The Illogical War on Drugs
Next to solving every foreign policy problem militarily,
the war on drugs is America's No. 1 bad idea.
The illogic, the staggering cost, the ruinous toll in human lives -- all
for a campaign that arguably is a boon to drug cartels and which hasn't
So let's recap. Alcohol is responsible for an estimated 100,000 premature
deaths every year. It is legal. If somebody died from marijuana, it is
because a bale of it fell on him. There is no record of a single marijuana
fatality. Yet it is illegal.
Ironically, President Nixon created a commission to get to the bottom of
the marijuana problem and, against all odds, it did. Naturally, its
conclusions were rejected.
The commission penetrated the core weirdness of American drug attitudes.
It asked, for instance, why we have such fear of legalizing marijuana.
Why do we reject scientific experts who say marijuana is harmless and
listen to plaid-jacketed policemen in Peoria who say marijuana is a
"gateway drug?" Most motorcycle riders once rode bicycles, but
no one calls bicycling a "gateway" to the Hell's Angels.
"Many see the drug as fostering a counterculture, which conflicts
with basic moral precepts as well as with the operating functions of our
society," the report said, nailing it.
In other words, pot isn't pot; It's the '60s. It's dropping out, loafing
around the bong, promiscuous free love, dissent against conformity,
militarism, capitalism -- the whole far-left hippie-flippie-dippy
rejection of the established value system.
But so is the war on drugs. Only it rejects America from the right.
Conservatives pound the table in support of limited government, fiscal
prudence and constitutional principles.
Yet federal money to halt drug traffic and prosecute drug use rose by
1,000 percent between Nixon and Clinton. With no success. The Office of
Management and Budget reports that none of the drug-war programs it
reviewed is effective.
Unless you count expansion of a vast drug Gulag filled mostly with
African-Americans and Latinos. The social divisions created, or made
worse, by the war on drugs are hard to overstate. Still wonder why the
jury acquitted O.J.?
Or unless you count the rise and stupendous enrichment of drug suppliers.
The war on drugs does nothing to reduce demand. But it drives supply into
the black market. Cartels are so powerful they undermine governments from
Columbia to Miami.
And the wiretaps. The surveillance. Conservatives howled when the Supreme
Court recently strengthened governments' powers to take your home through
eminent domain; but they roll over when Big Government finds drugs in your
cookie jar and takes your home under asset-seizure laws.
What legitimized reducing precious civil liberties and gulled Americans
into swallowing the Patriot Act?
The war on drugs.
What compromised fiscal conservatives and allowed George Bush's
administration to outspend the previous Democrat! record-holder, Lyndon B.
The war on drugs.
What's a big cause of the apathy and cynicism of young voters?
"Our youth cannot understand why society chooses to criminalize a
behavior with so little visible ill effect or adverse social impact,"
Nixon's commission said about pot.
"And the disrespect for the possession laws fosters a disrespect for
law and the system in general."
As for the worse drugs, a sensible compromise between legalization which
would allow the government to regulate and tax drugs and would weaken the
cartels and the failed war is decriminalization.
But there's no point starting that argument when we can't bring ourselves
to give pot to people disabled or dying.
If you want Red Ribbon Week to work, tell kids the truth: Some drugs kill
you, some addict you, and a lifestyle that revolves around drugs is one of
higher risk and lower achievement.
But some drugs don't kill you, some don't addict you, and some people have
the capacity to do some drugs in moderation and lead productive, happy
lives. Millions, evidently.
Admittedly the ability to tell good choices from bad takes critical
thinking skills. Some kids lack these. But critical thinking -- not the
party line -- is what schools are supposed to teach.
Especially when the party line is war against the '60s -- or against some
vague immorality -- and America is the first casualty.
by Michael Fitzgerald