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September 14, 2010

What disaster is worse?

drug-war On one hand, the vested interests in America's unending War on Drugs continue to rationalize the enormous cost of drug prohibition by suggesting that the alternative is worse:

Every past administrator of the 37-year-old Drug Enforcement Administration is calling on the Justice Department to sue California if its voters decide to legalize marijuana in November.

Peter Bensinger, who ran the D.E.A. from January 1976 to July 1981, said legalizing the recreational use of pot, even in one state, would be a "disaster," leading to increased addiction, traffic accidents and trouble in the workplace.

Meanwhile, the WSJ's Mary Anastasia O'Grady writes about the wages of the War on Drugs just across the Texas border near El Paso:

Ju├írez is dying. Since the beginning of this year, more than 2,200 people in the city have been murdered. Since 2008, the toll is almost 6,500. On a per capita basis this would be equivalent to some 26,000 murders in New York City. Drug warriors play down these numbers by claiming that some 85% of the dead were themselves involved in trafficking. But that claim is dubious since in many of the murders-more than 90% of cases this year-there hasn't even been an arrest. And what about the hundreds of innocents, the other 15% of the victims, that the government admits were not criminals? [.  .  .]

In the 40 years since Richard Nixon declared war on drug suppliers abroad-because American consumers had consistently demonstrated that they had no interest in curtailing demand-illicit drug use in rich countries has remained fairly constant. Only preferences have shifted.

A report released in June by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that "drug use has stabilized in the developed world." Cocaine use in the U.S. has dropped in recent decades, but there is "growing abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants and prescription drugs around the world." The report also said that "cannabis is still the world's drug of choice." In other words, billions of dollars in warring has left us about where we started, except, according to the report, that the indoor cultivation of cannabis is now a major source of funding for criminal gangs.

As I've noted many times, America's War on Drugs is lost and it is long past time that we require our leaders to acknowledge that and end it.

Even if legalization would increase drug abuse and addition (not clear, but certainly possible), at least such a policy would allow the abusers to harm themselves rather than impose substantial risk of harm on innocent citizens.

The War on Drugs is dangerously close to becoming a war on us.

Posted by Tom at September 14, 2010 12:01 AM |


America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are even more deadly than the War on Drug Users, but as long as the propaganda works, the war profiteers have no motivation to kill the golden goose.

Posted by: Bill McWilliams Author Profile Page at September 14, 2010 10:06 AM

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