Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Wars on Drugs: What Good Is It?

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the war of drugs has been and always will be a complete and utter failure.

I think people should be allowed to use them. Whether or not they are using them for medical purposes or for recreational purposes doesn't matter to me as long as the people using them are held responsible for the consequences of their actions. That is, they should be held accountable for any actions taken while under the influence, just like people are when they abuse alcohol.

But what somebody does in the privacy of their own home should not be imposed with my government regulations. Stay out of our bedrooms and our homes and our wallets! It's our lives. Let us do with them as we please. The only time any type of government entity should be involved with drugs is if they are arresting and convicting somebody that does harm to somebody else while under the influence.

Drugs like marijuana need to be completely decriminalized across the board and any non-violent drug offenders should be left alone. Furthermore, we should be giving pardons to any and all of those that are already rotting away in prison and taken up much-needed prison space for violent criminals.

I'm not condoning drug use. I'm not saying it's a good thing or that it's ok to do drugs. Drug abuse is not a good thing by any stretch of the imagination. I know what sort of things drug abuse can lead to. But I also don't think that the effects are any worse than somebody abusing something like alcohol or prescription drugs. In fact, in a lot of ways, I think alcohol is a worse danger to society than a narcotic like marijuana. And alcohol is legal!

But if I'm sitting at home, minding my own business, smoking a joint and eating a Twinkie or watching television, how is that hurting anybody? I didn't rob somebody to get the money for my joint or my Twinkie. Fact is I'm not hurting anybody else. In fact, there is little evidence that I'm really hurting myself all that much.

The government has absolutely no right to tell me that I can't smoke crack in my bedroom. They have no right to get involved in my personal business whatsoever unless I were to smoke that crack and then go rob a liquor store. In that case, convict me with the crime of armed robbery or whatever.

And solving any problem in this country, including a drug problem, should never begin with government prohibition. Prohibition is a terrible approach to solving the narcotics problem. We all saw the effects of prohibition in the early 20th century. Prohibition didn't stop people from drinking. It didn't stop crimes related to the manufacture and sale of alcohol. It compounded them. The crime raise more than tripled. Violent crime. Tripled. It gave rise to gang warfare and police corruption. Prohibiting alcohol resulted in such a high public demand for illegal alcohol that it bred criminal activity and swamped the courts with case after case after case. It's only real effect was that the 18th Amendment to the Constitution to date is the only one that has ever been repealed.

It didn't work - pure and simple. Seems obviously natural to me that by prohibiting drugs, drug users are more likely to commit crimes in order to get money to finance their habit. The way to solve the drug abuse problem is not prohibiting it. It is by educating and assisting people with programs like Alcoholics anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

The government, however, should not be involved in any way with an individual using a drug for whatever purpose they are going to use it for anymore than it should be involved with somebody eating trans-fat. If someone wants to ruin their body, that is their decision. That is their right. We don't need the government forcing us to be healthy. If people know it is bad for them and they choose to quit, that is their decision.

And why in the hell should be trust the government to stop or reduce the flow of drugs coming into our country when they can't even keep people from getting drugs when they are in prison?!? Keep in mind that this is the same federal government that can't keep illegal immigrants from coming into our country.

Again I will say it. Decriminalize all narcotics across the board, stop prosecuting non-violent drug offenders and start pardoning those already service prison sentences for non-violent drug crimes. These cases are a burden on our court and prison systems and have given rise to the police state. It's no surprise that most of our police forces are spending entirely too much of their time trying to bust dope smokers instead of going out and catching murderers and rapists.

Here is brief history of the drug war in this country. Anti-opium laws were first enacted in the 1870s but only applied to Chinese immigrants. In the early 1900s, anti-cocaine laws were enacted. Anti-marijuana laws came into effect in the 1920s. In June 1971, President Nixon declared the war on drugs by increasing federal drug control agencies and implementing mandatory sentencing for possession. He also declared marijuana a schedule 1 drug, which is the most restrictive category. A year later, however, a commission recommended the decriminalization of marijuana. Nixon ignored this commission's ruling.

In October 1977, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to decriminalize marijuana but thoughts toward drug use turned another direction when President Reagan expanded the drug war. During his presidency, incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses tripled. First Lady Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaign gave further media exposure to the drug problem. Zero-tolerance policies were implemented all over the country. The DARE education campaign was adopted.

During Clinton's presidency, he stated in an interview that marijuana should be decriminalized even though his actions as President did not reflect these views. He, like his predecessors, escalated the drug war further. The trend has continued into present day. Paramilitary SWAT teams raid Americans homes by the thousands per year...for misdemeanors!

As of 1996, 60% of our prison capacity was made up of drug-related criminals. We could free up so much time and space by decriminalizing drugs and devoting that time and effort toward locking up violent criminals. In fact, there is a pretty good chance that most violent crime would decrease anyway because a lot of violent crime is drug-related in the first place. Keeping that in mind, there wouldn't be a need to build more prisons. Just keep the prisons we have to lock up the real criminals.

Our country incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. 1 out of every 100 adults in America is in prison and the current inmate population is over 2 million. We have less than 5% of the world's population and 25% of our people are in prison, most because of drug-related convictions.

Take a look at our arrest records. 4 out every 5 arrests are for possession of drugs, 46% of which were for marijuana. In the year 2011 alone, there were 1.5 million people arrested for nonviolent drug charges.

Also, the drug war has led to the rise of the police state here in America. I cannot count the number of times I have looked into my news feeds and found some story about a SWAT team or a team of narcotics agents have forcefully entered a wrong address and "accidentally" killed somebody that was trying to protect their home from wrongful invasion. Our police departments have become paramilitarized to fight this perceived drug threat. And in the mid-90s Congress ordered the National Guard to help enforce the domestic drug war. Local police forces are now equipped with Blackhawk helicopters, tanks, and other military grade weaponry for what? This all leads to the drug war. States are required to disburse funds to local police departments based on their number of drug arrests. You better believe that if a departments funds were hinged on how many drug dealers or dope smokers they arrested, you can be damn sure that they are making a lot of them, no matter if they were valid arrests of not.

And these law enforcement officials that on an almost routine basis break into the wrong homes and accidentally kill somebody, they are never held accountable for their mistakes. So who are the criminals?

You can be sure that this behavior will continue unless the war on drugs is abolished.

And how much money are we pouring into fighting this war on drugs? It is in the billions of dollars each year.

The amount of money we spend financing the drug war is ridiculous! So it's not only a waste of time and effort in our law enforcement and prison systems, it's a complete waste of taxpayer's money. The government spends over $55 billion a year to finance the drug war.

Since the inception of America's drug war we have spent over $1 trillion. And that is just at the federal level, that does not include state or local level expenditures to combat the drug problem.

I'm going to break down the costs for you just a bit:

It costs us about $450,000 to put one drug dealer in jail. $150,000 of that goes toward the arrest and conviction. Another $30,000 a year is the cost to house that drug dealer in prison. Now keep those dollar amounts in mind and think about this. There are over 100,000 people every year just for marijuana law violators.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy is another example. The salary budget for this federal office alone is $11.5 million per year.

And that budget does not include the budget for the Drug Enforcement Agency. The 2013 budget for the DEA is $2.4 billion.

And then there is the constitutional argument for the drug war. The drug war is not a legitimate power of the federal government. It cannot be traced back to the powers given to it under the Constitution.

This month, a Conference of U.S. Mayors met in Las Vegas and unanimously endorses a resolution to declare that marijuana policies should be set by the states and municipalities instead of the federal government. The resolution stated that federal laws such as the Controlled Substances Act should be repealed or amended to give states more rights in regards to marijuana laws. This Conference of Mayors criticized prohibition as being "costly and ineffective" and diverts resources toward real solutions.

Several states have enacted laws to legalize or to decriminalize marijuana possession. 7 states have legalized marijuana for medical use and decriminalized it for certain amounts. 6 other states have decriminalized possession or marijuana. 8 states have legalized marijuana but only for medical purposes. As we know, the citizens of both Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes.

The war on drugs has been going on for over almost 40 years and the only effects of it have been the over-crowding of our prisons, the corruption of our law enforcement officials, the misuse of taxpayer funds, and the trampling of our basic constitutional rights.

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