The War on Drugs
Solution or Problem?
May 29, 2001
This is the first in a three part series that will examine the failed "War on Drugs". Since it should now be obvious to even the most naive observer that the War on Drugs has been a complete and utter failure, this series will address the two questions that this raises - "Why does this insane War on Drugs continue?" and "Who benefits from it's continuation?" And, of course, no such thesis would be complete, without the presentation of a reasonable solution - in this case, a proven solution.
In this first part, we will examine the effects of this misguided policy and thoroughly debunk the excuses that its supporters use to justify continuation of this failed initiative. In the second part, we will take a somewhat surprising look at who benefits from the War on Drugs, their shrewd methods and their sinister motivation. In the final installment, we will present a proven workable alternative to the War on Drugs and show how controlled legalization of all drugs would solve the vast majority of the problems that today surround the distribution and use of illegal drugs.
Part 1 -
Excuses Without Substance
The War on Drugs is widely touted as a necessity, mostly by those who receive benefit from keeping drugs illegal, even though it has now become obvious that the real cause of almost all of the problems surrounding drugs, is the War on Drugs itself. So, the question then becomes, if this farce is so obvious, why do so many otherwise informed people allow it to continue? What possible excuse for continuing this insane policy could these parsimonious people offer, that would fool so many otherwise informed people into supporting such folly? Are you ready for a good one? Get this!
Supporters of the War on Drugs claim that they want to "protect our children."
RIGHT! Gimme a break!
Yet, as phony as that excuse obviously is, it seems that even normally well informed conservatives are not immune to it's allure. Just mention "children" and it's like turning off a light switch; except in this case, it's reason that is being turned off. At just the mention of the word "children", even conservatives start acting like liberals, saying things like, "the only reason that the War on Drugs has not been successful is that we haven't put enough money into it. We just need a little more time and a little more money." That's like the Democrats trying to make us believe that the only reason that socialism has never succeeded is because they just need a little more time and money.
These callous people, who care about nothing but themselves, always CLAIM to have our best interests at heart. But any reasonable person, who doesn't stop thinking at the mere mention of the word "children", should recognize that excuse as nothing but a smoke screen to deflect our attention from the fact that the War on Drugs has failed miserably and that it's continuation is what represents the greatest threat to our children!
In the end, it all comes down to money and power. If drugs were to be legalized, those in power, on both sides of the law, would lose significant money, power or both. The fact is, that the interests of those who would have us keep drugs illegal are purely selfish and in reality, they could care less about our best interests or that of our children. But the really sad part, is that these callous people who continuously mislead the public for their own benefit, exist on both sides of the law and in both parties.
Oh, their excuses all sound great, but the excuses have no substance.
They want to protect society from the violence surrounding the drug culture.
They want to protect our children.
They even want to protect us from ourselves! (But, they don't say that one in so many words. They use terms like, "for their own good" or "give them back their self respect". But, it means the same.)
And let's not forget their famous last resort excuse that they always fall back on, when all of their other excuses are eventually shot down, as always happens. You know the one I'm talking about - the "feel-good" excuse that you're not supposed to be able to deny them without sounding like you are cold and uncaring. They say that legalizing and regulating drugs would "send the wrong message to our children".
But, in the following text, I will demonstrate conclusively that even that excuse completely collapses under thorough examination. That's right. Despite the best efforts of the Drug War's most vocal advocates, EVERY last one of their excuses falls apart under the light of reasonable examination of the issue - and yes, that even includes their feel-good excuse.
In the final analysis, it should become obvious, to even the most naive, that there are NO EXCUSES and that the time has come to end the War on Drugs and end the excuses.
So, let's get down to business and see just how easy it is to debunk those excuses.
1. Stopping Violence
To begin with, those who would have us continue this insane policy would also have us ignore the fact that the vast majority of the violence that they "claim" to want to stop, is violence that exists as a direct result of their vaunted War on Drugs.
That's right. Think about it. Most of the violence surrounding the War on Drugs can be traced directly back to the fact that our government has created a very lucrative black market for drugs. Of course, a black market can only exist if there are people who want a product bad enough to risk arrest to acquire that forbidden product.
Well, in the case of drugs, not only do the dealers have a market for their poison, they have a captive market. By that, I mean that drug users have an addiction that drives them to take whatever chances they must, in order to get their next "fix". The drug dealers know that no law will keep their customers from finding a source for their product and that once they have found a source, those customers will pay exorbitant prices. In other words, drugs are the ideal product for black market sales.
Do you think that such a black market would exist if the forbidden product were say, lemonade, apples or chocolate?... OK, so scratch chocolate. The point is that the drug dealers have some of the most highly motivated buyers that exist for any product on Earth.
In a mildly regulated free market, wherever you have a strong demand for a product, a legitimate businessman will step in to provide a supply to fill the void. But in an uncontrolled black market, the person who steps in to provide the supply is almost certainly going to be a person with no scruples against using violence to achieve his goals. But, in most free market situations, there is not such a wealth of motivated buyers and subsequently, not nearly as much profit to be made. It is those huge profits that have attracted the most violent types to the drug trade.
By taking drugs out of the legitimate market, where competition controls the price, the government has created a huge black market where the only thing that limits prices is the drug dealers' greed. As the prices and profits go ever higher, we see the worst elements of our society in control of this trade. They use whatever means necessary, including extreme violence, to protect their money machine. I might also mention here that they have no qualms about hooking as many of our children on drugs as possible.
So let's look at where this has led. In 1983, the year President Reagan declared the War on Drugs, 3,900 Americans died from drug overdoses (National Center for Health Statistics, Vital Statistics of the US, 1983, Vol. II, Mortality - only available on paper) and 500 more died in drug-related murders (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 1983). Twelve years later, in 1995 after more than 10 million drug arrests and hundreds of billions of dollars spent on law enforcement, education, treatment, interdiction and increasingly harsh punishments 7,200 Americans died from drug over doses (National Center for Health Statistics, Vital Statistics of the US, 1995, Vol. II, Mortality - 3.4MB download) and 1,900 died in drug-related murders (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 1995 - only available on paper). That's the highest death rates in both categories this century, and quite likely, in all of history.
Furthermore, in 1988, even though President Reagan, citing University of Michigan surveys, proclaimed the War on Drugs a success saying, "The message is out, and America's young people have heard it" (L.A. Times, 1/17/88), the facts show otherwise. Reagan and his people completely ignored the fact that the surveys that they cited, showing declining drug use among teens since the early 70's, actually showed that almost all of that reduction occurred before Reagan declared the War on Drugs. In fact, since the War on Drugs began, the teen drug death toll has risen by 25 percent. This is stopping violence???
To top it all off, a Justice Policy Institute report (reported by the L.A. Times and archived here by the Media Awareness Project) determined that on about February 15, 2001, the United States set a new World Record:
2 MILLION U.S. citizens behind bars!
The United States now has a greater percentage of its population in prison than any other nation on earth, including Russia and China or even Nazi Germany at the height of Jewish internment.
The United States has earned the distinction of having a quarter of the world's prison population, despite having less than 5% of the world's population.
Actually, according to another Justice Policy Institute report, roughly 1/4 of that increase in citizens behind bars are there as a result of increases in violent crime. The other 3/4 of that increase in prison population are nonviolent offenders. Drug arrests tripled in the United States between 1980 and 1997. Actually, while the number of persons imprisoned in state institutions for violent offenses nearly doubled from 1980 to 1997 (yes, violence is up), the number of nonviolent offenders in prison has tripled and the number of persons imprisoned for drug offenses has increased eleven-fold. Another JPI Report shows that more than 1/2 of the current US prison population are nonviolent offenders.
So, here we are, claiming to be a bastion of Freedom and Liberty and we incarcerate more of our population than any other nation on earth.
What's wrong with this picture?
The answer in a phrase - the War on Drugs.
2. Protecting Our Children
Drugs both fund and empower organized crime. Not only do the drug dealers get rich from selling drugs, but they use their supply of drugs to leverage power over the users who buy from them.
For example, a 15 year old boy who has an expensive habit, learns from his dealer one day, that the only way that he can get his next fix is to carry a package across town. In a few weeks, they have him delivering drugs regularly (they place the risk on an under age courier or "mule"). If not that, then he's running numbers or stealing cars or worse. Eventually, he might even kill someone for the drug dealer, in order to get his next fix.
In another example, an attractive 17 year old girl with an expensive habit is told by the drug dealer that the only way that she can get her next fix is to "be nice" to a friend of the drug dealer. Before she turns 18, she's a full time hooker.
Nothing else gives the criminal elite such unbridled power over others, as their supply of illegal drugs. Nothing else presents a greater threat to our children than allowing this power to remain in the hands of these evil people.
But, it gets even worse. The drug dealers know that the easiest way to insure a continuous supply of new buyers, is to get children hooked on drugs and they know all the tricks. Remember this. Children just don't go out looking for their first drugs without being prodded by friends to do so. So the drug dealers get one of their young users, who they now have delivering drugs, to start selling drugs to his friends. They tell him to give away samples at first. The youngster calls those who won't try his drugs, "cowards." He's beginning to learn the fine art to being a pusher and he's only 13 years old.
Before long that little boy is making a hundred dollars a week or more selling drugs. He thinks that it sure beats mowing lawns all Saturday afternoon for $20. But, with so much cash, he soon learns that he needs a way to protect himself. He needs a gun. Even though every state has laws aimed at preventing children from buying a gun, that presents no problem. After all, his dealer can supply it (and no background checks).
So now, as a direct result of the government's War on Drugs, you have a 13 year old boy pushing drugs on other children and carrying a gun. And our government calls this "protecting our children".
Once again, I ask, "What's wrong with this picture?"
This is all because the War on Drugs has artificially inflated the price of drugs to the point that the worst elements of our society now have a strong profit motive for making drug addicts out of our children.
So once again, we see that the War on Drugs has created the problem, rather than solving it. Our children are at risk because the War on Drugs has emboldened and empowered the criminal element and given them motivation to hook as many children as possible on drugs.
It's not drugs that are the problem. Drugs are only the symptom. The real problem is the War on Drugs itself.
3. Protecting Us From Ourselves
The supporters of the War on Drugs would like us to believe that the government's attack upon the source of drugs is also for the benefit of the drug users. Although, they use terms like, "for their own good" and "give them back their self respect", what they are really saying is, "we want to protect you from yourself."
But even that excuse has a hollow ring to it. Think about it. By such a statement, the government makes the ludicrous assumption that they are better suited to deal with an individual's problems than is the individual himself and his doctor. They must expect us to forget that in every other case where the government has tried to protect us from ourselves, they have failed miserably. Why should we think that it would be any different this time?
Of course, the way the government is going about taking care of these drug users and seeing to "their own good", belies the government's own excuse. To begin with, the only effect that the War on Drugs has had on drug users up to now is to turn many of them into criminals.
Many productive, gainfully employed Americans have had their lives turned upside-down, simply because they had in their possession, an amount of marijuana that would not have made the user as high as one beer. But, it gets much worse. Although the War on Drugs has not slowed down the flow of drugs nor decreased drug abuse, it has artificially increased the street price of drugs. This in turn, has forced many drug users, who have never committed any crime other than drug possession, to turn to violent crime, in order to afford to pay those artificially inflated prices. It should also be noted here, that those drug users, who are already committing violent crimes to support their habit, will have to commit even more crimes to afford those artificially inflated prices, as well.
Furthermore, the idea that, by arresting all of the drug dealers (which we have seen is a clearly impossible task), we are somehow helping drug users, is ludicrous, at best. To begin with, as we have already discussed, that would only drive he price of the existing drugs up, which in turn, would bring in more dealers, wanting to take advantage of the temporary windfall. In fact, shortly after police make major drug busts, there are usually very violent "turf wars", as drug dealers from other areas fight over who gets the right to the newly available turf. It us the drug users who usually get caught in the middle. The other thing wrong with that excuse is based upon the fact that different dealers "cut" their drugs differently. So if by chance, the police could some how manage to take most of the larger dealers off the streets, the addicted users would just temporarily go to other sources. Since the drugs would be of a different strength, the users end up having to readjust their dosage and almost always end up using more of the drug than they had before.
Although, I would feel very little sympathy for the drug users if either of the above were to happen, I somehow fail to understand just how the supporters of the War on Drugs can justify how turning drug users into hardened criminals is "for their own good" or how dying in a turf war or increasing their habit will "give them back their self respect."
What's wrong with this picture?
In fact, this excuse is just as phony as the "stopping the violence" excuse. If the government really did have the best interests of the drug users in mind, they wouldn't be doing things that will just raise the cost of drugs even higher, thus forcing even more drug users to turn to criminal activities in order afford the government stimulated higher prices. They wouldn't be doing things that will just cause more drug users to die.
So, you can chalk this one up as just another baseless excuse for continuing this failed policy.
4. Sending the Wrong Message to Our Children
The supporters of the War on Drugs have taken a page right out of the Liberal Play Book. Just like liberals, after all of their other excuses have gone down in flames, the people who derive financial or political benefit from the War on Drugs and their naive supporters always fall back on a "Feel Good" excuse that's supposed to make anyone who challenges them sound cold and heartless. In this case, that "feel good" excuse is that to legalize drugs would "send the wrong message to our children."
But, even this excuse is "FATALLY" flawed. I emphasize the word "FATALLY", because the message that we are sending our children today is often times exactly that - "FATAL".
You read about cases that prove this fact all the time, yet few people are willing to admit that we are already sending the wrong message to our children. So, exactly what is the FATAL message that we are sending our children?
Let's look at some recent examples, to demonstrate the message and then see if the message becomes clear.
Take the case of 18 year Plano, Texas teen, Rob Hill, who authorities "claim" died of acute narcotism, or the use of heroin. The headlines blazed, "Another Teen Drug Death." But, if you read all the way to the end of the article, which in every paper, is usually buried deep on page 23A, you will learn that he had a severe asthma attack, while under the influence of drugs. Of course, the fact that untreated severe asthma attacks are often fatal, had nothing to do with Hill's death. Nooo. And, pigs fly.
It's much more likely that Hill was afraid to call for help, when he started having trouble breathing, for fear of getting in trouble with the law for his drug use. In fact, had he called for help when he first started having trouble breathing, doctors would probably been able to relieve his asthma attack and bring him down from the drugs. In that case, Hill's drug use was only a contributing factor in his death and the real culprit was the War on Drugs itself and his fear of prosecution. Certainly, he should not have been using drugs. But, considering the fact that the War on Drugs has had absolutely zero effect on reducing over all drug use and that more teens are now using drugs than before the War on Drugs began, it would appear that not only was the War on Drugs responsible for Hill's death, but also partly responsible for his drug use in the first place. The fact remains that had he not feared prosecution, under the zero tolerance War on Drugs, he would likely be alive today.
Or how about the case of young Milan Malina, also of Plano, whose friends watched fearfully as their friend died (The New Heroin, Overdoses Mean Tragedy for Families, Dallas Morning News, 7/27/97). They watched and worried as Milan just lay there semiconscious, vomiting and feverish for hours, lungs filling with fluid. Only when he stopped breathing, did they decide that the situation was serious enough to to risk getting in trouble with the law and take him to the hospital. By the time that they finally got him to the hospital, Milan had been motionless for so long, lying on one side, that his blood had pooled on that side of his body. Doctors could have probably saved his life, had been taken to the hospital sooner. But he died, thanks to the War on Drugs, because his friends were afraid of going to jail. And now, not only is Malina dead, but the lives of his friends who lived are ruined.
Cases like these are repeated all over the country. These two incidents come from only one small town. By the way, I picked Plano, as an example, because it is representative of the kind of area where you would not expect to find a lot of drug usage. Plano is a rather affluent bedroom community outside of Dallas. If things like this are happening in just one small community like Plano, you can be sure that it's happening all across the country, in neighborhoods like yours, as well.
So considering this, what do you think is the FATAL message that we are currently sending our children?
Linda Sharp, whose 17 year old daughter died in a similar incident, where friends could have saved her life, put it all into perspective, saying, "So great, you let your friends die."
"Let your friends die..."
That's the message that we are sending our children today. Don't risk getting in trouble with the law. Just let your friends die.
With a message like that going out to our children today, where do the supporters of this failed War on Drugs find the audacity to claim that controlled legalization of drugs would send any worse message to our children than the one we are sending them now?
In the face of such facts, let's hear their feel-good excuse now. My response is that regardless of the message that controlled legalization would send our young people, it couldn't be any worse than "LET YOUR FRIENDS DIE!"
Sending the "wrong message" to our children is just another baseless excuse for supporting a failed program. It's time for a change. It's time to end the excuses.
In the end, there are no excuses. The War on Drugs has been a complete and total failure. Let's look at their track record. Since 1983:
Drug usage has not decreased at all.
But, more users are now children.
The availability of drugs is up.
Drug deaths are up sharply.
Drug related murders are up sharply beyond that.
Drug related crime, other than murder, is up sharply.
The lives of thousands of otherwise innocent people have been ruined.
The spread of AIDS was much worse than it would have been, had drugs been available through legal sources.
Drug dealers are making record profits.
Un-Constitutional government confiscation of private property, with absolutely NO EVIDENCE of wrongdoing is up dramatically.
in 2000, the US set a record and became the nation with the greatest percentage of its citizens in prison, and quite likely, the greatest incarceration rate in any country ever.
But, the most distressing thought of all is that, as a result of the War on Drugs, the Senator Kennedy (son of a bootlegger) of a few decades from now will probably be the son or daughter of one of today's drug dealers. Think about THAT!
Part 2 of this 3 part series looks at who it is that really benefits from continuing this failed policy and their shrewd methods and sinister motivations. Read it now by following this link:
Copyright 2001 John Gaver
All rights reserved.
Sign the Resolution for a Federal Commission on Drug Policy
Note: This resolution does not ask anyone to support any particular plan for solving the drug problem, and makes no mention of legalization. It only asks for an open and honest review of the nation's drug policy by our government - something that they have thus far resisted. They just don't want to confuse people with the facts.
Check out these excellent sources of information and commentary on this subject:
Drug War Facts - Just the Facts, but well sourced
America Locks Up 2 Millionth Inmate - It's a World Record!!!
Adolescent Drug Use and Drug Control Efforts
The War on Drugs Clock - It's ticking a shameful total
Recommendations of New Mexico Governor’s Drug Policy Advisory Group
The Effective National Drug Control Strategy 1999
Justice Policy Institute
Forfeiture Endangers American Rights (FEAR)
National Center for Health Statistics - recommended only for experienced researchers
Bureau of Justice Statistics Report on Prison Population