We Can't Legalize Drugs Because There Is Just Too Much Violence In It

Yesterday President Obama met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and expressed admiration for his fight against the illegal drug trade:

At a joint news conference at the White House with Mr. Calderón, Mr. Obama said Mexico had shown "extraordinary courage" in its stand against a wave of crime and violence that has left tens of thousands of Mexicans dead since 2006, threatening the stability of a country whose democracy is barely a decade old.

And he pledged that the United States, which provides a market for the illegal drugs, would do more to help.

"We are very mindful that the battle President Calderón is fighting in Mexico is not just his," Mr. Obama said. "It's also ours. We have to take responsibility, just as he's taking responsibility."

Has Calderon taken a stand against a wave of violence, or has he precipitated it? Some 35,000 people have died in prohibition-related violence since his crackdown began in 2006. Just as Obama's secretary of state does not seem to understand that illegal drugs are expensive and sold by criminals because they're illegal, Obama does not seem to understand that the business is violent for the same reason. If he were serious about taking responsibility, he would reflect on the havoc caused by his government's arbitrary pharmacological dictates.

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  • ||

    I would love to know if they really do understand the incentives and economics underlying the situation but feel constrained by the perceived political consequences of drug war heresy.

  • db||

    I am finding it increasingly difficult to chalk this up to simple ignorance on the part of senior policymakers. Regardless of the jokes we like to make, kost of these people are fairly smart, and should be able to understand the arguments against prohibition.

    Nor can we simply allow the excuse that changing the status quo is too difficult: Congress and the President just spent enormous amounts of political capital ramming through Obamacare.

    No, I am coming to the conclusion, more and more, that these policymakers are engaging in wilful denial of the facts, in order to cling to strongly held beliefs in the ability of government to solve all societal ills, if only given more power and resources, which beliefs become more and more tattered with every story of violence, corruption, and tragedy brought on by the demonstrably failed concept of Prohibition.

  • ||

    I agree, except that I don't think they're clinging to strongly held beliefs: I think they're knowingly doing this for the money and power.

  • Monty||

    And a law enforcement jobs/union program.

  • Apogee||

    they're knowingly doing this conspiring in the deaths and misery of hundreds of thousands for the money and power.

    It's a business, and everyone from the politicians to the growers and the cartels is making a profit from it. Hundreds of Billions, if not more.

    This won't go away without a war.

  •  ||

    these people are fairly smart, and should be able to understand the arguments against prohibition.

    They understand them, and I'm sure a few of the drug warriors secretly sympathize with the libertarian argument. But they are afraid of being perceived as "soft on drugs," or "soft on crime." They can't afford, strategically, to be the ones who "lost" the war on drugs. And by most accounts, their constituents support their war. It's still politically popular. Until that changes (and it is changing, slowly), the war on drugs will continue.

  • zoltan||

    A bill in the Texas House proposes to treat possession of 2 oz or less of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor. When introduced to the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, committee member and former prosecutor Stefani Carter (R-Dallas) said all possession of marijuana should be a felony. She also said the bill was "weak on crime".

    These are the people we have to deal with.

  • Jim||

    Several people have pointed out correctly though, that the public still by and large demands the bloodshed.

    The American people PREFER to have hispanic corpses, rather than white drug users. They understand this choice, and they make it willingly. You cannot convince them otherwise, because deep down inside, they already know, and they've made their decision. The rest is just window-dressing to excuse their choice.

    Hell, we routinely blast California for being so left-liberal, and they couldn't even convince people to allow the use of a naturally occuring plant.

  • Jim||

    And to further the above: consider how unpopular Obama is. Can you IMAGINE if he came out in favor of legalization? Team Red would immediately start impeachment hearings, with sizable public support. You know this is true.

  • ||

    I agree.

  • ||

    "I am finding it increasingly difficult to chalk this up to simple ignorance on the part of senior policymakers." You are only just arriving at this view? There is massive vested interest in the continuation of the drug war and it is working and achieving exactly the ends exactly as it was intended. Enriching and employee a select few at the expense of others. Like virtually all government initiatives.

  • ||

    It's a political version of The Problem of Evil:

    Either Obama understands the drug prohibition is on the whole bad and will not do anything about--making him an asshole, or Obama doesn't understand and therefore is an idiot. Both make him unfit to lead the country.

    I'll take a page from TrollTony: Unless--at a minimum--decriminaliztion is part of your platform, you are fundamentally unserious about any expressed concern for your fellow man.

  • Zeb||

    You are being too generous. Unless you favor legalization of all drugs, you have blood on your hands. You are complicit in the murders of thousands of people every year and the illegitimate imprisonment of many thousands more. This is what I keep telling politicians who vote against legalization bills. For some reason I never get much of a response.

  • Joe M||

    If he were serious about taking responsibility...

    BWAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!

  • ||

    "If he were serious about taking responsibility, he would reflect on the havoc caused by his government's arbitrary pharmacological dictates."

    There's only one thing he takes seriously, himself. He's not a leader, he's profoundly selfish, and cowardly.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    That observation fits ALL presidents.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's like the talk about marijuana being a "gateway drug".

    It's a gateway into the black market because it is illegal.

    It is a gateway to other black market products because it is sold on the black market.

    If it weren't on the black market then it would cease to be a "gateway drug".

    Duh!

  • ||

    You must also factor in the fact that kids are much more likely to try marijuana, and when they don't try and microwave a baby or jump off a roof thinking they are Superman or murder an old lady for her Social Security checks or whatever bullshit DARE is peddling at this point, they think all the other warnings about more powerful drugs are bullshit as well, leading them to harder drugs with no accurate information whatsoever in their effects, dosage, and the fact that many of them are adulterated in some form at the street buy level.

  • sarcasmic||

    Kids are much more likely to try marijuana because the folks who sell it don't ask for proof of age.

    The really sad effect of the drug war is that it undermines respect for the law. When people discover that marijuana isn't the devil's weed that government paints it to be, they start to ignore other laws that may exist for a good reason.

    Over time the logical conclusion is the breakdown of civilized society.

  • ||

    "The really sad effect of the drug war is that it undermines respect for the law. "

    hahahahaha yeah real tragedy there.

  • Zeb||

    Unless you think that there should be no laws at all, it is somewhat tragic. If only things that should be illegal (e.g. rape, murder, theft, fraud, assault) were illegal, I would have a whole lot more respect for the law.

  • Bradley||

    The "law" is not a monolith. There are shitty laws and reasonable ones, and most people are capable of recognizing the difference.

    Honestly, who reconsiders their stance on rape and murder upon discovering that marijuana laws are bullshit?

  • ChicagoSucks||

    Didn't mayor Bloomberg once say that any law that isn't consistently enforced erodes respect for law enforcement?

  • Brett L||

    I think that was LaGuardia.

  • ||

    >Kids are much more likely to try marijuana because the folks who sell it don't ask for proof of age.

    Bingo. It's easier for a kid to get pot than beer.

    -jcr

  • Hard On For Liberty||

    I am for the complete legalization of all drugs, but the idea that
    requiring people to show their ID will stop teenagers from smoking
    cannabis is absurd.

    I'm 18, for instance, and it is illegal for me to buy alcohol. Do you
    think that stops me in any way, shape, or form from getting piss
    drunk? Hell no.

    I think the reason cannabis is more available in schools than alcohol
    is because it's a smaller product and more importantly, all teens
    already have access to plenty of booze, like their parents' liquor
    cabinet or their 21+ friend/sibling who buys it for them.

    I think the idea that prohibiting a certain class of people (i.e.
    young people) from buying a product is the exact same logic
    prohibitionists use for the general population.

    So, by your logic, why not make the age to buy cannabis 25, 30, 40,
    50, 100? Let's make the age 1000 so no one can buy it. This should
    obviously stop people from smoking pot, since no one will meet the age
    limit.

    Prohibition has never worked. And the idea that it will work this
    time for a particular class of individuals is beyond naive. It's
    insane.

  • Hard On For Liberty||

    I am for the complete legalization of all drugs, but the idea that
    requiring people to show their ID will stop teenagers from smoking
    cannabis is absurd.

    I'm 18, for instance, and it is illegal for me to buy alcohol. Do you
    think that stops me in any way, shape, or form from getting piss
    drunk? Hell no.

    I think the reason cannabis is more available in schools than alcohol
    is because it's a smaller product and more importantly, all teens
    already have access to plenty of booze, like their parents' liquor
    cabinet or their 21+ friend/sibling who buys it for them.

    I think the idea that prohibiting a certain class of people (i.e.
    young people) from buying a product is the exact same logic
    prohibitionists use for the general population.

    So, by your logic, why not make the age to buy cannabis 25, 30, 40,
    50, 100? Let's make the age 1000 so no one can buy it. This should
    obviously stop people from smoking pot, since no one will meet the age
    limit.

    Prohibition has never worked. And the idea that it will work this
    time for a particular class of individuals is beyond naive. It's
    insane.

  • Old Mexican||

    Has Calderon taken a stand against a wave of violence, or has he precipitated it?


    The little Master In Public Administration (from Harvard, no less) precipitated the violence.

  • ||

    I have become convinced that politicians, including Obama, are being paid off by drug cartels. That is the way that rum runners worked during prohibition. There is no reason to think that it is not going on today. It may not be direct cash, but local cops and other drug enforcement agencies provide political payback to "clean" politicians, while they get "dirty" money.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's not the cartels that are paying the politicians.

    It's the folks who confiscate property, who build and run prisons, who prosecute and defend drug offenders, who provide state ordered counseling, who supervise parolees, who make and prescribe pharmaceutical substitutes for self medication...

    Prosecuting the drug war is a profitable business.

  • ||

    I just saw the ?frontline? documentary on PBS about the Tulia TX drug case. The only question was whether law enforcement was stupid racists, or racist stupids.
    At one point I would have disagree with you - that to believe that the US governmnet structure as a whole was involved in a nefarious plot to lock people up on trumped drug charges was ridiculous - I would have attrubuted that to tinfoil hat thinking....What would the government have to gain by doing that? Well, its pretty evident that they are doing that.
    I guess to answer my own question - it is much like asking who would be in favor in sending young men to their death in useless wars. Turns out, quite a few people...(but I stress it is just not greed - it is convincing yourself that you are solving a problem)
    Damn, now where did I put my tinfoil hat?

  • Jim||

    Anyone ever thought that it's awfully convenient that Nixon decided to stomp down on an activity which was likely to put away a LOT of people (blacks) who probably wouldn't vote for him, and helped to create tension between races?

  • sarcasmic||

    Don't forget the hippies.
    Them damn dirty hippies.
    Those commie bastard hippies.

    Those pinko hippies who became lawyers, who ran for political office, and who are now destroying our country!

    Damn hippies!

  • Kaiser||

    I recently read "Last Call", a history of prohibition--a great book, by the way--and am mystified as to why Americans in the 1920s turned firmly against Prohibition when they saw the corruption and violence that resulted from it, but haven't done the same today.

  • sarcasmic||

    That's easy. It's because drugs are bad. They're bad because they're bad. Everyone knows this. Anyone who uses drugs is bad. Anyone who defends drugs is bad. Anyone who questions the drug war is bad. They're bad because drugs are bad, and drugs are bad because they're bad.

    Bad.

    It's a moral issue.

    Morals defy logic.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: sarcasmic,

    It's a moral foklore issue.


    More accurate.

  • sarcasmic||

    What's the difference?

  • Matrix||

    You forgot to mention they were 'bad'

  • sarcasmic||

    Sorry. My bad.

  • Drugs||

    I'm bad, I'm bad, you know it, you know it.

  • ||

    sarcasmic, I've heard Bill O'Reilly make that exact argument, in almost exactly those words.

  • WTF||

    Mainer|3.4.11 @ 12:32PM|#
    sarcasmic, I've heard Bill O'Reilly make that exact argument, in almost exactly those words.

    I knew I'd heard that somewhere before!

  • Bill O'Reilly||

    Drugs are bad. You can't explain that.

  • juris imprudent||

    The really fun thing to do is to find someone who thinks "drugs are bad" and give them a few quotes from the people who wrote the drug laws: we must protect our white women from all the dirty, sneaky [ethnic] men who would tempt them with [drug].

    Oh, it won't cause an epiphany in most, but it does plant a seed.

  • ||

    Hey ! Where de white wimmin ?

  • hurly buehrle||

    Exactly. The drug war is just like the military, welfare, etc at this point: it's a cottage industry all its own, with interest groups who lobby government to make sure it continues. It's no coincidence that California, with its enormously powerful prison guards' union, failed to legalize marijuana last year.

  • Byron||

    How fucking sick is it that there should ever, anywhere be an "enormously powerful prison guards' union"?!?!

  • ||

    Props on the "prohibition-related violence", Jacob. If it were called that, instead of "drug-related" violence, the way to a more sane policy would be easier.

  • ||

    It is nothing more than an inability to separate cause and effect. Unfortunately, this same confusion carries into the public debate.

    The problem is convincing the general population that drug violence is due to the prohibition of drugs, not to the drugs themselves.

  • ||

    And again, I have to wonder how the general population that is in charge now...the 50 and 60 year olds, the flippin' Baby Boomers don't see this. If any cohort would understand that pot is actually fairly benign, it would be the Boomers. That fact that they don't or won't makes me wonder if there is any hope of legalization.

  • ||

    reefer madness was a very effective propaganda film.

  • Rich||

    That film never fails to pack the house with stoners.

  • Matrix||

    I think everyone involved in making that film was high on something... if not reefer itself!

  • Rich||

    ^This^. "Where have all the hippies gone?"

  • ||

    They are in San Francisco, flushing their low-flow toilets 5 times to make them work right.

  • Apogee||

    Wrong. (but you're right about the toilets)

    They're the ones profiting from this cottage industry.

    What part of lazy pot smoking hippies conflicts with "guaranteed profits"?

  • ||

    Legalization proponents need to come up with a passable, coherent plan if we wanna get America moving on this. I think the best way to sell it is have government take over all drug distribution and price them under black market prices. All that money can relieve tax burdens.

    Make the case that prisons are expensive and overcrowded. Each pot user out of prison is another space we can use for real criminals.

  • ||

    A government monopoly operating at black market prices would do nothing. It would simply give a ceiling price below which the black market would operate. If you don't think this is true, check out the black market in cigarettes.

    The second argument has long been made by libertarians and it is beginning to enter the political mainstream. However, it is being fought vigorously by those that have a vested interest in continuing the drug war - LEOs, prison guards, prison operators, etc.

  • ||

    The black market for cigarettes is a middleman issue and its proportional to the oppressiveness of the tax on them. New York has an awful problem. Texas does not. And Philip Morris et al are not the major problem. Its partially their distributers fault along with the government.

  • Rhywun||

    I like how the US is always "the" market for drugs. Evil, stupid Americans!

  • ||

    Not true. It is just the country that has done the most to promote the drug war.

  • nobody||

    Back during the campaign, when I heard that Obama's favorite television show is The Wire, I held out a little hope because I didn't know how anyone could watch that show without realizing that Bunny Colvin was the only character that told the damn truth. But, of course, Obama just turned out to be a Carcetti. Lame.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    I'm sure his opinion of The Wire was a result of a very well run focus group. Either that or that "Stuff White People Like" website.

  • Ska||

    Hmmm....does he like sushi and argyle prints?

  • Jaunita's Pre-emptive Strike||

    I'm a cum-guzzling gutter slut. WHEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

  • ||

    If he were serious

    You slay me.

  • ||

    "We are very mindful that the battle President Calderón is fighting in Mexico is not just his," Mr. Obama said. "It's also ours. We have to take responsibility, just as he's taking responsibility."

    Plainly, what we need are more warrantless searches by the TSA!

  • Brett L||

    Does anyone else feel like when President Obama "takes responsibility" for something it turns into a clusterfuck?

  • DNS||

    Does anyone else feel like when President Obama "takes responsibility" for something it turns into a clusterfuck?

    The man didn't understand the words "Void" and "Vacated."

  • Rich||

    "Take responsibility" is merely one of any number of meaningless utterances mouthed by politicians.

  • Rich||

    (As Mainer alludes downthread.)

  • mad libertarian guy||

    ^^^THIS^^^

    Because taking responsibility means facing the consequences of your actions. We won't see any politicians doing that anytime soon.

  • ||

    And he pledged that the United States... would do more to help.

    Really? Like what? Put more people in prison? Hire more cops?

    I read somewhere where the DEA spreading out from just doing drug related stuff to stuff more akin to intelligence related stuff.

    http://www.sodahead.com/united.....n-1407305/

    I see this as a good sign. For one thing, if they have more responsibilities, they will be less effective as a drug fighting force. 2nd, I am betting that the DEA sees the writing on the wall. These DEA guys must froth at the mouth watching all the weed getting traded out in the open in California, Colorado, and elsewhere and know that demonization of marijuana crumbles a little bit more every day. So they move to something new where they can justify their existence.
    Or it could be that this is a natural evolution of a federal agency...either way, the DEA is becoming more useless as a drug fighting tool as it spread to intelligence gathering.

  • ||

    Does anyone else feel like when President Obama "takes responsibility" for something it turns into a clusterfuck?

    I definitely don't think his definition of "responsibility" matches mine.

  • ||

    You probably think words have meaning.

  • TrollTony||

    Mainer|3.4.11 @ 12:38PM|#
    You probably think words have meaning.

    They mean whatever the court determines that they mean.

  • The Court||

    Wish you hadn't said that, TT. Our case load is backed up enough as it is.

  • H man||

    Come see the violence inherent in the system.

  • Rich||

    I keep waiting for some legislator to propose making it illegal to spin around until you're dizzy -- "for the children". 8-(

  • ||

    The drug cartels are criminals. They are not locked into drugs such that if the profits from drugs are gone, they will just disband and go back to farming corn and beans. They are already doing kidnappings and extortion, requiring "protection" from whole neighborhoods. Legalization will almost certainly result in more of these other crimes as a replacement.
    And one other thing: I've never read where Reason says what drugs they advocate legalizing. Meth? PCP? Will current prescription medicines with no recreational use become over-the-counter? Do away with the FDA?
    I'm not a fan of the war on drugs, nor do I think legalization will produce the result Reason envisions.

  • Sam Izdat||

    Legalization will almost certainly result in more of these other crimes as a replacement.

    Well, then the police will almost certainly have more real work to do.

  • ||

    Hey David,

    The world wasn't puppy dogs and rainbows before the advent of many of these hard drugs, it didn't get worse as a whole when they came on the scene and it didn't get any better when we started spending trillions of dollars trying to keep them off the streets. Simply the result of ending the drug war will make government alot cheaper and end the violence that government hurls upon its citizenry partaking in such drugs. There will still be criminals trying to sell drugs after legalization, but the everyday person on the street looking for a high would now have more options than going to his local thug for his high. And then police can focus on rounding up the thugs rather than worrying about joe blow stoning out in his sunroom.

  • ||

    Legalization will almost certainly result in more of these other crimes as a replacement.

    Interestingly, legalization could also free up resources to combat those sorts of crimes that actually involve a victim. Crazy how that works, huh?

  • ||

    So if Mexico can't deal with the violence now, how do you think they'll deal with an equal level of violence but in other crimes?

  • ||

    You don't go from killing someone to keep your drug turf to raping someone because you have more free time. And if citizens are not scared of the police corruption anymore, they may actually cooperate and help put criminals away.

  • ||

    "Everything won't be perfect, so let's keep everything exactly the same!"

  • ||

    I didn't say or propose that. It was how many people including Reason seem to think there are no secondary consequences.

  • ||

    At this point, I don't see how it could get worse. The consequences of legalization can't be worse than the current level of violence we see.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    In fact any violence after the end of prohibition will be much better, because we might have a chance in hell at prosecuting those responsible for said violence, unlike now where the state is the most culpable party.

  • Matrix||

    Those things will still happen, but to a lesser extent here. Still, we can stop prosecuting people for deciding what they can do with their own money and bodies and while not infringing on the rights of others. That's what it boils down to. It will lessen a lot of problems we see in America.

    Sure, the other illegal rackets and other activities will continue, but those DO infringe on the rights of others. We should vigorously pursue the perpetrators and bring them down.

  • ||

    The Drug War provides an incredible amount of cash that supports the criminal infrastructure. Take away the drug money and there is a lot less ability to corrupt police forces, judges and politicians.

  • Hard On For Liberty||

    Meth? PCP? Will current prescription medicines with no recreational use become over-the-counter? Do away with the FDA?

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

  • ||

    President CHANGE is following in the footsteps of his predecessors. As we all know, this failed drug policy has done nothing to stop the flow of drugs. With all the money wasted by the DEA, the US could have bought all the drugs available worldwide. Obama, of course, doesn't like to fix it even though it is broken. It is a lot easier and politically advantageous to him to follow the present failed policy. Perhaps if Obama had to do some time for his drug use, he would have a different attitude. As a hypocritical poser Obama has no problem seeing the youth of our society incarcerated for the same offense he admitted to.

  • jtuf||

    *Sigh* Half of adult Americans tried illegal drugs at least once. Only 6 in ten eligible Americans bother to vote. If the Americans who tried illegal drugs, got away with it, and don't want to vote for a major party candidate anyway bothered to show up on election day and vote for the parties that support legalization, they would total tens of millions.

  • Egyptian Google Executive||

    Better start Tweeting.

  • ||

    There are so many houses of cards that make up our political and social institutions. Logical, peaceful solutions seldom break them down. Perhaps the best thing that could happen to end this stupidity is for the drug violence on "the border" to spill over even more than it already has.

    Vicente Fox seems to get it. Now that he is safely out of power.

  • ||

    He understands. He's a drug warrior like he's a "Christian" (and, no, I'm not inferring he's Muslim, either).

  • Troy Robinson||

    Of course our "leaders" understand what they are doing. The so-called "drug war" has done more to turn our Republic into a police state than anything else in the past century. If you lust for political power, what's not to like about a police state?

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