After years of teetering about the legalization of drugs and going through many ‘but on the other hand’ arguments, I have finally climbed down on the side of legalization. The evidence for worldwide harm from trying to stop the growth, processing, distribution, and consumption of narcotics is now overwhelming. The awesome impact of drug prohibition policies ranges from the international arena right down to little ol’ Nevada County here in the California Sierras. (Our rural county’s leading agricultural crop is marijuana grown by Mexican cartels on secluded farms deep in the forests manned by well-armed nasties.)
Two pro-con articles in the 5dec08 WSJ settle the matter very nicely. On the one hand John Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, argues in 'Our Drug Policy is a Success' that
Reported drug use among eighth, 10th and 12th graders has declined for six straight years. Teen use of cocaine, marijuana and inhalants is down significantly, while consumption of methamphetamine and hallucinogens like LSD and Ecstasy has all but collapsed.
The number of workplace tests that are positive for cocaine is down sharply, to the lowest levels on record. Even the sudden spike of meth use -- remember the headlines from just a few years ago? -- has yielded to a combination of state and federal regulations controlling meth ingredients. And abroad, crackdowns in Colombia and Mexico have caused the price of cocaine to roughly double in the past two years.
Walters claims that this is “success is one of Washington's best kept secrets.” But the problem is that enforcing prohibition isn’t a success. Even though some usage rates have been dropping, the numbers of drug users and those in our justice system continues to climb. And the numbers of destroyed lives through incarceration and criminal activity is approaching astronomical levels.
The international impact of the illicit drug trade is the real best kept secret from the American public. Stratfor, the respected private intelligence service, has been running a series of analyses on what the drug trade is doing to governments in South and Central America, the Middle East, and Asia. Illegal drugs fuel human misery across the world at all levels. Closer to home, Stratfor has been reporting on the situation in Mexico and on our common border about which there is little in our MSM.
Stratfor writes in its ‘Countries in Crisis’ series that
The Mexican state is undergoing the most severe challenges it has faced since the 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution. … Mexico’s problems can be boiled down to illicit drugs. The country’s geography almost dictates that Mexico’s City’s writ will be ignored across wide tracts of the country, and current efforts to bring law and order to the Mexican frontier are threatening the central functionality of the state itself. In 2008 alone, Mexico has already suffered more deaths from drug-related violence than all coalition deaths in Iraq since the war’s beginning in 2003.
The role of drug cultivation in the Middle East that supports international Islamic terrorism is becoming known to many in this country. America’s problems in fighting this scourge of western civilization is compounded by the production and distribution of drugs which is a prime money source funding what is bad and at the same time acting as a barrier to economic alternatives which are good. Again, Stratfor is the non-partisan source for the necessary details that our MSM does not report.
Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.
And look abroad. At Afghanistan, where a third or more of the national economy is both beneficiary and victim of the failed global drug prohibition regime. At Mexico, which makes Chicago under Al Capone look like a day in the park. And elsewhere in Latin America, where prohibition-related crime, violence and corruption undermine civil authority and public safety, and mindless drug eradication campaigns wreak environmental havoc.
By any measure of social utility, keeping the international drug cartels and rogue governments in the profitable drug business is eroding our ability to defend our culture and the values we hold dear. The dollar costs are staggering and their cutoff to both the criminal institutions and the legitimate drug countermeasures institutions is fought at all levels. This is an area where the criminal and the cop can literally link arms in promoting the same public policies to keep drugs illegal. It doesn’t take rocket science to conclude that if one is a drug lord, funneling money to drug prohibition activities is just plain smart investment.
There is so much to be gained from properly solving this scourge to modern civilization. As with global warming, the debate over drug legalization is not over and should be promoted at every opportunity. Nadelman concludes his piece with some advice to President-elect Obama. “Promote vigorous and informed debate in this domain as in all others. The worst prohibition, after all, is a prohibition on thinking.”