page updated 2013-02-09

Drug War Facts

The Drug War

Where to start? Hundreds of volumes have been written on the subject. I've got at least a dozen on my book shelves. If I had to encapsulate the problem in a single statement, I'd go with: We have tried to treat a public health problem with law enforcement, and that has caused more problems and more serious problems than if we had done nothing at all.

Here are a few of quotes and cliches that apply to the situation:

  1. Forbidden fruit always tastes the best.  Swedish proverb
  2. If there is a demand, there will be a market.
  3. Just because something's bad doesn't mean it should be illegal.
  4. Put the people in prison that you're afraid of, not the one's you're mad at.
  5. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the possible.
  6. One should never forbid what one lacks the power to prevent.  Napoleon Bonaparte

The first, the forbidden fruit, we all know that. What we should also realize is that as we advance into and through our teen years, we naturally want to push the envelope of our experience, and that makes the forbidden all the more delicious.

Second, if there is a demand, somebody will supply that demand. There will be a market. There's no choice there; it's basic economics and human behavior. The choice is whether the market will be legal or illegal, black or white, uncontrolled or controlled. That choice includes who will run the market: criminal businessmen or legitimate businessmen, businesmen who don't pay taxes or businessmen who do.

Third, there are a lot of bad things, but it's foolish to make something illegal if the consequences of doing so are worse than than the original problem.

Fourth, the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. No other country is even close to either the rate we imprison people or the numbers we imprison. The primary cause is the drug war. Our policy of drug prohibition is costing us dearly in so many ways: financially, socially, morally.

Fifth, maybe a drug-free society would be the perfect solution, I don't really know. What I do know is that that is an impossible goal, and trying for that rather than for what is possible is a really bad idea.

Sixth, when we pass laws that we lack the power to enforce, it makes a mockery of the law, a mockery of the government, a mockery of the false morality that does that kind of thing.

Conclusion: We need a legal recreational drug market, a market that pays taxes, a market where the consumer can be assured of product quality, a market than doesn't empower criminal enterprise and policitical corruption.