Drug Policy

Because You Can Never Have Too Much Criticism of the War on Drugs


Because the war on drugs (or Nixon's war on drugs, or a couple of speeches about drugs that Nixon gave) will only have one ruby anniversary, here is a roundup of additional commentary, courtesy of the Drug Policy Alliance's Tony Newman:

Ethan Nadelmann in The Nation: The Forty-Year Quagmire: An Exit Strategy for the War on Drugs

Maia Szalavitz in TimeTop 10 Unhealthy Side Effects of the War on Drugs

Clarence Page in the Chicago TribuneDump the War on Drugs

Leonard Pitts Jr. in The Miami HeraldTime to End the Drug 'War' 

Syndicated columnist Neal Peirce: Nixon's Drug War: Obama's 'Change'?

Tim Padgett in Time: Four Decades Later, It's Time to Scrap the Dead-End Drug War

Melissa Bell in The Washington Post: War on Drugs: 40 Years Later and No End in Sight

Daniel Abrahamson in the San Jose Mercury-NewsThe Failed War on Drugs Is What's Packing California's Prisons

Stephen Gutwillig in the Los Angeles Daily News: America Needs Strategy to Exit Its Longest War

Emily Kaltenbach in the Albuquerque JournalFour-Decade War on Drugs Has Failed Us in Every Way

Joel Dreyfuss in The RootIt's Official After 40 Years: War on Drugs Is a Bust!

Previous coverage here, here, here, here, and here.

NEXT: New Tone Update: NJ Union Head Declares Gov. Christie, Anyone Opposed to Collective Bargaining Nazis

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  1. Pshaw! Who cares what those media elites, those pantywaisters think! When I want to be told what to think, I demand it be from someone who will pretend to be from the heartland and hide their education from me!

    Besides, they all do drugs anyway.

  2. That is kind of nice to see. But there has to be some douchebag out there talking about how “we are turning the corner,” or “legalizing would send the wrong message.”

  3. Barack Obama in the Weakly Presidential Address: Fuck you.

  4. Clarence Page: “I come not to praise drug use. I condemn it.”

    I’m not going to read all the editorials, but I wonder how many of the writers will have the courage to say, “It’s none of my business if people use drugs. If they enjoy it, what’s the big deal?”

    1. If you say that you’ll be dismissed as a child-raping crackpot.

      The time is quite overripe for libertarians to realize, as the spindoctors who actually influence policy have known for generations, that presentation matters. You can advance nearly all the policy changes you want without opposing the larger society’s ostensible hatred of drugs.

      1. You see, Tulpa sits in the front of the class. He gets it.

      2. “If you say that you’ll be dismissed as a child-raping crackpot

        or a donkey raping shiteater!

    2. Not for nothing, but drug use can have some pretty severe lateral consequences for people other than users, even if one explicitly ignores all consequences derived from their illegality.

      Certainly not all drugs, and certainly not in all cases. But clearly enough that the whole “why would anyone even care?” argument is facially fucking stupid, and will win drug reformers no points from a skeptical public.

      But first, you must remember that your audience isn’t, predominantly, libertarian. Somehow this first step escapes people.

      1. democracy is just bullshit stylized mob-rule. Doesn’t matter if the audience agrees or not; it’s never ok to limit someone’s liberty, no matter how popular it might be.

        1. Pure democracy is certainly mob rule, but we in the U.S. are a republic, not a democracy. When the mob wants to steal your rights, they have the good manners to vote on it first. Because what’s more fair than majority rule? Who are you to oppose the will of the mob people? Now everybody please rise and remove your hats and shut the fuck up for God Bless America.

      2. Okay. The War on Drugs isn’t preventing or even slowing down drug use. It costs us billions a year, it has made violent criminals rich, has had a detrimental effect on our civil liberties, and it doesn’t work. Let’s refocus our efforts and spend some of that money on education and treatment.

        1. That’s good, though the education and treatment part could come back to bite us in the ass. The drug rehab industry is just as parasitic and not much less coercive than the cops.

          1. Not to mention utterly ineffectual.

          2. If the education consisted of:

            “This is a crack pipe; see it’s relatively short length? This is because crack must be heated a great deal for the vapors to be psychoactive when they hit the lungs. It is totally unsuitable for marijuana. This, in contrast, is a pot pipe. See the longer stem, and wider open bowl? Much more conducive for a larger, less intense burn ideal for transporting THC to the lungs. Nobody looks stupider than a person who tries to use the wrong tool for the job. Now, kids, how many metric grams in an imperial ounce?”

            …I think it might have some actual utility. You know, DARE, but without the cops and the insistent moralizing. Actual *education*.

          3. frankly, they facilitate each other.

            legislators/judges/prosecutors/cops/drugs/rehab industry


            cops/domestic violence/domestic violence industry (anger management classes, feminist lecturers) etc.

          4. they facilitate each other

            legislators/drugs/rehab industry

            legislators/domestic violence/domestic violence industry.

        2. and let’s spend some of it on going after ACTUAL criminals

      3. drug use can have some pretty severe lateral consequences

        So can overeating. Bathing in too-hot water. Alcohol consumption (oops, that’s a drug too). Driving. Going out in the sun. Smoking. Walking. Living with stupid parents. Living with poor parents. Living in Arkansas.

        1. I have it on good authority that waking up each morning subjects you to a great range of potential lateral consequences.

          I’d like to impose a lateral consequence on my wife tonight.

          1. Upload pics. For my research.

            1. Naw, I’m afraid if I upload the pics to the interwebs, someone in Tennessee will see it, be offended, and then I’ve violated their laws and they’ll put a warrant out for me (that’s a real thing; Reason had a post on it awhile back).

              Since I’ll be in Memphis in a few weeks, I need to stay warrant-free in that beautifully retarded state.

          2. so do we all

        2. Living in Arkansas.


          1. Cheap shot, I know. Should have been Alaska.

        3. All great points. Say, how’s that argument been serving ya so far? Making much headway with the soccer moms, are ya?

          If everyone were hit on the head and woke up with similar political sensibilities as you, I can see that argument going somewhere. But, moving past the part where the policy consequences for hard drug use are a bit more severe than many of the things on that list (and, some of those things, it should be noted, are pretty heavily regulated to pursue policy goals), I don’t see the benefit of using defeated arguments again and expecting them to garner a different reception.

          If you really want to convince soccer moms, tell them about how the Drug War hurts their children. For fuck’s sake.

          1. exactly, and fwiw that’s a tough thing to do. it’s ime substantially the soccer moms that are the most ardent about getting the drugs “out of my neighborhood” etc. go to some community meetings and you will see that firsthand

            1. I think you are quite right, that it is a difficult argument even on those terms. There are no easy ways or silver bullets out of the Drug War.

              I do think, however, we can identify with some certainly what arguments do not work, because they have no resonance with people who don’t already agree either philosophically or on the merits.

              I think one of the ways to get to soccer moms is through the budget. Pointing out that the reason their daughters can’t have new equipment for soccer is that the teams were forced to spend money on drug tests, or pointing out that they had to fire some teachers and increase class size because the local sheriff just needs a personal armed personnel carrier for his fucking SWAT team (who, BTW, will shoot your daughter’s dog as soon as sneeze at you)…these at least have a chance of getting the person’s attention. You won’t get ’em all with any one argument, but chipping away at things they actually care about will peel ’em off a few at a time.

              1. As I point out below, the problem is, this approach has been tried for decades, and with no measurable success. Eventually, when what you’re doing stops working, even if you think it should be working in theory, you just have to admit that the theory is wrong and try something else. Perhaps people are more open to a liberty and principals-based argument that you give them credit for. See Ron Paul’s comments in the first republican debate. He actually got applause for it.

                1. of course there has been success. a # of states have decrim’d mj, for instance. the reality is, where i live, you have to WORK very hard to get ANY jail time for MJ possession offenses.

                  that’s true in many areas of the country.

                  heck, i used to work for a PD where my chief told me “i don’t give a flying fuck if people are smoking MJ in the privacy of their own home” and cops ROUTINELY dump/don’t charge MJ possession cases.

                  MJ is the key. you are not going to sell legalization of (for example) cocaine at ANY time in the near future.

                  we also have medical MJ, which (federal assmunchery aside) was a pipe dream in many locales not too long ago

                  reasonoids can continue to employ selection bias and only concentrate on the negatives (or the alleged negatives, like assuming the guerana shooting was unjustified), but the reality is we have a much more substantial portion of society, not to mention law enforcement who will at least CONSIDER legalization.

                  and decrim is already a reality in lots of places.

                  1. you are a pretty smart guy, dunphy, mostly because you seem to think like me.

                    1. ooh, a warm fuzzy. thanks man!

                    2. No problem. I think you take way too much abuse here; you are actually a very reasonable and intelligent guy. I know this will probably earn me some scorn, but we need more cops like you.

                  2. I’m probably somewhat biased because where I live (Texas), nothing has been accomplished whatsoever in that direction. Hell, our nearest ideological neighbors, Oklahoma, just increased the penalties for weed.

                    Additionally, I think that by making the utilitarian arguments (which is used for incrementalism), one opens oneself up to problems later. For example, if it could be proved somehow that weed actually devastates communities, then one could make the utilitarian argument that it must be outlawed.

                    By relying on principals, you don’t leave this avenue open. It doesn’t matter how terrible something is, as long as someone is only doing it to themselves, then that’s their business. The utilitarian arguments that incrementalists rely on can be turned the other way too easily by drugwarrior statistics (lies, damned lies, and statistics, etc). And they do have statistics. Someone linked a DEA pamphlet here just the other day supposedly demonstrating how terrible legalization of any drug would be.

                    1. RIGHT, but that’s part of living in a republic. one of the reasons (drink!) i chose my state was it has a strongly libertarian constitution and it has an actual right to privacy (unlike the federal constitution).

                      so, of course some states are going to lag, and others are going to lead.

                      from a purely libertarian standpoint, it’s kind of cool that we have individual state “laboratories”

                      if state X legalizes/decrims and sees SUCCESS not drawback, that incentivizes another state to say “hey, maybe we should try that shit”.

                      it also incentivizes libertarian minded people to migrate. since we tend to be smarter and better looking, this is also a net benefit to our state and other states look at us and go “damn, they are astoundingly good looking. maybe we need to be like them”

                      that’s a concept we need to emphasize – laboratory of states. criminal stuff varies WIDELY. age of consent, drug laws, etc. etc.

                      if you are a libertarian, you should naturally lean towards bottom up (i happen to be a top, but i digress) solutions and states’ rights.

                    2. I do support states’ rights, but only as a means to an end (the elimination of the state). Remember, I’m an anarchist, not a constitutionalist. I’m not OK with state experiments, if those experiments decrease freedom or liberty in any way. I’m completely in favor of state experiments when they increase liberty.

                      I hate to have to make the choice. I love Texas, and we are quite free economically compared to other places, and have no shortage of jobs or low cost of living. But the criminal code is draconian and awful.

                      I’m thinking of going freestate and moving to NH.

                    3. ok, well i totally disagree with anarchism, but that’s another story.

                      regardless, the theory is that ANY state can recognize more expansive rights than those under the federal baseline (established by the federal constitution)

                      thus,states are laboratories.

                      my state, for example has a right to privacy. want privacy? move here.

                      it’s something that sets us apart from nearly every other nation on earth, where there is no such local power to recognize expanded rights

                    4. I’d consider Washington, if the cost of living was a little better. I don’t know how it is further out, but I’d need to be near a large city (for my wife’s sake), and I hear Seattle area is a bitch.

                      Plus, no offense, but I kind of got the impression the one time I spent any time up there (stationed at Ft. Lewis for awhile), that while beautiful, there were entirely too many hipster liberal douchebags for my taste.

                    5. who migrates? not this libertarian.
                      the migrating masses are primarily non-upwardly mobile people looking for upward mobility.

              2. dog shooting snark aside (i realize dog shooting is to reason like somalia is to daily kos…), i think … again, it’s about incrementalism.

                we at least have a chance of convincing soccer moms that MJ is not evil incarnate ™, but even mentioning stuff like heroin, etc. will make their eyes glaze over instantly.

        4. Yeah, I’m so fucking glad my dad just drank whiskey and scared the living fuck out of us instead of smoking weed. So glad he left us in the car for hours, outside a dive bar, while he got his drink on. All drug warriors can go fuck themselves. Today.

      4. Yo, fuck democracy.

  5. The Prez’ Press Sec’y (I don’t know his name, cause I’m still pinin’ for the departed Total Win Bob “WTF Did He Just Say?” Gibbs) just noted that “The President was not aware of and did not authorize…” the “mission” that resulted in ATF-brokered weapons being used to kill US type persons.

    And I responded by laughing until I peed myself a little bit.

    Duplicitous cocksuckers.

  6. I brake for hallucinations. That is all.

    1. “I brake when I can no longer tell whether I’m awake…or still dreaming.”

  7. That would be the same SJ Merc-News that shit itself silly about legalizing MJ – right?

    1. You can’t expect reporters and editors to remember the consistency of their past bowel movements, now, can you?

  8. Anyway, I’ve read most of the editorials and guess what? Nobody wrote, “People should be allowed to do the things they enjoy.” Every writer took a pragmatic, unphilosophical approach to the Drug War. Some complained that the Drug War has disproportionately persecuted “people of color” (it has). Others noticed that California prisons are full of drug offenders (they are). A few observed that maybe more education and less incarceration would be a good idea. Many said the War on Drugs just costs too darn much. Others said drugs should be regulated and taxed, just like alcohol. Most want the drug laws to be reformed, not repealed. None expressed the bizarre notion that maybe people use drugs because they like it, and that it’s none of society’s business if they do.

    1. Your consternation about their refraining from using philosophical points that in all probability they don’t themselves agree with is puzzling.

      As a refresher: Liberals are not libertarians. Even when they agree on what they tend to disagree on why. There are many more of them than there are of us. Thus, their arguments will have more currency in the wider culture than the libertarian ones.

      That is all.

      1. All the editorialists are liberals? Not that it matters. My point is that, if these people are to be regarded as our allies (as Sullum thinks they are, given their prominence in this story), then it’s earlier than we think. Taking a pragmatic approach to the War on Drugs will result in, at best, an unsatisfying, frustrating partial victory, where the inherent right to use drugs is never addressed, never settled. I’d prefer to fight for principles, not compromises.

        1. a pragmatic approach will work. contrast with hyperbolic internet rants calling everybody names who doesn’t agree that all drugs should be OTC.

          that won’t fly in peoria. heck, we can’t even (yet) get MJ legalized in NEVADA.

          incrementalism, initiatives etc. are the key to success.

          1. Incrementalism has worked for some subjects, but not in others. In the case of drugs, it seems to not be working (going on 40 years now, and can’t even get mj legalized).

            Definition of insanity being what it is, incrementalism can be abandoned as being hopeless. It’s like the 80s. Libertarians loved it that RR mentioned the “L” word in a speech he gave prior to the election. We thought, “oh, if only we stay with the GOP, we can push them in our direction!” And what was the end result of our efforts? George Fucking Bush. The man who was a terrible, disgusting president, succeeded by an even worse, more disgusting president. That is what incrementalism has bought us.

            1. i disagree it’s not working

              it is a fact that in many areas of the country MJ possession is now merely a civil infraction

              it is a fact that in many areas of the country, cops routinely don’t even arrest or charge for minor mj stuff (i know cops who have not arrested for MJ possession in YEARS. do you think they never catch people with it? seriously?).

              we also have medical MJ, etc.

              it IS getting better.

              eventually we will get critical mass and pass an actual LEGALIZED MJ initiative in some state (we came kind of close in nevada). then, the real wild rumpus will begin (federal assmunchery)

              1. Best to keep this confined to one stream. I responded further upthread.

        2. Dunphy covered much of this, and kinder than I would. If you prefer to fight for principles and not compromises, than please do not fight on this team. How often must the perfect shoot the good in both kneecaps before it occurs to folks to realize they live in a society with people who, by and large, do not agree with them, and act accordingly? Extracting compromises from the majority is a Herculean task. Given that, what you suggest is, at this stage, utterly counterproductive.

          1. If you prefer to fight for principles and not compromises, than please do not fight on this team.

            You realize there’s a sizable anarcho-capitalist audience here, right? And that Ron Paul himself generally makes principaled, deontological arguments? Would you say that he is counterproductive?

            1. he’s basically a voice in the wilderness. heck, a substantial percentage of people can vote for paul even if they completely disagree with his drug war stance etc. since they know he alone won’t change anything. he’s a great voice ot have out there, but he’s not any more effective than kucinich is (thank god in the case of kucinich) at all his ideas.

              we are getting medical MJ – PASSED

              we are getting MJ decrim’d in more and more places

              tons of jurisdictions significantly deemphasize mj enforcement (seattle city council actually passed a city code to that effect telling the cops it was at the bottom of their priorities)

            2. You realize there’s a sizable anarcho-capitalist audience here, right?

              Episiarch is sizable, I suppose…

              And that Ron Paul himself generally makes principled, deontological arguments?

              Yes, he does. And they play very well to people already predisposed to agree with them (if they didn’t outright agree already). Who are roughly 10% of the GOP primary voters, give or take 5.

              Would you say that he is counterproductive?

              Hmm. Not precisely. Here’s what I would say: it is important for someone like Paul to be out there, the Libertarian General, to rile up the firm supporters and be on hand to remind folks of the principled argument. His profile, such as it is, suits this perfectly. However, far more important is the co-optation of the (predominantly liberal) empirical and/or pragmatic arguments that might have a chance of cracking out of the 10% bubble that Paul has helpfully locked down. The liberal beachheads are certainly not helped in any respect by shipments from headquarters of leaflets instead of bullets.

              And I broke the analogy just there, but do you see what I mean? If the goal is expansion of the end policy result into hostile territory, then the tactic least likely to work are abstract philosophical arguments on self-ownership and the NAP. So while Paul has his role to play, most important going forward is bending the ears of others in whatever way seems situationally most felicitous.

              What is certainly counterproductive is chastising erstwhile tepid allies for not being more full-throated about ideas that they themselves don’t believe. People come at these issues from many different angles, informed by their experiences as well as their ideologies. To tell someone that their reason for supporting a shared policy goal isn’t good enough and that more purity is needed is precisely the opposite of what the doctor ordered.

              1. I believe the initial chastisement came from the OP in asking us not to fight for his team if we weren’t going to be incrementalists and utilitarians.

                And I would submit that the reason does matter, because utilitarian arguments can easily be turned against us on this subject, since the DEA can and has released barrages of statistics about how horrible drugs are and how much they cost our communities, showing the financial equation to favor retaining prohibition. Philosophical arguments are not open to this counter-attack.

                1. The initial chastisement (which came from me by another name of the same form) was to that poster specifically, and for the distinction I later outlined (with yet another name of precisely the same form) between him and Paul. Paul can be the purist and rally the (rather small) army he rallies, and that’s totally cool, but what that guy was doing was attacking allies for being insufficiently pure and being willing to compromise (from his perspective, not noticing that perhaps it was they who were compromising their own past positions to be more like him); that’s totally not cool.

                  I agree with you that empirical/pragmatic arguments have the downside that anyone can use them, and towards any end. Philosophical arguments don’t have those disadvantages so long as they are framed properly (and leaving aside that opponents have philosophical arguments of their own, which are as equally impotent and impregnable as ours). Instead they have entirely other, rather crippling, disadvantages.

                  For one, a philosophical argument more heavily relies upon shared definitions and principles that are not likely to be shared by people who don’t already agree with it. Anyone and everyone can respond, at least in theory, to an economic argument, or a pragmatic policy argument, but to respond to a philosophical argument premised on some rather precise concept requires them to appreciate that before the argument can even get off the ground.

                  For another, it is in general more difficult to get people to either change their personal philosophy or concede the value of an argument premised on different philosophical assumptions than their own.

                  Third, philosophical arguments are abstract, and their consequences are ephemeral at best, gossamer-to-outright-virtual at worst. Pragmatic arguments supported by evidence have the advantage of being concrete, sometimes even visceral. They tend to stick in the mind longer and leave a more impressive impact.

            3. Ron Paul is most certainly counterproductive. Name one tangible thing he’s accomplished in office, one piece of legislation he’s actually had significant influence on (besides all the bullshit earmarks he requests for his district, that is).

              1. ok, one thing

                he was funny as hell in borat. he did that in office.

                other than that, well… meh

                1. my bad. i meant bruno, not borat

                2. Funny, I was going to contrast H&R hate object Bob Barr (who slipped the sunset clause into the original Patriot Act and was in Borat) with the belovedly ineffective Ron Paul, but edited my comment for verbosity.

          2. If you prefer to fight for principles and not compromises, than please do not fight on this team

            The country is full of compromisers. How’s that working out for you? Good?

            I’m not a member of any team.

            1. It’s working pretty well, actually. Due to all those compromises, in many parts of the US, MJ is de facto legal either through a medical avenue or though basically-unenforced decrim regimes. Much, much faster than anyone thought possible, I might add. Nevada and California came within a hair’s breadth of full legalization, and that despite poorly worded initiatives and heavy countercampaigning.

              And you play for a team whether you like it or not; either you support legalization, or you support the status quo (either through “neutrality” or though being an actual drug warrior/drug war supporter). What I’m saying is, the game you’re bringing loses the team points. You start talking about legalizing heroin and cocaine NOW NOW NOW and completely because of some airy appeals to political philosophy, and you set back the incremental (and heretofore successful) movement in that very same direction.

              1. airy appeals to political philosophy

                You mean appeals to reason?

                you set back the incremental (and heretofore successful) movement

                Being alive and choosing to think does not make me a “team” member. And if my little comments in the wilderness have the power to destroy all the “successes” of your team, then maybe you need a new manager.

                1. You mean appeals to reason?

                  They ain’t appeals to reason if you don’t have the same first principles as the person you’re trying to convince. Though I suspect you guys are more interested in flaunting your rightness than convincing anyone.

              2. We can’t just free the slaves, you see. That’s radical talk. No one will take it seriously. There are too many practical implications. Best to just take it nice n’ easy, and phase slavery out over the course of several decades.

                1. A Civil War isn’t radical?

                  Is this Bizarro-Reason, or something?

                2. Actually slavery was phased out in the US over the course of several decades starting in the late 1700s. It was only after the regions without slavery became more populous than those with it that it became possible to end it in one fell swoop (with quite a bit of bloodspilling of course).

    2. or like someone else noted, if you don’t own your own body we have no business calling this a free country.

      1. or any nation on earth, since in none of them can you do whatever you want with your body

        1. Correct. There are no truly free nations; only degrees of fractional slavery. That does not mean that we should simply accept being the valedictorian of summer school and not strive for ever increasing liberty (apologies if that’s not what you meant, but that’s kind of how it came across to me).

          1. i was just saying WE (the USA ) should not be singled out here. it’s more a matter of WHICH drugs they choose, so to speak.

            mexico has lots of shit OTC that is prescription/scheduled here. Canada is, in many ways, far MORE restrictive than the US (but not when it comes to MJ)

            in other words, suckitude wherever you look

      2. There’s always Somalia!

  9. Happy Anniversary WOD! 40 years and still going strong! Wow! Un-fracking-believable!

    Lets hope you win before the war on carbon takes away your fire arms!

    But don’t worry! You’ll still have those great big ears, and those bright shinning eyes!


  10. Why blame Nixon? Granted, he was what we now call a RINO, who was nearly as sexually excited by Big Government as anybody who ever ran against him, but he did’t START the rot.

    The “War on Drugs” is the bastard child of Prohibition. Some swine at the Federal leve decoded that it was Just Dreadful that all those Prohibition Agents were about to be out of jobs, and sold Federal legislation against Marijuana, Cocaine, and Heroin to Congress with some of the most appalling “We gotta keep them Goddamned N*gg*rs in line” swill ever presented by somebody who wasn’t hiding under a sheet.

    This isn’t 60 years of failure. It’s more like 80 years and counting.

    1. i think this is a good point. nixon essentially NAMED the WOD. but he didn’t start it. you could make all sorts of tolkien/leguin’esque arguments about the power of “naming” shit, but the drug war was going strong before nixon

    2. The first 40 years don’t look as horrifying as the next latter 40. We went from around 1 in every 1000 people being incarcerated in the 30s to… 1 in every 1000 in the 70s. We’re now at 5 times that. (chart)

      We really went into hardcore mode in the 80s, regardless of who started it, of course.

      1. we also had a massive spike in crime (violent and otherwise) into the 70’s. you can blame the WOD (to an extent) as well as the welfare state (incentivizing antisocial behavior and irresponsibility vis a vis oow births – btw, oow births being the best predictor of criminal assmunchery), but there are a lot of factors to look at in re incarceration.

        1. Sure, hence the comment about the worst of it starting in the 80s. The point is just that some of the policies from the 70s really enabled escalation of the WOD. And we’re incarcerating people at a higher rate every year, even as violent crime has plunged. But in any case, if you look at the homicide rates during the worst of Prohibition they were about the same as during the worst of the 80s, and while some of the uptick in incarceration was for violent crimes, another part was for non-violent ones.

          Now, maybe by locking druggies and low-level dealers up we’re keeping violent people off the streets, but I think that’s a) largely wishful thinking, and b) creepy that anyone would justify incarceration for non-serious crimes as a method of preventing future crimes.

          Just for fun times, an 80s PSA on pot from our heroes in a half-shell:


          1. that is pretty sweet

            although pretty ironic considering that i am reasonably confident whoever created a bunch of ninja, surfer’esque, pizza snarfing turtles was probably high

            although, as a surfer i used to hate when people assumed i was a stoner because i was a surfer, so there you go…

      2. The first 40 years don’t look as horrifying as the next latter 40.

        Practice makes perfect.

    3. Yes and no. Prohibition dates back 80 years, but the governmental obsession with fighting a war on drug use dates from the late 60s. I remember as an 11 year old being subjected to “drug education” that wasn’t that far removed from some of the “this is a crack pipe” posts above.

      But I laugh to hear people like Jesse Jackson saddle Nixon with all the blame. The WOD was most assuredly a bipartisan effort, at the federal, state and local levels.

  11. Just went through Mr. Sullum’s treasure trove of drug war misery editorials. Time to find the pro-Prohibitionist round-up. Any ideas where I can find one?

    1. Ooh, I found one.

      From the people who actually control this policy.

      Whose administration was likely supported by all of the above papers.

      ONDCP Press Release

  12. Heard the one about how many persons it takes to change a light bulb?
    Yeah, well this is how many widdle kids it takes to yell, “The Emperor is nekkid.”
    Except all these widdle kids is still not enough.

  13. The person who ends the WoD is going to be someone who says that (1) drugs are bad and ought to be illegal, but (2) the enforcement is overzealous and counterproductive.

    Without (1) that person is never going to get in a position to end the WoD.

    1. First of all, no one person is going to “end” the WoD. Not in a nation of 50 states and governors, thousands of individual municipalities and school districts and county sheriffs and D.A.s and 300+ million diverse individuals.

      Second, drugs aren’t necessarily bad and they shouldn’t be illegal. Are you really saying that the only way to end the WoD is to admit the righteousness of the drug warriors’ argument but quibble about the degree to which they are prosecuting it (“the enforcement is overzealous”) and the fact that it is not working anyway (“counterproductive”)?

      This is exactly the kind of limp-wristed, pragmatic appeasement to the prohibitionists that has prolonged the WoD. You cannot defeat your philosophical opponents by surrendering to their false premises. Doing so undermines and destroys your own case.

      1. More likely than not it will be one person who gets the ball rolling. Given the perverse incentives in our current system of enforcement, that almost certainly has to be the president. As we’re seeing now with Big O, a pro-drug-war president has many tools at his disposal to stymie any rogue drug doves at the state level, and the likelihood of enough state govts giving the feds the finger at once to take away those tools is quite small.

        Oh, and the few green shoots of sane drug policy that have arisen in modern times have all been based on pragmatic concerns. Hell, even alcohol prohibition only came to an end because the feds needed tax revenue. The natural rights arguments against prohibition have accomplished zilch, which is not unexpected given that they only convince those few who acknowledge the same first principles.

        1. More likely than not it will be one person who gets the ball rolling…that almost certainly has to be the president.

          Fool’s paradise, meet Tulpa.

          1. I think when we look back on history we need great people to associate with great events, like MLK with civil rights, but we lose the bigger picture that society’s moving in the direction of change, too. Support for marijuana legalization has changed so dramatically that within a generation or two I really do expect us to back off:


            Our policies toward cocaine and heroin will still be massively unproductive, and maybe we’ll repurpose our drug forces for some equally insidious task, but I just don’t see how marijuana can stay illegal forever.

  14. The reversal of the presumption of innocence in drug-possession cases is incompatible with the rule of law and is therefore unconstitutional in all jurisdictions.

    More: The universally unconstitutional war on drugs.

  15. Jim —

    New Hampshir e
    New Hampshire is by our count the freest state
    in the country. Depending on weights, however, it
    really shares the first, second and third slots with
    Colorado and South Dakota. New Hampshire does
    much better on economic (#2) than personal freedom
    (#13). Taxes and spending are among the lowest
    in the country, but the tax regime is highly skewed.
    New Hampshire has the third highest property and
    corporate income taxes in the United States. These
    should be high priorities for cutting. On the spending
    side, the likeliest suspect for cutting is transportation,
    which is higher than average once one controls
    for federal grants and population density (less dense
    states spend more on roads). Once state population
    is controlled for, New Hampshire is one of the most
    fiscally decentralized states in the country. Local
    governments also must raise two-thirds of what they
    spend with their own taxes. Gun laws are among the
    most liberal in the country, but the state has a weak
    “peaceable journey” regime (carrying a firearm in a
    car requires a concealed carry permit). Its alcohol
    regime is relatively free. Despite state control of
    retail distribution of wine and spirits, the effective
    tax rates on these products are zero, according to
    the Tax Foundation. Marijuana laws are middling;
    low-level possession could be decriminalized like
    Maine, while low-level cultivation could be made
    a misdemeanor like both Maine and Vermont. New
    Hampshire is the only state in the country with no
    seat-belt law for adults. It lacks a motorcycle helmet
    law but does have a bicycle helmet law and authorizes
    sobriety checkpoints. New Hampshire is one of
    three states that permit self-insurance for auto liability.
    Gambling is relatively controlled: Most gaming
    must take place under a charitable license, social
    gaming is prohibited, and aggravated gambling is a
    felony. State approval is required to open a private
    school. Home school laws are about average on the
    whole, but the standardized testing and recordkeeping
    requirements are more onerous than most states.
    Labor laws are generally market-friendly, but it is not
    Mercatus Center at George Mason University
    a right-to-work state. Occupational licensing is worse
    than average. Both eminent domain and asset forfeiture
    have been thoroughly reformed. The state’s liability
    system is one of the best, but campaign finance
    regulations are quite strict. As of 2006, smoking bans
    allowed many exemptions, but a thoroughgoing ban
    has since passed (not captured by our index).

    That’s from the “Freedom in the 50 States” report.

  16. File under irony, text from transient Google Ad atop this thread:

    Quitting Weed & Cannabis Made Easy With Our Drug Treatment.

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