Stop Drug Violence? End Prohibition. Simple as That.

This is the most cogent argument against drug prohibition that I have read. And it couldn’t be more timely.

The logic here is so clear that one wonders how so many have been so blind for so long. Or might it have something to do with the established economic interests served by maintaining the status quo and the political cowardice that has stood in the way of change?

Thorne Dreyer / The Rag Blog / March 24, 2009

The face of the drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border.

‘The only way to reduce violence… is to legalize drugs. Fortuitously, legalization is the right policy for a slew of other reasons.’

By Jeffrey A. Miron / March 24, 2009

[Jeffrey A. Miron, is senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University.]

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Over the past two years, drug violence in Mexico has become a fixture of the daily news. Some of this violence pits drug cartels against one another; some involves confrontations between law enforcement and traffickers.

Recent estimates suggest thousands have lost their lives in this “war on drugs.”

The U.S. and Mexican responses to this violence have been predictable: more troops and police, greater border controls and expanded enforcement of every kind. Escalation is the wrong response, however; drug prohibition is the cause of the violence.

Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after.

Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it’s permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question.

The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs. Fortuitously, legalization is the right policy for a slew of other reasons.

Prohibition of drugs corrupts politicians and law enforcement by putting police, prosecutors, judges and politicians in the position to threaten the profits of an illicit trade. This is why bribery, threats and kidnapping are common for prohibited industries but rare otherwise. Mexico’s recent history illustrates this dramatically.

Prohibition erodes protections against unreasonable search and seizure because neither party to a drug transaction has an incentive to report the activity to the police. Thus, enforcement requires intrusive tactics such as warrantless searches or undercover buys. The victimless nature of this so-called crime also encourages police to engage in racial profiling.

Prohibition has disastrous implications for national security. By eradicating coca plants in Colombia or poppy fields in Afghanistan, prohibition breeds resentment of the United States. By enriching those who produce and supply drugs, prohibition supports terrorists who sell protection services to drug traffickers.

Prohibition harms the public health. Patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other conditions cannot use marijuana under the laws of most states or the federal government despite abundant evidence of its efficacy. Terminally ill patients cannot always get adequate pain medication because doctors may fear prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Drug users face restrictions on clean syringes that cause them to share contaminated needles, thereby spreading HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases.

Prohibitions breed disrespect for the law because despite draconian penalties and extensive enforcement, huge numbers of people still violate prohibition. This means those who break the law, and those who do not, learn that obeying laws is for suckers.

Prohibition is a drain on the public purse. Federal, state and local governments spend roughly $44 billion per year to enforce drug prohibition. These same governments forego roughly $33 billion per year in tax revenue they could collect from legalized drugs, assuming these were taxed at rates similar to those on alcohol and tobacco. Under prohibition, these revenues accrue to traffickers as increased profits.

The right policy, therefore, is to legalize drugs while using regulation and taxation to dampen irresponsible behavior related to drug use, such as driving under the influence. This makes more sense than prohibition because it avoids creation of a black market. This approach also allows those who believe they benefit from drug use to do so, as long as they do not harm others.

Legalization is desirable for all drugs, not just marijuana. The health risks of marijuana are lower than those of many other drugs, but that is not the crucial issue. Much of the traffic from Mexico or Colombia is for cocaine, heroin and other drugs, while marijuana production is increasingly domestic. Legalizing only marijuana would therefore fail to achieve many benefits of broader legalization.

It is impossible to reconcile respect for individual liberty with drug prohibition. The U.S. has been at the forefront of this puritanical policy for almost a century, with disastrous consequences at home and abroad.

The U.S. repealed Prohibition of alcohol at the height of the Great Depression, in part because of increasing violence and in part because of diminishing tax revenues. Similar concerns apply today, and Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent announcement that the Drug Enforcement Administration will not raid medical marijuana distributors in California suggests an openness in the Obama administration to rethinking current practice.

Perhaps history will repeat itself, and the U.S. will abandon one of its most most disastrous policy experiments.

Source / CNNPolitics.com

Thanks to Mariann Wizard / The Rag Blog

This entry was posted in RagBlog and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Stop Drug Violence? End Prohibition. Simple as That.

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a big possibility. If it works, all the predator side scum lose their gravy train. At the same time we hope that the level of addiction remains constant i.e, no increased using. We also might suppose that the govt sales covers the cost of treating and providing for addicts unable to work (40% ,60 % 80% ???).
    If it does work, a whole pile of folks just making it, and removed from a constant state of fear,loathing and anger, who find a magic bullet. In this positive vision the magic bullet results in low doses of clean smack ,(sorry, substances), that might keep folks going on . Nice folks, no junkie dealers, no pimps. A kind of bliss.
    If it does not work, a whole pile of folks not making it, and in a constant state of fear,loathing and anger find non-magic bullets. The non-magic bullet results in high doses of shit substances, that might kill many nice folks, create monster junkie dealers, and pimping of both men and women. A kind of hellrealm.
    pms

  2. Anonymous says:

    There are very few “simple” answers to complex social challenges. The Dutch experiment in legalization of drugs which seemed so promising initially, has proved problematic in many ways. A “free” market does not, in practice, actually function as its name implies, and legalizing presently controlled sunstances cannot “free” us from fraud, greed, disease, abuse, or violence.

  3. Mariann says:

    Anonymous #2 says there are no simple answers to complex social problems. Agreed. The so-called “war on drugs” is exactly such a simple answer, and it has failed utterly to achieve its STATED goals.

    It is important to understand — I keep saying this — that the true aims of the drug war are economic protectionism and increased governmental powers. These goals have been and are being reached admirably, witness record profits for oil companies in 2008 and the ocntinues destruction of old-growth forests for the manufacture of chopsticks and toilet paper, and the ongoing deconstruction of the US Bill of Rights. If you approve of these results of present policy, by all means, support it. If you do not, what elements of a solution might you propose?

    The Dutch “experiment” in legalization, btw, has, much like the Russian “experiment” in socialism begun in 1917, been under constant attack by US policies aimed at maintaining a united front against the dread drug scourge. As one oasis in a sea of prohibitionism, the Netherlands has been forced to address issues of “drug tourism” that have somewhat offended the Dutch overall, and a similar situation prevails with its legal prostition, now being limited to certain areas in order not to make every neighborhood a brothel. However, drug use by Dutch youth remains quite low.

    In addition, in the case of legalization of marijuana, there is a very high probability that it would indeed end skyrocketing violence along the Texas-Mexico border and inside Mexico, and that it would benefit many people who currently suffer from chronic disease conditions not well-treated by conventional medicine.

    Both Anon #2 and Anon #1 address the heroin issue, certainly a serious one, and let us not forget good old Mr. Meth. For heroin, I believe the British have found that, regularly given clean, rationed supplies of skag, most addicts are perfectly capable of working and holding up their end of the social contract. I personally have a lot more questions about results of legal methamphetamines, and would certainy not like to see the widespread appearance of meth factories in my neighborhood. I refer you to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (link to LEAP from The Rag Blog or from my web site) to see some discussion of the necessity for trying another path where the white powder drugs are concerned, as well as Mother Nature’s gentle gift to the world, Cannabis sativa.

    Legalization would free so many resources for social benefits instead of punishment, it’s hard to see a “hellrealm” worse than what we’ve got now emerging.

  4. Sid says:

    It’s all been said before, so I’ll only add that if legalization is not the obvious answer to anyone who has looked at the problem, then there’s nothing that can be said that will convince them. To these people, the abject failure of 40 years of the ‘war on drugs’ only means that we haven’t yet put enough people in jail or thrown enough money at law enforcement.

    Like their equally ideologically blinded ‘free market’ laissez faire twins for whom the collapse of the largest financial businesses in the world only means that the government should respond with a ‘spending freeze’, this version of reefer madness is nothing less than pure and unadulterated stupidity for which, as Winston Churchill pointed out long ago, there is no cure.

  5. Mariann says:

    Sid — I agree that there’s no cure for stupid, but there IS a cure for ignorance and propaganda, which is truth and education, the mission of The Rag Blog as I understand it. When you look at the history books and realize that all mention of hemp, and its thousand uses, and the infamous campaign that made it illegal, it’s no wonder that people don’t know what they’re missing. When you look at all the government-financed lies of the “drug war”, it’s no wonder that some people have been misled by them. The cure for ignorance it talking to people and giving them some actual facts — and letting them find their own anger when they realize what they’ve been robbed of to increase the profits of the already-rich!

  6. Mar says:

    oops — I left out the phrase “have been deleted”, following “that made it illegal” in the previous post. sorry.

  7. Sid says:

    Mariann: I wish I shared your faith that truth and education were a cure for ignorance and propaganda. While I do lead my life as though they are (cures for ignorance, that is), in my heart of hearts I’m quite convinced that they’re both very overrated.

    The problem lies in the fact that there’s no other alternative, so ‘undaunted, we forge ahead’!

    cheers
    s

  8. Hey, I thought I’d let Sid know I checked out that Google link he left (when someone said that long-winded, hateful comment was posted, and someone challenged Sid to provide a link to check out this person’s constant and repeated comments).

    I knew I’d seen it before (as I think Sid had); can’t find the original post on the Rag Blog, but the person filled up the comments window with such ranting, that it constituted a very long ‘read’, to wade through his/her venom.

    By the way, this is just what page #1 on Google looks like with that person’s remarks – key words indeed! Thanks, Sid.

    Resultados 1 – 10 de aproximadamente 33.900 de Don’t believe one optimistic word from any public figure about the economy or humanity in general. They are part of the problem. Its like a game of Monopoly.. (0,43 segundos)
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  9. Anonymous says:

    http://www.enddrugprohibition.com

    EVERYONE please sign this petition. We need more support. Also, call this number 973-409-3274. Its a 30 second automated petition to reform marijuana laws. WE NEED A MILLION. Thank you for all your support!

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