Why the Drug War is The Issue


Jim Henley speaks wisdom to libertarians who question why other libertarians make supposedly outrageous and alienating positions like an end to the drug war central to the libertarian cause. He starts with justly deserved praise for Radley Balko's recent Hudson-blogging (which we hipped you to here) and gets to:

Definitively rebuked by recent history [are]….the "realistic" so-called libertarians who show up in one or other forum to chide the movement for marginalizing itself by pursuing the "fringe issue" of drug prohibition. But realistically, drug prohibition is the whole political ballgame. It drives the aggrandizement of police power and the paring of civil liberties. It establishes precedents that generalize to other law enforcement issues. It exemplifies and undergirds the principles of the Loco Parentis state. It is everything any libertarianism worthy of the name must not only oppose, but make central. There is no area of American life where the state said more clearly, "We must be free to kill you with impunity to protect you from making bad choices."

NEXT: "England? We Thought You Came From the Moon."

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  1. Absolutely right. But I’ve said before that we might have more success in persuading others if we focused more on non-drug-users who get screwed over by the drug war–the sweet old lady terrorized by SWAT team members invading the wrong house, for example, or the nice photogenic honor student expelled from school for possession of an aspirin.

    Incidentally: my newspaper of course publishes the police blotter every day. If not for the drug war, we could literally go for days at a time with absolutely nothing to print there.

  2. But Jennifer just think of those unemployed police officers roaming the streets with nothing to do. They might get violent and hurt someone.


  3. Jennifer,

    That focus won’t work. Everyone sympathises with the old lady who gets busted in on, but drug war supporters think it’s an honest mistake in a good endeavour. You have to attack the endeavour itself as evil.

    – Josh

  4. Well, a big Amen to this. Interventionism was the focus of my Fake Libertarians post.

  5. The Drug War is what made me a libertarian. Now, before the conservatarians blush in horror, it’s not that I decided to adopt the “L-word” as my label because I like pot. In fact, I’ve never used any illicit drugs, and I don’t even drink alcohol or smoke tobacco. But I realized the insanity of the Drug War, and then I realized that the Drug War is a many-tentacled beast with many lessons: The state going after harmless people, the violence and misery that result when you try to deny the existence of market forces, the expansion of police power in pursuit of a (supposedly) noble cause, the racist roots of this awful policy, etc. etc.

  6. Jim Henley is debating against a straw man.

    Most libertarians couldn’t care less whether other libertarians take alienating positions. “Realist” Libertarians question why other Libertarians want the Libertarian Party to take outrageous and alienating positions. It’s a debate about political strategy, not about major differences in political philosophy.

  7. Amen to that,
    I have never done any drugs in my life, and the drug war is as strong a representation of wrongness of the US govt as I can think of.

    Back before I turned to libertarianism, the editor of NRO came out against the drug war, and “I said hmmm, he might be right”. Since then, I have become vehemently opposed to the drug war.

    But remember that the drug war is the original war on terror, as far as getting people to give up their rights. I don’t think anything in the GWOT comes close to going as far as the war on drugs, in regard to taking away your rights.

  8. Not to mention the public employees who supplement their incomes by doing favors for drug dealers. I cannot think of a more despicable species of bureaucrat: They pursue an insane and incredibly destructive policy, while taking kickbacks from the alleged targets of the policy, but the targets are in fact the beneficiaries.

    I mean no disrespect to those who prioritize differently, but I cannot think of a more insane policy than the Drug War. It fuels crime, funds terrorists, costs billions of dollars, expands the power of the police state, expands the power of the nanny state (money spent on education, rehab, etc.), infects foreign policy at every turn, costs still more money, trashes our privacy rights (from no-knock raids to surveillance powers to financial regulations targeting money laundering), and just generally fucks up every single thing that it touches.

    The drug war needs to end. Now.

    If I were fabulously wealthy I would hire private investigators to dig up the dirt on public officials who do favors for drug dealers. I would expose this to the public, and hope that they’d see the light. Sadly, they’d probably be satisfied after a few “bad apples” were locked up, and then things would resume as before with new faces taking the same old bribes.

  9. If I were fabulously wealthy, and I should be, I don’t know why I’m not; I would fund PI’s to investigate the kids of the big drug warriors that the rich kids could serve jail sentences just like everyone else.

    And then I would claim to be a drug warrior myself and show how the we were able to “save” the kid of the politician, or cop, or judge.

  10. The Libertarian opposition to the war on drugs is the primary reason I subscribe to “Reason” magazine.

    Also, last fall and winter I was out of commission with a back injury. Opioids are a blessing. During that time I saw the Pain Relief Network, http://www.painreliefnetwork.org on CSPAN. They were sponsored by the “CATO” Institute. Good for them.

    Suspicionless drug testing is another police state tactic.

  11. Hear hear!!!

    I concur wholeheartedly. However right now, the name of the dastardly librul president who started the “Drug War” and fed it so that it would be forever attached to them. Hmmm…they were liburls right? Democrats of course right. Hmmmm…didn’t his name start with an R? Now what hero of the Reason staff could I be thinking of?

  12. Listen, the Libertarian Party isn’t going to get elected in significant numbers regardless of what it does. Those of us who call ourselves libertarians and who also are opposed to drug prohibition really need to speak up on the issue because no one else will.

    What’s the worst thing that could happen? That we’d lose power we don’t have? That Bush will stop being libertarian to get even with us? LMAO.

    What’s the best thing that could happen? I’ve got two possibilities. 1) People who use illegal drugs will say, “Whoa, there is a party that supports me? Ya got my vote.” There are a lot of drug users in the US…. 2) We force the ill-informed drug warriors to explain their nonsensical positions and make the MSM and the people take notice of the fact that they lose the debates on the merits.

  13. Hear hear, Happy J.

    I wonder why we can’t put toghether comercials for tv. I mean the movies; ‘Traffic’ and the other one I can’t remember help, but a comercial to the public to say “what are you doing to stop the drug nazis” would be cool too.

    I’d like there to be an NRA for an end to drug laws. I’d put that sticker right next to my NRA one. Then the cop pulling me over could ask me if I have any drugs after I tell him I am armed.

    I’d have to say “no, but if you need some real bad then…”

  14. Really? Did Reagan start the drug war? That sucks because otherwise he was a pretty cool president. I mean flawed up the ass, but in comparison to others pretty cool. And he had some cool speaches about how govt wasn’t the answer also.

    I thought the drug war stuff started in the 50’s.

    But then I guess ‘Miami Vice’ would have been a ’50 show instead of an ’80s extravaganza.

  15. kwais-

    I like the idea of busting the children of drug warriors!

  16. AMEN
    The WOD is thee Libertarian issue. It encapsulates everything that we stand for. It is a perfect illustration of the bankruptcy of social engineering via government. And best of all, it completely severs us from both major parties. Libertarians should make as much noise as possible over prohibition, so that when the day comes that we put an end to prohibition, people will remember that it was the Libertarians who fought for right on principal even as none others would.

  17. Didn’t Nixon start the modern drug war and every president since make it worse?

  18. yeah the drug war has helped to substantially degrade property rights…so i guess i have to throw my hat in with the fucking hippies…

    By why the fuck do they have to be so friggin stupid…and take a god damn shower already.

  19. yeah the drug war has helped to substantially degrade property rights…

    Yep, asset forfeiture.

    Not to mention medicine, with the DEA scrutinizing prescriptions for pain medicine.

    And education, with zero tolerance policies.

    The list of dumb things inspired by the drug war is endless. It is a many-tentacled beast.

  20. If I were fabulously wealthy, my expose on corruption in the drug war would be a half hour piece of paid programming, aired during prime time on a major network. It would go like this:

    It would start by acknowledging the horrors of drug abuse. There would be shocking footage and horror stories that could rival anything that the ONDCP has ever put out.

    Then the narrator would say: “Sadly, the public officials allegedly tasked with solving these problems have instead sold their allegiance to the criminal underworld.”

    Then I’d unfurl the juiciest evidence, with a reminder to check out a web site for even more info.

    “And while public officials forsake their duty to uphold the law, the drug cartels become ever more ardent about performing their jobs:”

    And then evidence of constant innovations in smuggling, drug cultivation, money laundering, and other aspects of the drug trade.

    “It would be tempting to think that we can solve this problem by fighting harder, but every time we fight harder the drug dealers just buy more officials and unfurl even cleverer innovations. The problem is reminiscent of what happened in the 1920’s with alcohol prohibition. In response to the horrors of alcohol abuse…”

    [cue images of drunk driving victims, homeless guys drinking in the gutter, domestic violence victims, etc.]

    “…America banned liquor. And virtually overnight, organized crime took control of the market for liquor, and America witnessed an unprecedented wave of violence.”

    [cue images of people killed by mobsters during prohibition]

    “Today, much the same thing has happened with cocaine, marijuana, heroin, amphetamines, and a wide variety of other illicit substances.”

    [cue images of gang violence]

    “Even terrorists have learned how to profit from the drug trade, including the Taliban.”

    [cue images of Afghan poppies being harvested, and then images of planes flying into the WTC]

    “It is clear that every effort to combat the problem is circumvented by the corruption of our public officials.”

    [images of people implicated earlier in the documentary]

    “Fortunately, the lessons of the 1920’s can guide us today. After ending alcohol prohibition, gangsters like Al Capone left the alcohol business. Today, alcohol remains a problem, but it is a regulated problem, and it is sold by responsible businessmen.”

    [show images of corporate headquarters for major liquor manufacturers.]

    “If we are to end the corruption and violence, we must do for drugs what we did for alcohol: We must legalize drugs. We must bring the problem into the open. Instead of enriching drug dealers and even terrorists…”

    [show images of Taliban leaders]

    “…we should drive them out of business, replace the illicit dealers with safe and regulated distributors…”

    [images of Amsterdam pot shops]

    “…and concentrate on providing help for addicts.”

    [images of rehab centers, twelve-step programs, etc.]

    “We cannot force people to stop using drugs, but we can help them stop safely, and we can make sure that terrorists and politicians never again profit from drugs.”

    [images of Bin Laden and the public officials implicated in the documentary]

    Of course, before airing this, I would move to a country with no extradition treaty, buy a large estate, and surround myself with loyal and heavily armed henchmen.

  21. I’d like there to be an NRA for an end to drug laws. I’d put that sticker right next to my NRA one.

    Kwais, you might want to give the Drug Policy Alliance a try.

  22. I wouldn’t put a drug legalization sticker on my car.

    I’m thinking of donating some money to a police charity and getting a bumper sticker from them.

    Call it protection money, it you will.

  23. mr thoreau, what network would air it? should they likewise move to a country with no extradition? no one can make a difference in this problem by throwing money at it. george soros, with all his billions, is powerless to do anything about it.

    the problem is that our entire society is soaked and sodden with the drug war. we have passed the point of no return. the powers that be — politicians, law enforcement, the education establishment, corporations with drug testing regimes — have invested so much in the idea that drugs are the root of all evil that to admit otherwise would be disastrous. you like to talk about what victory will look like, mr thoreau — tell me, what will victory over the drug war look like? how do we get there? the collective breast beating and pride-swallowing of the powerful would have to be unprecedented.

    but i have no doubt that we will get there. certainly, seneca and the stoic moralists of the late roman empire must have felt much the same about the crippling imperial taxes levied on the provinces — there was no way the patrician families of rome could lighten those burdens without losing face, even as revenue dried up as farmers moved to the cities for free bread. that is the curse of having institutions — eventually they become stronger than the men who built them. for the romans, the end of the insane tax system came with the end of their empire, and i fear our own pax americana will have to meet a similar fate.

    you all wonder why i relish the dark ages so. a dark age is an exciting opportunity for rebirth. the inertia of cultural habit is gradually extinguished as generation after generation struggles to merely survive. but perhaps the denizens of far future ages will yet pick through the rubble of our cities, and pore over translations of our literature, wondering how people could be so stupid as to support the policies we discuss today. i can only hope that they take the good of our modern civilization and leave behind the bad, as we have tried to do with the classical greek and roman civilizations. in that lies our only hope, that the next iteration of humanity gets it right.

  24. thoreau,

    email it to Soros. The worst that could happen is the NSA intercepts it and police won’t come knocking on your door.

  25. Paging Walter Williams:

    Other “black” columnists out there:

    The War on Drugs is genocide. Yet, not a peep.
    What gives?

  26. Oh, I forgot.
    There is not a single “black” person who is not Baptist.

  27. I saw part of an LBJ anti-drug speech on TV last night, so the genesis of this stupid “war” was a long time coming.

    I’m another opponent of the criminalization of drugs who has never, ever used them. Not even once. Which is quite a feat in Florida, where I believe we have illegal drugs in vending machines.

  28. In a former life, I had a job doing criminal history checks for applicants for financial services licenses here in Texas. Every single file I reviewed — I didn’t see ordinary applicants, only ones with felony flags — was a drug offense. It was pretty much the biggest waste of time and money imaginable, but one case really stands out. When I first started, I had an applicant who had a “conspiracy to possess” charge from Kansas City, MO. The cops had busted the end of tax season party at the accounting firm where he was interning before he sat for the CPA exam, and one of his coworkers had borrowed my guy’s car to make a drug buy. My guy didn’t know about the buy, didn’t consent, pay for, support, or otherwise having anything to do with it. He and a friend consumed a line while making out in the car, and the cops jumped out just at that moment. They couldn’t get a usable amount even after vacuuming the car, so he got charged with the bogus “conspiracy to possess,” which is interesting since he didn’t agree to the buy and didn’t do anything to make it happen, and therefore didn’t meet the requirements for a conspiracy. The DA at that time and place was one John Ashcroft, who was running for his first higher office, and refused to agree to deferred adjudication and probation, because it was so vitally important to look like he was being tough on white collar users as well as icky dark-skinned ones. Thus, my poor applicant spent the next ten years of his life explaining his criminal record. (I do hope he went to the trouble to get his record expunged later.) He was a CPA, and about as much of a threat to public order as the lady who runs my favorite yarn shop. (He got his license, by the way, and his job.)

    Shortly after that, my beloved grandmother developed severe back pain associated with congestive heart failure, but she couldn’t get her painkiller prescription renewed because the FDA regs said so. The doctor from the nursing home said that they were afraid she’d get addicted. An 88-year-old woman within weeks of death was not maybe the profile that inspired the original rule.

    Those two experiences cut the last strings holding me to my socially-conservative upbringing. I realize they aren’t all that horrible as drug war stories go, but if someone like me, who has very little contact with anything related to criminal justice and who has never taken illegal drugs has two such tales, what must the sum total out there be of pain, cost, and general misery heaped on the world because of this idiotic moral panic?

  29. from wikipedia:

    The War on Drugs is an initiative undertaken by the United States to carry out an “all-out offensive” (as President Nixon described it) against the prohibited use of certain legally controlled drugs. The Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress noted in a 1989 report that the nation’s war on drugs could be considered to have started in public policy dating to November 1880, when the U.S. and China completed an agreement which prohibited the shipment of opium between the two countries. By February 1887, the 49th Congress enacted legislation making it a misdemeanor for anyone on American soil to be found guilty of violating this ban. It became officially the “war on drugs” in the 1930s, with the marijuana scare that banned possession and cultivation of cannabis (including hemp).

    So if that is true we have been fighting for a loooong time.

  30. I have been patiently saving below waiting for this very thread:

    “From “The Birth of America; From Before Columbus to the Revolution” by William R. Polk:
    To ensure punishment without delay and without harm to the owner, slaves were subjected to special procedures. In North Carolina, from at least 1715 on, they were tried without a jury, in special courts. If a slave was condemned and executed, the owner was compensated from public funds. The owner, however, had to establish that he had acted responsibly in the affair. Under a law passed in 1753 in North Carolina, he would not be compensated for an executed slave unless he stated, as of course he always did, that for the previous year, the slave had been properly clothed and provided with a quart of corn each day as food. Some owners found in the law a means of getting rid of a surplus or refractory slave at a higher price than they could get on the open market. It was reported that “many persons by cruel treatment of their slaves cause them to commit crimes for which many of said slaves are executed”–so many, in fact, that compensation was abolished after the Revolution, in 1786.”

    So how does the War on Drugs differ from a North Carolina law passed in 1753?
    Answer that, Walter Williams.

  31. Ruthless,

    This is a reason interview with Larry Elder, who happens to be “black”, and a columnist and talk show host. I have no idea if he is Baptist or not, although the interview may well have mentioned his status. (I skimmed it because I recalled Elder talking about his opposition to the WOD.)

    Here is the relevant WOD quote, with my apologies if I missed another relevant comment. The word in boldface was italicized in the interview, presumably because it was said with emphasis, but that is merely my guess.

    Here’s a microcosm of a lot of things that we’re talking about: Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton saw the different penalties for crack cocaine and powder cocaine as Exhibit A that the criminal justice system is racist. I’m not saying I accept the different penalties. Unlike Jackson or Sharpton, I think the drug war is bogus. Philosophically, I think that if somebody wants to sit around and get stoned that’s up to him or her. And if that ruins your life, so be it. Any government intrusion ought to be viewed with great skepticism and this is another example of that.

    On a practical level, add up all the costs of the drug war: all the people robbing and maiming and shooting and stealing in order to get money to support their drug habit, lost work when your car gets stolen by somebody who wanted it because he or she wanted to sell it for drugs, police protection, border patrol. William F. Buckley estimates that the drug war is costing the American taxpayers $205 billion a year. Our prisons are full of people for drug trafficking, many of whom never committed a violent crime.

    So I’m for drug legalization. But if you are running a war on drugs, don’t tell me that different treatment for crack and powder has to stem from racism. The fact is that many people believe that the crack trade is a violent trade. It certainly can be proved that in the mid-’80s, when crack became a drug of choice of the inner city, murders went up.

  32. I complete agree with Henley, and have come to something verging on despair regarding the SCOTUS. Scalia sometimes votes correctly, and Thomas even more often, from a libertarian perspective. But when they are bad, as in Hudson, they are too bad for me to continue to prefer GOP Court appointments. (But let’s recall the “liberals” on the High Court weren’t too hot in Raich, either. The word “drugs” causes a suspension of all principle and reason for too many.)

    The war on people who use drugs is the paramount domestic issue this nation faces, and that has been so for decades. In the 90s I didn’t vote or involve myself in partisan politics; I was almost solely about advocacating for drug policy reform.

    Altho it is a bit dated — doesn’t seem to have been kept up since ’00 — Cliff Schaffer’s Drug Library is a super resource for understanding the history of drug prohibition (he was a resource when History Channel did a 5 Pt series on the subject). His 17 Point Basic Facts About the War on Drugs starts thus:

    1. Why were the laws against drugs passed in the first place?
    The first American anti-drug law was an 1875 San Francisco ordinance which outlawed the smoking of opium in opium dens. It was passed because of the fear that Chinese men were luring white women to their “ruin” in opium dens. “Ruin” was defined as associating with Chinese men. It was followed by other similar laws, including Federal laws in which trafficking in opium was forbidden to anyone of Chinese origin, and restrictions on the importation of smoking opium. The laws did not have anything really to do with the importation of opium as a drug, because the importation and use of opium in other forms — such as in the common medication laudunum — were not affected. The laws were directed at smoking opium because it was perceived that the smoking of opium was a peculiarly Chinese custom. In short, it was a way of legally targeting the Chinese.
    Cocaine was outlawed because of fears that superhuman “Negro Cocaine Fiends” or “Cocainized Niggers” (actual terms used by newspapers in the early 1900’s) take large amounts of cocaine which would make them go on a violent sexual rampage and rape white women. There is little evidence that any black men actually did this, if only because it would have been certain death. The United States set a record in 1905 with 105 recorded lynchings of black men. At the same time, police nationwide switched from .32 caliber pistols to .38 caliber pistols because it was believed that the superhuman “Negro Cocaine Fiend” could not be killed with the smaller gun.
    Dr. Hamilton Wright is sometimes referred to as the “Father of American Drug Laws”. Dr. Wright was the Opium Commissioner at the time and had previously become famous because he had “scientifically proved” that beri-beri was a communicable disease. Beri-beri is a vitamin deficiency.
    The Harrison Act which “outlawed” these drugs was, on its face, a simple licensing law which simply required sellers to get a license if they were going to handle the opiates and cocaine. As the Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs has said, it is doubtful that very many members of Congress would have thought that they were passing what would later be regarded as a general drug prohibition. The law even contained a provision that nothing in the law would prohibit doctors from prescribing these drugs in the legitimate practice of medicine.
    In fact, even the people who wrote the Harrison Act and the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 agreed that a general prohibition on what people could put into their own bodies was plainly an unconstitutional infringement on personal liberties. For comparison, see the history of the constitutional amendment which was required to prohibit alcohol. There is no fundamental reason why a constitutional amendment should be required to prohibit one chemical and not another.
    The trick was that the bureaucrats who were authorized to issue licenses never did so, and there was a heavy penalty for not having the license. This heavy penalty required that the enforcing bureaucrats needed more staff and, therefore, more power, which, in turn required tougher laws. Over the years, through a series of court rulings, they gradually got the courts to change what had been well-established constitutional law. Specifically, they got the courts to accept the notion that it really was a tax violation when people got arrested for drugs, and that the fact that the government would not issue any licenses was not a defense. They also got the courts to bypass the old issue of whether the Federal Government had the right to control what an individual puts into their own bodies by creating the fiction that whatever the person puts into their bodies must have come as a result of some form of interstate commerce, which is regulated by the Federal Government in the form of taxes and licenses and, therefore, since the Federal Government is allowed to levy a tax it is — by rather indirect logic — allowed to regulate what anyone may put into their own bodies.
    Marijuana was outlawed in 1937 as a repressive measure against Mexican workers who crossed the border seeking jobs during the Depression. The specific reason given for the outlawing of the hemp plant was its supposed violent “effect on the degenerate races.” (Testimony of Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger, in testimony before Congress in hearings on the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937). The American Medical Association specifically testified that they were opposed to the law. When the supporters of the law were asked about the AMA’s view on the law on the floor of Congress, they lied and said that the AMA was in favor of the law because they knew the law would never pass without the AMA’s endorsement. The law passed, and the AMA later protested, but the law was never repealed.
    In both cases, newspapers across the country carried lurid stories of the awful things that these drugs did to racial minorities, and of the horrors that people of racial minorities inflicted on innocent white people while they were under the influence of these drugs. Later research has shown that not a single one of the stories used to promote these laws could be substantiated.
    There never was any scholarly evidence that the laws were necessary, or even beneficial, to public health and safety and none was presented when the laws were passed.

  33. Juggs,
    My point is, why aren’t thoughtful “black” folks lying, if they have to, like Al Gore about global warming? Whatever it takes to drive a stake into the heart of the WOD.
    Pussyfootin’ to the tune of Larry Elder will not cut it.
    Only they can do it, and they could do it in two shakes of a sheeps tail.

  34. I absolutley agree, My hatred for americas worst policy made me a libertarian in the first place, I’m an occasional user of opiates and MJ and I’m not a street junkie and I’m not hopelessly addicted. I live a normal life with a job and go to college and you would never guess I use drugs. The government lies to us about how “bad” drugs are with sensasional propaganda and teaching outright lies to kids in school. A person has a right to thier bodies and that includes what they put in them. But everything in moderation is the way to go.

  35. Mr. Elders is, well, on drugs if he doesn’t understand that racism did, and still does, drive drug prohibition. The narcotics laws were passed because of incredible pieces like NEGRO COCAINE “FIENDS” NEW SOUTHERN MENACE appearing in 1914 in the friggin’ New York Times. (Has to be read to be believed.)


    Many of the wholesale killings in the South may be cited as indicating that accuracy in shooting is not interfered with–is, indeed, probably improved-by cocaine. For a large proportion of such shootings have been the result of drug taking. But I believe the record of the “cocaine nigger” near Asheville who dropped five men dead in their tracks using only one cartridge for each, offers evidence that is sufficiently convincing. I doubt if this shooting record has been equaled in recent years: certainly not by a man under the influence of any other form of intoxicant. For the bad marksmanship of the drunken man is proverbial; while the deadly accuracy of the cocaine user has become axiomatic in Southern police circles.

    And here is a cornucopia of links to deranged, outrageous pieces from 1900 forward — frequently racist — published in respectable outlets, and which drove the populist outcry from both “progressives” and religious moralists to criminalize drugs in the first half of the 20th century.

  36. Mona,

    Perhaps I did a disservice to Larry Elders for quoting where I did. He was basically in the middle of a rant against black “leaders” who basically were saying that all of the problems facing blacks were a result of racism.

    I guess you’d have to read the interview to that point to not take it out of context.

    Also, he wasn’t claiming the WOD was not racist, just that there was a justifiable reason for treating crack more strictly than powder cocaine. You could claim this was naive though if you want.

    But the fact is he comes out clearly in favor of pro-choice on drugs, and those of us opposed to prohibition ought to embrace him for it.

  37. Kwais-

    Good concept, but…

    Many many many (thirty) years ago I went to college with the children of a lot of very wealthy, very well connected people. They had the best drugs and, consequently, the best parties.

    As much as one might like to contemplate a lurid show trial featuring the son of one of the Forbes Four Hundred, or a Legislator, the fact is that it would never happen. Serious money and influence are able to quash what would be a life sentence for the son of somebody who makes a measly hundred grand or two. Think Jenna and what’s ‘er name, in the VIP room of some club. For that matter, think Dick Cheney, a shotgun, and a bleeding man.

    I (sort of) knew a guy who got nabbed with a significant quantity of peyote: in TEXAS. A “never see daylight again” situation. The old man paid a hefty(!) “fine” to the judge. Case dismissed.

    That is the most disgusting, immoral, absurd thing about the drug war- the utter hypocrisy of it. And it all falls back on to the nannytarian creed: “Well, I can handle it, myself, but those other pathetic yahoos would be ruined by such a thing. We simply must protect them from themselves.”

  38. Friggin’ unwashed Treasonistas. That flower power crap might have worked for you during the summer of pit rot love, but how is the rest of the civilized world supposed to sit down and talk with you about the drug war while it’s holding its collective nose? Maybe in the bath an answer will come to you. Idjits.

  39. I dabbled in pot and LSD in college, while graduating with honors, in mathematics. The drug war is politically supported by parents whose screwed up kids can’t handle experimental drug use. Instead of putting the responsiblity on their kids, it is easier to believe that their children were psychologically healthy, but the drugs ruined their lives, rather than admit that their offspring were messed up to begin with.

    This false “victimhood” thesis, which is contrary to my experience as well as scores of friends, is at the root of the “war on drugs.” The fact is that recreational drugs are harmless when indulged in on occasion, for psychologically normal people, just like alcohol.

    Everyone knows that drug enforcement is rife with corruption and civil liberties abuses, but people put up with it because they mistakenly feel that we are “keeping a demon at bay.”

  40. happyjuggler0 writes:But the fact is he comes out clearly in favor of pro-choice on drugs, and those of us opposed to prohibition ought to embrace him for it.

    I certainly agree. If Elders is anti-prohibition, any disputes about the wheres and whys of the crack phenomenon and sentencing, are secondary. But that POV might be hard to sell to black, non-violent drug “criminals” locked in prison holes and their families.

  41. oh, an i wish someone would teach you stuppid frigin Treasonoid hipies how to spel.

    Death to scarves!

  42. I can imagine only a few ways to get this war stopped in the USA:

    1. A military victory by a drug-exporting power over the USA. The USA would have to be decimated, many megadeaths, before being forced to accept a settlement in which the USA opened its drug market.

    2. Selling the drugs in question as positive SOCIAL (not just individual) goods, probably in response to some emergency. That’s how we got liquor (increased economic activity during depression) and hitchhiking (saving gasoline during oil embargo) re-legalized. Shall-issue pistol carry permit laws were sold as a response to high crime. So, for instance, heroin could be discovered to prevent flu epidemics.

    3. Technologic advances that make the proscribed drugs obsolete.

  43. Ruthless:

    What have you got against Walter Williams? He usually frames arguments against prohibition using the less divisive issue of tobacco. But check this out:

    “The nation’s War on Drugs has been a total flop, not only in terms of not eliminating drug trade, but also in turning whole neighborhoods into war zones.”

    From http://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/walterwilliams/2000/08/01/159887.html.

    Dude’s on your side, man.

  44. Williams Fan,
    Thanks for correcting me.
    Now if Walter would repeat that message as often as he does the war on smokers message.

  45. mr elders realizes, as do many others, that some of the strongest cries for drug enforcement come/came from WITHIN the black community. many who argue that stronger crack vs. powder cocaine sentencing is racist (it is – in effect – since blacks are more likely to use crack vs. whites who are more likely to use powder cocaine) need to recognize that much of the stronger sentencing laws for crack came after cries from people in the black community to get crack dealers off the street in the 80’s

    frankly, i think the war on drugs is… how do we say it… “wicked retarded”, but this is a reality of the history of the “drug war”

    fwiw, another little known fact is that MANY cops (and DEA agents) are AGAINST enforcement of marijuana laws (they view it as a harmless vice at worse), but no DEA agent with any sense of self preservation is gonna make public statements to that effect

    most cops would rather deal with stoners than paranoid methheads, for instance, or drunks for that matter. a drug that makes you prone to eating cheezy poofs and laughing at dumb jokes is hardly a law enforcement problem, and i think many, if not most street cops realize this

    and i am another in the “i wouldn’t do MJ even if it was legal” anti-drug war folks.

  46. The drug war needs to end, but it won’t end because the libertarian position on in immorality of prohibition is adopted more broadly by the public. It will end only by fading away.

    Specific policies must be handled separately and positioned to the public in reasonable tones. My feeling is that we are pretty close to being able to move on a couple of fronts. I don’t think the prohibition against the use of drugs for pain management is sustainable, and I don’t think there is much stomach for military raids and crop burning in south america.

    I’d prefer to see an approach that focused on first convincing people that okay using drugs is a crime, but it is more like jay-walking than capital murder. The full libertarian case against drug prohibition, like many other libertarian causes, is less persuasive to the public at large than a more focused argument against certain policies. This is something libertarians do to themselves by implying that if you start down the road with me, reason and ideological purity will drive you to a land of libertines. That is not an especially helpful position to maintain.

  47. libertarians also have to be pragmatic.

    there is an argument for “slippery sloping”

    the “pure” libertarian may argue that ALL drugs should be legal, but that is going to turn off 99.9% of the populace and just subject the proponent to ridicule etc. similarly, there will be more support for decriminalization vs. pure legalization. fwiw, even amsterdam hasn’t actually legalized most drugs, they just decriminalized them/don’t enforce the laws.

  48. whit,
    Did you read the original set-up for this thread?

  49. Mona,

    The problem with that drug library is it uses phony statistics of its own:

    Sidestream smoke from tobacco kills about 50,000.

    If by “sidestream” they mean “second-hand”, the figure is about zero. Using bullshit stats to make alcohol and tobacco look worse than grass is doing nothing to make illicit substances legal but it sure is putting leagl substances on the road to illegality.

  50. Reality is for people who can’t handle the drugs!

    The public turn-off is a huge obstacle. Many who would support the legalization of drugs fear endorsing the movement because it would jeapardize their careers and, therefore, the means to support their families. Not to mention their social standing would take a huge hit. You can drink thirty-twelve beers at the neighborhood picnic without repercussion (okay – maybe there are a few pissed of wives) but don’t inhale! The neighbors will blacklist your kids. It’s so sad that there’s such a fear-induced double standard.

    When using drugs is a crime, only criminals will use drugs. But it would be really interesting to see who would use if they weren’t illegal . I suspect that it would be a real eye-opener for our society to see who uses or would choose to use.

  51. One interesting side effect of legalizing drugs is the economic incentive to selling to minors disappears almost.

    This doesn’t mean that teens won’t have access to drugs, just that their access is more constrained by trying to get someone they know to buy for them. Under prohibition their local dealer goes to prison for a very long time regardless of the age of who he sells to, so he has no risk/reward problem selling to kids.

    End drug prohibition now. Do it to save the children.

  52. I think the only way to get more attention brought to this issue is by everyone all over the country dropping confidential informant tips to police and give them the addresses of all politicians and their families. Perhaps after the cops kick their doors down time and again with bad info in the name of the WOD they will wake up and stop the insanity. Should a few of them have to get killed in these miss guided no knock raids oh fucking well, thats the price of doing business in the drug war and it never seemed to bother them in the least when it was John Q Citizen being gunned down. If the family members of the pols who allow these things to happen and promote them start dying over it you will see change quicker than Jessie Jackson running to shake someone down.

    Besides SCOTUS just gave the big thumbs up to continue no knock entries so you know the numbers will just go up now that they have Supreme Permission to do so.

    I say we give them plenty of new opportunities to do just that. Perhaps some plain brown envelopes mailed to pols and their families with illegal controlled substances in them. I seem to recall people being busted for simply signing for a package which they had no idea about the contents. So a drop in the mail and a tip drop to the local DEA about drugs going through the mail to these locations.

    Until we can make them suffer from their laws and constitutional trashing they will not care because it does not affect them. Not much different than social security to them, it doesn’t affect them in the least so why fix whats not broken. If we looked at all the ways the feds and cops have skewed laws and rights in the name of the WOD I am sure we can find ways to reverse the tables and have them suffer. Do you think most cops drooling to kick a door down after getting a hot tip would even bother to research the actual occupants of the house before going in? If history is any indicator I think not and that is our best option because its not a problem until its a problem for them directly.

    If nothing else it may make them a little more leary of acting on random tips and anything we can do to curb thier no knock love affairs is a good thing.

  53. hj0 @ 12:07,

    The current situation shows that there are people who will break the law and sell drugs, even though they might go to prison. If drugs are completely legal, but 100% unavailable to teens, then you’d have a situation similar to what we have today, at least with respect to teens.

    There would be economic incentive to sell to teens and there would be a ready supply of drugs at low, by today’s standards, prices. Since we already know there are people willing to risk prison to make money selling drugs, it’s reasonable to believe that some people would attempt to profit from the prohibition of drug sales to teens.

    In other words, if there is money to be made today by selling drugs to teens, if drugs were legal to be sold to everyone older, why would there no longer be money to be made by selling drugs to teens?

    Perhaps you’re arguing that the marginal cost of selling to teens in addition to selling to adults is sufficiently small that today’s drug dealer can court a niche market that wouldn’t be profitable without the adult market bringing the costs down low enough, but in a world of legal-to-adults drugs, what costs would those be? How small a “niche” is teens with money?

    I think a much better claim would be that if we freed up law enforcement resources currently consumed pursuing dealers, and adult consumers, we’d be able to police the smaller-but still potentially lucrative-market to people under age. We’d also get more efficient policing due to a reduction in corruption and a wider class of potential applicants for the police force.

    On the other hand, friends and family would probably more than make up for sales from profit-motivated dealers. That actually cuts so deep into my “… but 100% unavailable to teens” stipulation, that I think the economic incentive issue is moot. I only spoke up because you’re advancing what appears to me to be a bad economic justification for a good policy.

  54. “This doesn’t mean that teens won’t have access to drugs, just that their access is more constrained by trying to get someone they know to buy for them. Under prohibition their local dealer goes to prison for a very long time regardless of the age of who he sells to, so he has no risk/reward problem selling to kids.”

    um… you have it bass ackwards. in many, if not most jurisdictions, the penalty is substantially higher for selling to minors, not to mention all the laws that give extra penalties to even selling within so many feet OF a school

  55. contrary to popular belief, police do not kick in doors/get warrants for drug merely based on confidential informant tips:

    see: aguilar-spinelli

  56. Most libertarians couldn’t care less whether other libertarians take alienating positions. “Realist” Libertarians question why other Libertarians want the Libertarian Party to take outrageous and alienating positions.

    “Realist” libertarians don’t give a damn about the Libertarian Party.

  57. If Police do not kick doors in with informant tips then what exactly was it SCOTUS was giving their blessing to the other day no knock jehovah witness entries?

    Get real it happens all the time and if you believe the cops who are always innocent of their actions for no reason other than they are cops your a fool. I guess contrary to popular belief the cops have never planted drugs in order to facilitate a bust either. Nor have they ever taken drugs from the evidence rooms to sell or use themselves. Protect and Serve my ass.. More like Collect and Score.

  58. Breaking news: National Guard back in new Orleans.

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