Drug Policy

Mother Jones on the Drug War: Totally Wasted!

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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.

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  1. “and isn’t a gateway drug to anything harder than Doritos….”

    Which causes obesity in our youth! It’s an epidemic!

    The war must continue!

    Case closed.

  2. Part of this I think is completely the fault of the media. If you polled every major media journalist and editor, I would bet that most if not a large majority of them have both used drugs in the past and think the drug war is unjust. Yet, every major media outlet left and right stands lock step with the drug war.

    Imagine if one of the news magazine rags took a week off from sucking Obama’s cock and ran an issue similiar to what Mother Jones has run. Imagine if shows like 60 minutes or a major newspaper like the Times or the Post took the time to really examine the drug war. The flood gates would open. Lots of other people would feel free to say what they have been suspecting all along; that the whole thing is a waste of time and money. That would be a truly coragous public service. And it would be the kind of thing, open debate watchdog, iconoclast, role the media always claims to have. But nah, it is easier to do an issue on what kind of ice cream Maylealea or whatever her name likes or how the house training is going with the dog.

  3. 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.

    So self-aggrandizing. “Even MoJo,” of course. This despite that not only Reason but National Review have published anti Drug War issues.

    I confidently predict that President Obama will be equally cowardly and skirt the issue as well.

  4. John Thacker,

    Politicians of all strips love cop unions. They love to go before cop unions and prosecutors and talk about how tough they are on crime. Just once, I would like to see a politician go before one of these organization and talk about civilian oversight of law enforcement and how he planned to keep an eye on them and keep them on the straight and narrow. It would be great.

  5. Honestly if my dog ever said to me “I wish you would stop smoking pot” I would very calmly set down the bong, get the rifle, and take her out back for a live demonstration of how Old Yeller ends.

  6. And why should we expect investment capital to flow into areas that the War on Drugs – “Programs to drive drugs out of black neighborhoods need to be supplemented by strong and sustained police work” (Roger Wilkins, The Village Voice, 2/4/86) — has left looking like actual combat zones?

    FROM What to say to the Left about poverty…

  7. In a couple hundred years, people are going to view the drug warriors the same way we now view the Spanish Inquisition, Salem witch trials judges, etc…

  8. “Honestly if my dog ever said to me “I wish you would stop smoking pot” I would very calmly set down the bong, get the rifle, and take her out back for a live demonstration of how Old Yeller ends.”

    If by “Old Yeller” you mean the BDSM porn film starring Estelle Getty, I really don’t see what that does for the dog

  9. Part of this I think is completely the fault of the media. If you polled every major media journalist and editor, I would bet that most if not a large majority of them have both used drugs in the past and think the drug war is unjust. Yet, every major media outlet left and right stands lock step with the drug war.

    Which is why I want all these newspapers and other media outlets to die. Fuck ’em. Like John said, take BO’s cock out of your mouth for 5 minutes and just ask some questions “Senator, how many people have over dosed from marijuana?” “What is your evidence, congressman, that marijuana is a gateway drug?” “Mr. Drug Czar Cunt, please explain how it is that Protugal legalized everything but civilization didn’t crumble like you say it would?

    That is what I thought the media was supposed to be about. But it isn’t so fuck’em.

    ….. and if this (Honestly if my dog ever said to me “I wish you would stop smoking pot” ) ever happens to any of you, I want to try some of that weed.

  10. 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).

    Good luck with that. All the usual incentives for misbehavior would still be in place, just on a somewhat smaller scale.

    Legalize it. All of it.

  11. I confidently predict that President Obama will be equally cowardly and skirt the issue as well.

    I confidently predict that teenagers will continue to have sex.

    We’re not exactly going out on a limb here, are we?

  12. The weirdest thing is my dog died two years ago and the pot grows from the soil where she was buried.

  13. Is MoJo coming out against all aspects of the drug war, or just the drug war as it applies to pot and a few ‘fun halucinagens’? Or do they attack the entire New Health Apparatus within the state which now increasingly bans all substances they see as a danger to public health?

    I’m sorry, but you can’t separate the two.

  14. We’re not exactly going out on a limb here, are we?

    Well no, that’s why I’m confident. But if you can stand to read the article, you’ll see that Mother Jones appears to be counting on way too much Hope and Change.

  15. Mother Jones appears to be counting on way too much Hope and Change.

    They’re foolish to do so even in regard to marijuana. For the larger drug war, Obama announced he was gonna be a tuffguy warrior even while he was still BSing and hedging everyone about everything:

    This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets.

    Funny that he said this in Germany. They might be able to tell him what happens when you fight a two-front war…

  16. Funny that he said this in Germany. They might be able to tell him what happens when you fight a two-front war…

    The right people weren’t in charge.

  17. “Even MoJo” in their bravery can’t bring themselves to say “legalize”. Supposing the some sort of regulation is needed for drugs (as any liberal proponent of legalization is bound to favor), decriminalization won’t get you there. In the passage quoted, MoJo does seem to be favoring legalization of pot, but they still cannot bring themselves to just say it.
    And the call for continued prohibition of “hard drugs” seems a bit contrary to what they seem to be promoting as well. The more potentially harmful and addictive a drug is, the more its dangers are exacerbated by prohibition. As much as I would like to be able to grow myself a little herb in peace, the evil monsters meth and heroin are the drugs that should be legalized first.

    There are still more drug war orthodoxies they need to shed t MoJo, I think.

  18. The destruction of the war on drugs will have to be a step by step type thing. It is too big and entrenched to get rid of all at once. Society as a whole has to get comfortable with the smaller steps first and then we can all take the bigger steps later. So, first medical marijuana, then lower penalties for marijuana possession, then lower penalties for selling marijuana, then legalization of same, then start the process over with other drugs (the “softer” ones first- i.e. mushrooms, saving the “hardest” and most scary to society until last- i.e. meth or whatever). That is how we win. Focus on the smaller battles first to gain momentum. So yes, Paul, I am going to have to disagree with you. At this point in time, we can and must separate the two.

  19. The War on Drugs should not be viewed as an anti-crime measure, or even as a social welfare measure. It is the largest continuous government jobs program in human history – guaranteeing hundreds of thousands of jobs at taxpayer expense for as far in the future as anyone can see.

    Come to think of it, why on Earth would a left wing outfit like Mother Jones oppose it?

  20. Reason on drugs.

    Jeez, I really love that. Bumper sticker, anyone?

  21. Honestly if my dog ever said to me “I wish you would stop smoking pot” I would very calmly set down the bong, get the rifle, and take her out back for a live demonstration of how Old Yeller ends.

    What if your dog was a wise latina?

  22. See, Mother Jones has no credibility on this, either. They talk about “legalization” and then want to soft-pedal the consequences of drug use by taking my money to fund some junkie’s “treatment”. Fuck that noise. They want to take a personal choice to harm oneself and make it harm everybody else.

  23. Fuck Mother Jones. Their big answer is put more people into treatment instead of jail and decriminalize weed? That will offer a slight improvement but really won’t solve shit.

  24. isn’t a gateway drug to anything harder than Doritos.

    And before you know it, they’re doing Twinkies and Haagen-Das.

  25. Have you ever looked at Obama’s drug policy, though? I mean, really looked at it? It’s wild, man.

    …what were we talking about?

  26. Holy shit. Something from the Left that isn’t completely retarded. Even a retarded clock is right once in awhile.

  27. “as we enter an age of increasingly decentralized power”

    I thought Reason was based in the US?

  28. “See, Mother Jones has no credibility on this, either. They talk about “legalization” and then want to soft-pedal the consequences of drug use by taking my money to fund some junkie’s “treatment”. Fuck that noise. They want to take a personal choice to harm oneself and make it harm everybody else.”

    Exactly. Don’t throw junkies in jail. Just let them die. I really don’t care. Further, lots of people use drugs and are not degenerates. I love the term “coping alchoholic”. What a crock. You know what this? It is someone who pays his bills and minds his own business. If doing that involves a bottle of bourbon a day, that is his business not mine.

  29. I scanned this feature a couple of weeks ago at the newsstand. Not one &$#@$!! word about congress’ abuse of the commerce clause.

  30. Wow, threads on porn, drugs, and firefox in one day. Wohoo!!!!!!!!

  31. rhofulster | July 15, 2009, 3:08pm | #

    I scanned this feature a couple of weeks ago at the newsstand. Not one &$#@$!! word about congress’ abuse of the commerce clause.

    If you really expected to see MoJo say a word about the abuse of the commerce clause, I want some of whatever you’re smoking. 😉

  32. “Honestly if my dog ever said to me “I wish you would stop smoking pot” I would very calmly set down the bong, get the rifle, and take her out back for a live demonstration of how Old Yeller ends.”

    I would get a video camera and an agent for my amazing talking dog.

  33. Wow, threads on porn, drugs, and firefox in one day. Wohoo!!!!!!!!

    You left out the robot zombies.

  34. “If you really expected to see MoJo say a word about the abuse of the commerce clause, I want some of whatever you’re smoking. ;)”

    I know, I know, and I knew it when I started to scan the article – but it still $%#@#@$! pissed me off!

  35. Call it what it is…. a Prohibition War, not a drug war. Drugs are merely the medium of exchange. It might just as well be a tobacco war or a diamond war.

  36. nice post…
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  37. Im not saying legalize drugs, but the government needs to be helping these drug addicts get well and send them through treatment not just throwing them in jail for petty stuff. Help the drug addicts throw the DEALERS with pounds of dope coc/speed/heroin…etc. guarded by gunmen in jail they are the criminals. Drug users are victims and our money should be helping these people turn there life around and give them back to there families!

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