questionable topic – uneasy matters since 2008

The Price of Prohibition

Posted in debate, government, health, politics by questionabletopic on Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Forty years after Nixon declared war on drugs, it’s time to give peace a chance.

Forty years ago this Friday, President Richard Nixon announced that “public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse.” Declaring that “the problem has assumed the dimensions of a national emergency,” he asked Congress for money to “wage a new, all-out offensive,” a crusade he would later call a “global war on the drug menace.”

The war on drugs ended in May 2009, when President Obama’s newly appointed drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, said he planned to stop calling it that. Or so Kerlikowske claims. “We certainly ended the drug war now almost two years ago,” he told Seattle’s PBS station last March, “in the first interview that I did.” If you watch the exchange on YouTube, you can see he said this with a straight face.

In reality, of course, Richard Nixon did not start the war on drugs, and Barack Obama, who in 2004 called it “an utter failure,” did not end it. The war on drugs will continue as long as the government insists on getting between people and the intoxicants they want. And while it is heartening to hear a growing chorus of prominent critics decry the enormous collateral damage caused by this policy, few seem prepared to give peace a chance by renouncing the use of force to impose arbitrary pharmacological preferences.

“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world,” a recent report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy concludes. “Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately: that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won.” Each year that we fail to face this reality, the report says, “billions of dollars are wasted on ineffective programs,” “millions of citizens are sent to prison unnecessarily,” and “hundreds of thousands of people die from preventable overdoses and diseases.”

Neither Order Nor Liberty

Not only does the “war on drugs” war on peaceful people (only some of whom use intoxicants that the government disapproves of) create its own unattractive and dangerous artifacts, it also encourages people to rat on their neighbors.  (HT Mary O’Grady)

Some people call this war on peaceful people (only some of whom use intoxicants that the government disapproves of) a source of ordered liberty.  I call it tyranny – and it’s tyranny that doesn’t even deliver on its marquis promise: it creates disorder as it batters liberty.

See, by the way, Mark Perry’s stats on U.S. incarceration rates.  “Ordered liberty” my arse.

 
Call Off the Global Drug War

By JIMMY CARTER

IN an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade. The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.

The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America’s “war on drugs,” which was declared 40 years ago today. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders. IN an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade. The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.

The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America’s “war on drugs,” which was declared 40 years ago today. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.

Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families (disproportionately minorities), but it is wreaking havoc on state and local budgets. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed out that, in 1980, 10 percent of his state’s budget went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons; in 2010, almost 11 percent went to prisons and only 7.5 percent to higher education.

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