you realize how extreme you sound!"

Response: I don't mind being extreme as long as I'm right. However, asking someone to render a decision without all the facts on the table is childish and irresponsible. You see the nature of the decision involved is not as simple as the talk radio babbler is attempting to convey. As I see it, the real choices are these:

Option A: Drug Legalization

We live with 1) crack babies, 2) people ruining their lives, the lives of their families and possibly becoming a burden to society, 3) traffic and industrial accidents.

Option B: Drug Criminalization

We live with the same problems mentioned in Option A because the Drug War doesn't actually get rid of many drugs. But now we are going to pick up some additional problems: 1) Gang violence, 2) government corruption, 3) funding of terrorists and drug cartels because billions leave the country that should have been invested here which, in turn, results in, 4) economic devastation of inner cities since no businessman wants to invest in crime infested neighborhoods, 5) ruination of inner city schools, 6) asset forfeiture laws that permit the seizure of private property without criminal charges of any kind being filed, 7) erosion of respect for the Bill of Rights and the Constitution by public officials since they are incompatible with the War on Drugs. What's Constitutional about strip searching people simply because they fly in from a country the government doesn't like or stealing private property because someone might be involved in the drug trade?

Ladies and gentlemen, these are the fundamental arguments the drug warriors have used to interfere with and harass people that they don't like. They don't get any better than this. Every argument for the War on Drugs will be a variation on these themes. Frankly, these arguments are, well, lame.

So, to those who continue to believe that the Drug War is a smashing idea, despite everything that I have said here, it is time, after $36.5 billion a year, to give the American people a serious argument for the Drug War. A serious argument, will quantify significant achievement in the War on Drugs in a 'big picture' kind of way. It will also be independently verifiable. I am looking for something of this magnitude:

"Ladies and Gentlemen. It gives me great pleasure to announce that after 80+ years of trying, we have finally reduced the importation, domestic production and consumption of illegal narcotics by some 80%. Further, the street price of narcotics is now beyond the reach of the average user. We have been so successful that the XYZ drug cartel in Columbia decided to close shop and seek more socially redeeming work."

What, you say that you have never heard any public official make such a declaration? Doesn't this mean that the War on Drugs is a failure? Nevertheless, after 80+ years, nothing less will do.

End the War on Drugs, NOW! Continuing it is sheer idiocy.

- - -

(1) Available at: www.laissezfairebooks.com/product.cfm?op=view&pid=CU7828

(2) See The Injustice Line at: www.injusticeline.com/victims.html. Also visit the website of the Drug Policy Foundation. It has many articles at www.dpf.org/.
Also see Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess & How We Can Get Out, by Mike Gray, Random House, (c)1998, 251 pages

James J. Odle is a splendid fellow who, unlike the vast majority of so-called 'public servants' has a real job in the private sector performing real work, which a real employer voluntarily pays him to perform. He is also a Life Member of Gun Owners of America.


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