Thursday, May 14, 2009

White House calls End to War on Drugs

When you have been fighting and losing a war for over 40 years and it still looks like you are no closer to winning, it might be time to sue for peace. That is what the Obama Administration is doing. Below is a report from the Wall Street Journal:

White House Czar Calls for End to 'War on Drugs'
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting "a war on drugs," a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation's drug issues.

"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country." [
full article]

The article goes on to say that the Obama administration has called for a change in policy that would end the discrepancy between how powder cocaine and crack cocaine are handled and also says that the federal government will no longer raid medical marijuana facilities in those 13 states where medical marijuana had been made legal.

The new Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske said that he does not support efforts to legalize drugs but favors a change in policy that would emphasize treatment rather than arrest and punishment of users. This is an encouraging development and is a good first step. I hope the administration goes much further.

The governments policy toward marijuana in particular makes absolutely no sense. For far too long many people have had their lives damaged, not by marijuana but by a policy that criminalizes a harmless activity. People lose their right to parental visitation or custody of their children, they lose their job, they lose their college scholarships, and they go to jail for simply smoking a little dope.

Casual use of marijuana is much less damaging to society than alcohol. I think marijuana may actually be good for society. If some of the people who drink alcohol switched to pot, we would probably see fewer violent brawls, less domestic violence and fewer fatal car wrecks. Some uptight people might be less uptight and more pleasant if they occasionally got stoned. I suspect the world might actually be a better place if more people got high every once in a while.

I think we should have an immediately end to federal pot prohibition and let each state decide the issue. I would hope that the several states would then end state prohibitions. Using pot should not be a crime and neither should pot users be considered to have a “drug problem.” While I would much rather see people forced into drug treatment rather than sent to jail, requiring treatment is also hypocrisy. Casual users of marijuana do not have a “drug problem.” They just have a preference for a recreational drug that is less dangerous than the society-approved recreational drug alcohol.

I think procession of small quantities or growing small quantities of marijuana for your own use should be legal much like brewing your own beer is legal. I think dealers should be licensed and taxed. The government at all levels loses a lot of money because this large segment of the economy is not taxed. If marijuana was distributed much the way alcohol and tobacco are distributed the criminal element would be driven out of business, much the same way that ending alcohol prohibition drives out bootleggers. Also, with commercial distribution of marijuana the consumer would benefit by having quality control. The consumer could expect honest weights and measures and proper labeling. I can see the day when shopping for pot could be like shopping for wine. I can imagine a weekly pot review article in the Tennessean. It should happen.

While I would not want to see an immediate legalization of all dangerous drugs, I think we should deemphasize prosecution of users of these hard drugs. For the more dangerous drugs, I think we primarily need to educate people to the dangers and then realize that sometimes free people make poor choices. Just the way that some people now abuse alcohol or people make poor financial decisions, we must accept that some people will get strung out on drugs. Help should be available for those with a drug problem who want help, but putting people in prison is not the help they need. Drug treatment would be less costly and more humane than imprisonment.

I suspect that if we end the crack down on the supply of drugs, the price would fall. Those with a real addiction would not commit armed robbery to feed their habit if drugs were less costly and less profitable and we would not enrich Mexican and Colombian drug lords. We might even deny the Taliban a major source of funding

While I have been a critic of the Obama Administration on many issues, I applaud them for this change in policy. It is past time to end the “War on Drugs.”

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  1. I want to applaud you for well thought out arguments in favor of changing our national policy around drugs. Your comment comparing growing pot at home for personal recreational use to people brewing beer at home for their personal recreational use makes a lot of sense.

    I say this in part because I brew hard cider at home.

  2. Even though I have spent 5 months very closely around someone who would go absolutely nuts when he was out of pot, I can testify to the fact that it poses no more of a danger to the public peace than alcoholic beverages, and our current policies are as misguided as they can be. Yes, it has served as a gateway drug to much, much more destructive stuff to some, but I know many, many more who never had any desire to even try hashish, which is supposed to be more intense than marijuana. Thankfully, I have never had any desire to try any of that stuff, but I sure drank my share of beer and whiskey back in my younger days.

  3. Interesting thoughts. I've wondered what would happen if we taxed marijuana and used the profits to fund drug prevention and treatment.

  4. Great article and I agree wholeheartedly with your opinions.

    I also agree with FishHawk's statement to the fact that marijuana has been a gateway drug, but so has the ever popular and legal alcohol. I actually believe that from what I have seen in my years that alcohol has been more of a gateway drug than pot.

  5. I've used pot for years, and it relieves depression. Alcohol intensifies depression and lowers your ability to fight off infection. Pot stimulates appetite and makes you more likely to enjoy loving sex with your partner. It also has the strange effect of focusing one parr of your mind and scrambling the rest. As long as you can pay attention to something, you can do just about anything on pot. Not advisable for a performing Brett Michaels. We are hunted and taxed for doing something non-addictive that alleviates anxiety and makes life more enjoyable. The only reason it's not available is that it would largely kill our need for other "legal" drugs. Stress and overprescription of legal drugs are the primary cause of sickness in America. Here's the cure, and it's CHEAP.