Reading the news lately, I have noticed quite a few stories about drug related arrests and the heroin “epidemic” that is plaguing our community and many others around the country. After 40 years and well over a trillion dollars you might think that America would have curbed its drug problem; but its worse now than it ever has been and its not getting any better.
At some point we have to stop and ask the question that begs an answer: Is our current drug policy working?
Well, the immediate answer to that question should be an obvious and resounding, NO.
For these last 40 years we have focused on enforcement of prohibition trying vainly to stem the tide of drugs entering this country. We have waged brushfire wars in various Central and South American countries, divested billions in foreign aid, and there remains no end in sight to this country’s drug “problem”.
As a libertarian, I believe in principle that a person’s body is their own to do with as they please and no one should have the right to tell them what they can and cannot do as long as they are not harming anyone else. However, even if you disagree with personal freedom to do drugs, not one proponent of drug prohibition can make a valid argument that their policies are succeeding or even helping the majority of those with drug problems.
Just like their forebears, the modern temperance movement strides ever onward in its altruistic crusade to control the behavior of others with disastrous consequences. Our inner cities are wastelands, drug related crime is a persistent problem in all population centers, and Mexico has become a war zone ruled by the drug cartels with daily violence that often pours over the border.
Do not take my derisive tone toward our self aggrandizing saviors, who favor prohibition, as a mockery of the victims of drug abuse. For if there is one group of people that are not being aided by our current war on drugs, it is most certainly the addict.
Treating non-violent drug offenders as criminals not only drains our public resources but it turns what should be a medical issue into a criminal escapade. In Pennsylvania, 39% of all inmates are there for non-violent offenses, which are mostly drug related. In a press release earlier this year, PA Auditor General Jack Wagner stated that the state could save around $350 million if we released all non-violent offenders.
That is $350 million dollars that could be spent on helping addicts recover, rather than simply tossing them in jail.
But there is a better answer to this problem. One that seems unpalatable at first glance, but it is an idea that is gaining more and more traction. And some of those that are coming forward in this cause may surprise you.
Earlier this year, a group of world leaders met to discuss the worldwide war on drugs. Among their ranks were former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, former U.S. secretary of state George Shultz, former U.S. Fed chairman Paul Volcker, and dignitaries from many Central and South American countries. Their conclusion was that the world wide war on drugs is failing while creating violence around the world, and that nations should move forward to begin legalizing and regulating drugs as an alternative.
This is nothing new to veterans of the drug war and law enforcement. An organization named Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, founded in 2002, has seen its ranks swell in recent years with police officers, judges, and D.A.’s who have seen the dark side of this unending war and seek real answers to our problems.
Its not just law enforcement getting into the fight, either. Community leaders, pastors, and medical health professionals are joining the growing chorus of voices to call for an end to the war on drugs.
These people realize what many of us have come to see: Our communities are not safer, prohibition makes it easier for kids to get illegal drugs, and sending a person to jail for nothing more than getting high is not productive for society.
If you care about your community and you want common sense solutions that help people and get addicts the medical care they need; if you want to create a taxable industry that will create jobs and get the gangs off our streets; then stand with the rest of us who have woken up to the failures of modern prohibition, and just say no to the war on drugs.
This is cross posted from my personal blog Mental Brushfire.