Sunday, October 26, 2014

War On Drugs

I now see the error of my ways.  I thought of the war on drugs as pointless and ineffective. I now see it as perfect for what it is intended to do. Look what would happen if we ended the war. 
We have built the world’s largest prison system; we have to keep it and all the people and contractors it employs busy.  What would we do with all those people warehoused in prison?  Would they join the ranks of the unemployed, or become just be petty criminals?  In addition to prisons we have courts, judges and their other employees that depend on the jobs it creates.
 Without low level drug users to plea bargain prosecutors would have to work much harder to maintain their important win/lose ratio.  Thousands of defense lawyers depend on the drug trials for easily earned income with no remorse for failure 
Police at every level from local departments to FBI have become dependent on the opportunities it provides, advancement, excitement, publicity, overtime, free drugs, bigger budgets and the assets that civil forfeiture provides: cars, boats, aircraft, electronics, weapons, and cash. 
The small arms industry depends on equipment, gun and ammunition sales to police and organized crime to stay in business and employ thousands of people.
The economies of several countries, and counties in the US, are dependent on the high prices they get for crops that produce an illegal product. What will they do when cocaine and marijuana bring the same price as oregano and tobacco?  Legal drugs would deprive independent vendors of a major source of tax free income.
All the hoopla about illegal drugs distracts people from the tobacco and alcohol industries, and the pervasive and harmful effects of their products. Constant news coverage of the War pushes news about the harmful effects of alcohol and tobacco off the front page.  Celebrity scandals about illegal drug usage are almost as interesting as sex.  Rehab is so much more newsworthy when it is paralleled with a threat of jail time. 
Pharmaceutical companies can justify the high prices of their mass produced product on the comparably high price of street drugs.  How could oxycodone compete with legal codeine or even safer, more effective marijuana?  Hundreds of chemists, now busy designing drugs (prescription and illegal) around the controlled substances act would be redundant. 
The drug test industry employs thousands.  Employers need a simple reason to reject minority applicants "You failed the drug test".  Since marijuana usage is somewhere between 50 and 80% and can be detected for months, this is almost always credible, and impossible to rebut, although meaningless. 
Political contributions from all those with vested interest in the drug war would stop, then what would all the campaign service providers do without the Mothers-milk of politics?  War of any kind provides speech material for polidioticians, “We need to work harder, we're seeing the light the end of the tunnel, can't stop now.”  Gets more votes than, “300 million Americans are quietly behaving themselves.” 
In fewer words, the war on drugs has so thoroughly pervaded our culture that we, or at least our ruling class, can't live without it any more than they could live without their own hypocrisy. It is a small part of the basis of popular politics: keep the public alarmed with an endless series of boogie-men preferably imaginary, or manufactured as necessary to the needs, of the reelection cycle.

The War on Drugs has taken combat mentality into the streets of America. We need to end the insanity by decriminalizing things that really have no business being crimes in the first place, drugs, prostitution, homosexuality, and half the vehicle code.

War on Drugs, War on Poverty, War on Terrorism, what do they have in common? A vaguely described objective. The first thing we teach in engineering is that a problem well defined is half solved. None of the above three are well defined. A war needs a clearly defined enemy that can be killed or captured. None of the War-ons can meet that criterion. These problems have to be mitigated with education and compassion. Unlike real war, total victory is not a realistic goal.

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