Mother Jones on the Drug War: Totally Wasted!


The left-wing Mother Jones has a well-worth-reading special issue decrying the drug war. It's filled with stories that cover virtually all dimensions of America's longest-running and least-winnable war.

From the editors' note:

The drug war has never been about facts—about, dare we say, soberly weighing which policies might alleviate suffering, save taxpayers money, rob the cartels of revenue. Instead, we've been stuck in a cycle of prohibition, failure, and counterfactual claims of success. (To wit: Since 1998, the ONDCP has spent $1.4 billion on youth anti-pot ads. It also spent $43 million to study their effectiveness. When the study found that kids who've seen the ads are more likely to smoke pot, the ONDCP buried the evidence, choosing to spend hundreds of millions more on the counterproductive ads.)…

What would a fact-based drug policy look like? It would put considerably more money into treatment, the method proven to best reduce use. It would likely leave in place the prohibition on "hard" drugs, but make enforcement fair (no more traffickers rolling on hapless girlfriends to cut a deal. No more Tulias). And it would likely decriminalize but tightly regulate marijuana, which study after study shows is less dangerous or addictive than cigarettes or alcohol, has undeniable medicinal properties, and isn't a gateway drug to anything harder than Doritos….

So why don't we have a rational drug policy? Simple. Forget the Social Security "third rail." The quickest way to get yourself sidelined in serious policy discussion is to stray from drug war orthodoxy. Even MoJo has skirted the topic for fear of looking like a bunch of hot-tubbing stoners. Such is the power of the culture wars, 50 years on.

Read the full slate of stories here.

Much of the material will be familiar to Reason readers, if only because our staff (and dare I say it, our readers) have demonstrated relatively little fear of being sidelined from polite conversations due to j'accusations of stonerdom (hot-tubbing, maybe).

As the excerpt above suggests, libertarians will find much with which to disagree in MoJo's analysis and policy recommendations (a truly fact-based drug policy would not, IMO, create an arbitrary classification of hard and soft drugs but would focus on whether subsequent behavior was legal, violent, harmful to others, etc….is it too much to ask that pot simply be legalized rather than decriminalized, since the latter skirts the basic issue of how pot gets distributed?, etc.) But this special issue is a rich discussion of a topic that is vitally important to any consideration of freedom and liberty and it's great to see our counterparts on the left forcing the issue on their more squeamish fellow travelers.

The drug war is one of those things that is such a thoroughgoing disaster, a set of policies that harms everything it touches (medicine, education, foreign policy, you name it), that it remains mind-boggling to the point of despair. MoJo is too optimistic about Barack Obama's role as a change agent in any of this, but thankfully the issue is much larger than him or any bunch of politicians and, as we enter an age of increasingly decentralized power (yes, even with all that's happening now), the drug war will end up where it always belonged, in the dustbin of history.

Reason on drugs.