Drugs are Bad.
The Drug War is Worse.
Nothing could do more to reduce the amount of violent crime in our communities than to bring an immediate end to the travesty of the War on Drugs. Prohibition has created the opportunity for enormous profits from illegal activity, and the result is the war zone our major cities have become. Drive-by shootings are largely turf warfare, just as they were during Prohibition. Think it doesn't affect you? Well, about a quarter of the burglaries in the U.S. are estimated to be comitted by drug addicts stealing to support their habits which prohibition has rendered too expensive to finance in ways other than stealing -- or dealing. So if you are ever burlarized consider that it's 1 in 4 odds drug prohibition was a sort of motivational contributor.
And if you aren't convinced that ending the Drug War will reduce crime, consider doing it in the name of civil liberties and racial justice. Consider that while black Americans represent 12% of the population and 13% of the drug users, they account for 35% of the arrests for drug possession, 55% of the convictions for drug possession, and 74% of the prison sentences for possession. In other words, blacks are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be convicted if arrested, and more likely to be sentenced to prison if convicted. This points to clear racist enforcement among cops, among prosecutors, and in the courts. The result is that there are now more black males behind bars -- one in fifteen -- than whites, despite the disparity in percentage of population. Fact is, if you are white, use drugs, and are reasonably discreet, you are also reasonably safe. But if you are black, you are a target because our justice system has pinned a scarlet letter 'D' for "drug-user" on your chest. Where are all those liberal advocates of racial equality and so-called affirmative action when it comes to recognizing that the government they believe contains the cure for any social injustice is in fact the biggest hypocrite in the game?
Civil liberties have been an even more obvious casualty than racial justice. In 1994 alone, $2 billion in property was seized in the War on Drugs, 80% of it from individuals who were never even charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one. This has even happened right here in Boulder: remember the Yellow Sub sandwich shop incident? Asset forfeiture laws are turning law enforcement into a growth industry. In fact, the FBI gleefully projected in 1992 that the value of its property seizures would increase by 25% each year over the succeeding three years. It should be clear from this where its priorities lie.
Drug violators comprised 60% of the individuals sentenced to federal prisons in 1993. State prisons are operating at from 17 to 29 percent over their intended capacity, while federal prisons are 25% over capacity. In 1993, 26% of the prisoners in state and federal prisons combined were there for drug violations. About a third of law enforcement budgets are spent on drug "interdiction." The conclusion is obvious: we can effectively increase law enforcement and prison budgets by a quarter to as much as a third, simply by eliminating the laws against non-violent drug "crimes" that don't work anyway.
So am I talking about legalizing all drugs here?
Political temporizing and compromising of principles is what's helped get us into this mess, and the main reason we seem unable to get out of it. If the Drug War breeds crime, racism, and the destruction of civil liberties, then ending it for one drug and not others is a short-sighted cop-out. And letting government keep some drugs illegal continues to legitimize its usurped authority to dictate what free people can choose to put into their bodies.
Besides, we made a determination as a society back in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed, that we can live with the effects of alcohol being legal. And there is not one presently illegal drug, not heroin, not crack, not cocaine, and certainly not marijuana, that carries the same level of negative physical, behavioral, and social consequences as alcohol.
Other Anti-Drug-War Links:
Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)