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Posted by on Oct 27, 2013 in Criminal Justice, Public Policy | 2 comments

The War on Us

If memory serves, on or about Sunday, September 16, 2012, former Secretary of Education and conservative pundit, William Benet appeared on the Washington Journal. The subject at issue was the polarization of education in America. One of the callers to the show broached the subject of the war on drugs, making four crucial points, i.e., 1) that the war on drugs is an absolute failure, 2) that America has more of its citizens in jail or prison than any country in the world, which is largely due to the war on drugs, 3) that most of those incarcerated for drug violations are drug users and 4) that we should seriously consider legalizing drugs.

Secretary Benet took exception to the idea of drug legalization. He first opined that we are now experiencing problems with many legal pharmaceutical drugs that are just as bad as those involving banned substances. He next argued that legalizing banned drugs was not the answer to our drug problem and that in fact said legalization would be the worst thing we could do.  

In terms of political and social issues, few things are more important than our drug policy, domestic and foreign. Nevertheless, the caller has the better argument. Secretary Benet’s position defies justice, fundamental fairness, logic and decades if not centuries of experience.

No public policy in recent history has been a greater failure, is more hypocritical and has caused more pain and suffering to America as well as the entire world than the misguided, inherently racist, unwinnable and counterproductive war on drugs. Neither this nor any other comparable war has ever worked. In fact, we have walked this road before with equally disastrous results.

Take for example, the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s. It too was an unmitigated failure. It reduced neither the consumption nor production of alcohol. It instead provided a lucrative franchise to organized crime and produced such exemplary citizens as Al Capone.

Interesting enough, America did not end Prohibition because it ended the scourge of alcoholism. Nor was it ended because alcohol became a safer drug. As noted by the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, (quoting Milton Friedman of Stanford’s Hoover Institution), in its literary work, “The Moral Dilemma”, we ended Prohibition because we wanted a country free of the effects of the likes of Mr. Capone and the way this two-bit punk was elevated in wealth and power to the point that he could corrupt the police, the courts and the electoral process in Chicago.”

Even if Mr. Bennett is correct and we are experiencing difficulties with medicinal drugs, said problems pale in comparison to an arrest, criminal charge, trial, conviction, a criminal record and imprisonment in one of our fabulous prison warehouses.

Seven and half billion dollars is spent annually on marijuana law enforcement.[1]According to the Marijuana Policy Report, each year American citizens are arrested for marijuana related offenses at a cost of more than $7 billion. A 2005 report on the budgetary implications of marijuana prohibition by Jeffrey Miron, visiting professor of economics from Harvard, estimated regulating Marijuana (as opposed to criminalizing it), would save about $7.7 billion in government enforcement – $2.4 billion at the federal level and $5.3 billion at the state and local levels.[2]

Consider how this money could be better spent. If marijuana was legalized, regulated, and taxed like alcohol and tobacco we could fund health insurance, stem the flow of illegal immigration or repair our nation’s infrastructure. “Tax revenues alone from decriminalization would reach $6.2 billion annually according to an open letter signed by 500 economists who urged President Bush and other public officials to debate marijuana legalization. Among the signees were three Nobel Prize winners and the afore-mentioned Milton Freedman.”[3]

Worse, the rank hypocrisy of the drug warriors is simply astounding. There is not one segment of our culture that does not use drugs recreationally, either banned, legal or pharmaceutical. All drugs have harmful side affects and more people die each year from prescription drugs than illegal ones. Alcohol and cigarettes, the real gateway drugs are highly addictive and destructive substances. Even aspirin irritates the stomach. Yet, these narcotics are legal and are typically consumed in great abundance by those who claim to abhor recreational drug use. The image of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton happily guzzling a can of beer is but one case in point.

What these drug warriors are really saying is that recreational drugs are bad and should be illegal to the point of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment, except of course for the recreational drugs that they consume. Their recreational drug use is okay. Their recreational drugs are a legitimate part of American culture, to be consumed in the White House, the halls of Congress, our homes and houses of worship, at parties, picnics, sporting events, poker games, business meetings, social gatherings, conventions and political events.

And nothing, absolutely nothing is more blatantly, more deliberately racist than the War on Drugs. African Americans comprise roughly 13% of the U.S population. Yet, “an analysis of federal crime data found marijuana arrest rates for blacks were 3.73 times greater than those for whites nationally in 2010. In some counties, the arrest rate was 10 to 30 times greater for blacks.”[4] These and more are the manifest sins of Prohibition.

Fortunately, Americans are beginning to realize the horrors of the war on drugs. A recent Gallop Poll revealed that for the first time, a majority of Americans (58%) favor the legalization of marijuana. The states of Washington and Colorado have already done so and politicians as diverse as Progressive Cory Booker and Libertarian Rand Paul have joined the cause.  

The truth is that the War on Drugs is a misnomer and intentional so. Burning a marijuana field does not deter one marijuana plant from growing. Throwing someone in prison for possession of “crack” will not prevent an ounce of cocaine from being produced, distributed or consumed. This is a war not on drugs but a military and political campaign against people, specifically minorities, the poor, the powerless and the politically disenfranchised.

No Mr. Benet, the solution to the problem of drug abuse is not to continue the war on drugs. The definition of insanity is to do as you have always done and expect a different result. A mix of decriminalization, regulation, education and taxation is the real solution our drug problem. For more on the War on People, order a copy of The Cotton Chronicles, American Apartheid, Prisons and the 21st Century Cotton Gin, available at www.thenewcotton.com.

Leo Barron Hicks, CEO and Founder of the Blackacre Policy Forum, LLC



[1] Travel Host Says it’s Time to Discuss Drug Policy,” the Dallas, Morning News, Friday, February 15, 2008, p. 9 A, quoting the American Civil Liberties Union.

[2] Kathleen Parker, “Inconvenient Truths About Marijuana Laws”: The Dallas Morning News, Tuesday, 7-10-07, p. 11 A.       

[3] Ibid.

2 Comments

  1. Follow the money, if America is paying billions of dollars for it’s drug polices, then someone has an uncompromising and exhaustible revenue stream that they are not going to give up without a fight. America let in more illegal drugs than it keeps out. palms are being greased.

    Love what you have to say, keep say it!

    Eric S. Hicks

    • This is precisely why we keep fighting the inane war on drugs. It’s about the money. The drug war is also about social and political power and control. If you want to control or suppress a certain group, what better way to do so than via the criminal justice system, aka, the New Slavery.

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