War on Drugs? You Must Be High!

At the 40th anniversary of this battle's beginnings, we've got nothing to show for it

June 17th marked the 40th anniversary of the dumbest—and most unsuccessful—war in U.S. history. It was on that date in 1971 when Criminal-in-Chief, I mean Commander-in-Chief, Richard Nixon declared his “War on Drugs” by telling Congress that “… we must wage… total war against… the problem of dangerous drugs…” And four decades later, what has been won in that war? Not a goddamned thing, unless you consider wasted tax dollars, destroyed lives and broken families a victory.

The purported “War on Drugs” has been a war on the American budget and the American people. The cost to state and federal taxpayers has been an astronomical one trillion dollars. That’s a 1 followed by 12 zeroes. The national government this year alone will spend $51 billion. Nearly 860,000 citizens were arrested in 2009 on marijuana charges alone, and almost 90 percent of those persons for mere possession only. Seventy-five percent of newly sentenced inmates in state prisons are there for non-violent crimes, with the “War on Drugs” being the primary reason. The number of persons in the U.S. arrested for non-violent drug crimes is more than 12 times the number it was in 1980. And the number of Americans jailed for drug-law violations today is larger than the country’s total prison population in 1980. Nearly 60 percent of inmates in state prison for a drug-law violation have no history of violence or high-level drug-selling activity.

As 65-year-old retired Seattle and L.A. Deputy Sheriff and ex-undercover narc Mackenzie Allen put it, “The so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has been waged for 40 years … with nothing to show for it but increased supplies of cheaper drugs and a dramatic increase in violence associated with the underworld drug market.” In the words of former Baltimore drug cop Neil Franklin, “When President Nixon declared the ‘drug war’ in 1971, we arrested fewer than half a million people for drug offenses that year. Today, the number has skyrocketed to almost two million drug arrests a year. We jail more of our citizens than any other country in the world does, including those run by the worst dictators and totalitarian regimes…”

As bad as this “War on Drugs” is, racism makes it even worse. African Americans comprise just 13 percent of the country’s population and just 13 percent of people who use or sell illegal drugs; but they are about 40 percent of those arrested for drug crimes and close to 60 percent of those in state prison for drug violations.

So what do we do? Well, we certainly don’t listen to what this leftist bleeding heart racial agitator says. Instead, let’s listen to and adhere to what Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State George Shultz says and what Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker says and what the former prime ministers of five different countries say and what past United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says. In fact, let’s listen and adhere to what those and all other members of the preeminent Global Commission on Drug Policy recommended when they recently proposed “treating drug addiction as a health issue … (and) legally regulating rather than criminalizing … (marijuana and hashish).” By the way, 42 percent of adults in the United States admitted to smoking weed. And as documented in a 2006 publication of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, marijuana has “not been shown to increase the risk of cancer.” In addition, unlike other drugs, it has proven medicinal value in regard to cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and neurological disorders. Can your cigarettes and liquor do any of that?

And if you think that only high-falutin’, ivory-tower-type eggheads take the position that the Global Commission does on legally regulating rather than criminalizing marijuana and hashish, what about the 46 percent of the average Joes and Janes in America who support legalizing drugs?

Self-medicating drug use is no more a crime worthy of any criminal sanction (and certainly not imprisonment) than is smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol—unless, of course, you’re one of those holier-than-thou religious fanatics who are nostalgic for a modern-day version of the 18th Amendment’s Prohibition of 1919, which criminalized the mere possession of “intoxicating liquors.” That was the first federal “War on Drugs” and all it did was turn law-abiding Americans into criminals, throw good men and women in jail, and make gangsters obscenely rich. Fortunately, reason, logic, objectivity and pragmatism kicked fanaticism’s ass with the Prohibition-abolishing 21st Amendment of 1933. That’s what I’m nostalgic for, another present-day 21st Amendment, one that will allow competent adults in the privacy of their own homes to safely smoke, drink and otherwise ingest whatever they want into their own bodies.

Drug use should not be treated as a crime. It should treated just as anything else that could be abused and could lead to addiction is treated—like tobacco, alcohol, gambling, eating and sex. We don’t lock up people with Newports or Budweiser on their breath or people with casino and potato chips or condoms in their pockets. To the extent that any of them overindulge, we should treat their problem as a “public health hazard.” That’s exactly why President Obama stated that “there should be more focus on decreasing demand for drugs by treating them as other public health concerns.”

So lighten up and stop locking up with the close-minded approach to drugs.