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End The War On Intoxicant Choice

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Imagine if someone had come to President Richard Nixon in 1970 and said, “Here is a plan to reduce the national debt by $1 trillion, reduce the gang population by 1.2 million, reduce violent crime by 90%, prevent 37 million citizens from becoming felons, save our inner cities, maintain strong black families, and prevent civil war on our border in Mexico.” How could the President just say no?

That plan, of course, would have been to NOT launch the war on drugs we have been waging for the past 40 years – more correctly, the war on intoxicant choice. Had Nixon known the high costs and the negligible effect, he would most likely not have chosen to start the insanity. We do know; so let’s end it.

If it were as simple as drugs or no drugs, I would choose no drugs. But in the real world, the choice is a) drugs, or b) drugs, gangs, violence, world-record incarceration rates, the implosion of our inner cities, warlords running Mexico, and a trillion dollars flushed down the toilet without putting a dent in either use or addiction rates. I choose drugs.

Not literally, of course; I don’t smoke, drink, or take drugs now that my wild oats have turned to oatmeal. But abstinence is my choice, and I don’t have any right to throw you in prison simply because you make a different one. Criminalizing choice is a basic no-no in a country founded on the Liberty principle.

How can we justify government telling us which intoxicants we are permitted to choose and which we are not? More importantly, why do we tolerate it? If I feel like starting my morning off tomorrow with a little yoga stretch followed by a Pall Mall, Cabin Still, and some red bud, who the hell is Gil Kerlikowske to tell me I can’t.

If you don’t know, Gil is President Obama’s drug czar, who somehow kept his job after admitting the truth about the war on drugs last year, saying, “In the grand scheme, it has not been successful. Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified.”

And there you have it from the guy in the know – the war on drugs is all side-effect and no cure. And what a shame there is zero chance this guy will ever be Treasury Secretary and tell us the truth about the war on prosperity, a.k.a. the Obama economic plan, with the same brutal honesty.

To be clear about it, drugs are not illegal in this country; only some drugs are illegal in this country. It is perfectly legal to get so wasted you black out and go catatonic for hours; you can stay hammered for days on end and not break a single law. You can throw your whole life down the drain and live as a blithering, degenerate, wasted burnout; the only legal requirement is that you do so with government-approved intoxicants. There are many hundreds to choose from.

We have indeed spent over $1 trillion in our contrived “war on drugs.” Even after adjusting for inflation, President Obama’s $15 billion budget is 30 times larger than that spent by President Nixon. The states spend another $27 billion. The Drug Czar was the first of the constitution-evading “czar” positions – the drug war was the “gateway drug” that set that awful precedent and now we have them popping up everywhere like weeds in a garden. Every President since Gerald Ford has spent more than his predecessor and achieved less.

In 1970 it was estimated that 15 million Americans used illegal drugs. More than 40 years and more than $1 trillion later, an estimated 25 million will use illegal drugs this year. This is not a good return on investment. Over that time, we have made 37 million Americans felons for possessing a plant; and those felonious wrong-choice botanists are disproportionately black and Hispanic.

Liberals who would tie themselves to a tree because a frog might have to move to another tree if the first was felled won’t lift a finger to prevent millions of black fathers from being ripped away from their homes and families and sent off to incarceration.

And conservatives who claim to be tough on crime and even tougher on government spending won’t even consider ending prohibition the second time. Wisconsin’s Governor Walker was bold in confronting our #1 public expense – education – but where is he on #2 – the prison system?

Making some drugs illegal has created 1.2 million gang members who commit 90% of the violent crime in this country, according the FBI. Half of the population of our federal prisons is made up of non-violent drug offenders – half. We could cut our law enforcement and incarceration costs by 50% if we would quit making felons out of people whose “crime” is that they prefer marijuana over chardonnay.

And yes, it is that simple and that silly. If the stoners were winos we would have no war on drugs – it is entirely fabricated based on the choice of intoxicants – and we would not be incurring all these economic and social costs. But then if we made Merlot illegal, we would throw all the red-wine winos in prison while the white-wine winos lived free. Prohibition is a bad idea; selective prohibition is a dumb bad idea.

Be honest, do you really think that drug violations are crimes? Let’s do the nephew test: you discover one of your nephews raped a 12-year-old neighbor girl and you discover another nephew has a bag of weed in his apartment. Which nephew do you report to the police – the first, the second, or both?   You know the answer.  C’mon.

Studies report that 46% of all Americans have used an illegal drug at least once – 53% of Americans under the age of 50. Did 53% of us try murder in college to see if we liked it? Did we experiment with extortion, or kidnap someone for ransom because everybody else was doing it and we wanted to fit in? The country is broke now; we can’t borrow money to keep this foolishness up for appearances.

Just because libertarians are against drug laws does not mean we are for drugs. And libertarians are not soft on crime; we want resources wasted on prosecuting intoxicant choice to be spent protecting us from real criminals, like nephew #1. I want my tax dollars used to take child-rapists and con-men off the street, not to take nurses and teachers and entrepreneurs and policemen (don’t be naïve) off the street.

Ending the war on intoxicant choice should be one of the few things we can all agree on. Liberals can support decriminalization as social justice; conservatives can support decriminalization as fiscal responsibility; libertarians can support decriminalization as a matter of principle; and constitutionalists can support decriminalization on Constitutional grounds – state’s rights, 4th amendment.

And the rest of us can support decriminalization to defang the gangs that terrorize our cities, our schools, our borders, and our Mexican neighbors. It is not the drugs that fund those gangs; it is the profit from the illegal drug trade that they are killing over. Take away that profit by ending selective drug prohibition and gangs and violence disappear overnight.

Whatever harm drugs do to our society, our drug laws inflict damage that is orders of magnitude worse. Totalitarianism is not an effective treatment plan, and liberty is too high of a price to pay to put up a flimsy appearance of prevention.

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