Patrick Kennedy, the former congressman who stopped using drugs in 2009 and launched Project SAM, a well-funded marijuana prohibitionist group, likes to say that "incarceration is a powerful motivator." As a Kennedy, he must know this primarily from theory, not practice. Nevertheless, even as a theory it's a weak one. Forty years of drug war has been a failure by almost any measure, even as America's prison population ranks as highest in the world. Incarceration doesn't seem to be motivating anyone outside of the drug warriors in law enforcement, and elsewhere in government and out of it, who profit with their very livelihoods from the criminalization of drugs. Could drug laws be harsher?
Consider the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the New Zealand Herald reports three citizens of New Zealand have been detained since December after some kind of drug bust, and none have yet been charged. One appeared for a ten-minute hearing, which ended with an adjournment for three weeks. The New Zealand Herald notes that the UAE has harsh drug laws; one Briton in 2012 was sentenced to death by firing squad for selling less than an ounce of marijuana. The threat of death penalty hasn't stamped out the UAE's people engaging in non-violent activity problem "drug problem." Twelve people have been sentenced to death in the country since 2007, though the Herald stresses that an appeals process involving up to 19 judges means none of them have been executed, yet. And a UAE prosecutor claims up to 30 men in the country of 9 million died of alleged overdoses last year.