Home > Uncategorized > A New Drug Policy Proposal

A New Drug Policy Proposal

Like most of you, I’ve been following the progress of the drug wars in Mexico and elsewhere. The recent killing in Mexico of the American embassy employee from El Paso was a shock that should serve as a wakeup call. If not that, how about the warning not to travel to certain areas in Mexico that are controlled by the narco-terrorists? And we’re all familiar with story after story of drug cartel violence south of the equator. And while ostensibly fighting Taliban forces in Afghanistan, our troops can always find a little time to disrupt the opium trade.

The fact of the matter is that the war on drugs is big business in America. Recent estimates place federal spending on drug interdiction at 20 billion dollars yearly. State and local spending amount to 30 billion dollars. That fifty billion dollars buys uniforms, guns, employees, helicopters, etc. All the usual accoutrements of a war. Year in, year out, fifty billion dollars in an ever-increasing quasi-military action against mostly Americans.

We all go along with it, of course. Every day we’re presented with blood and guts on the TV. The little girl shot accidentally, the seemingly ubiquitous gang presence, the stories of massive drug seizures. We see these things and never question the need for more spending. The government spends vast sums, but more importantly, large numbers of lives in a clearly unwinnable war. Ever since “Reefer Madness,” the government has placed more and more restrictions on us, to the point of needing a driver’s license to buy cold medicine. And yet, things keep getting worse. Aldous Huxley told us sixty years ago that “continued crisis breeds continued control.”

Where are we today? Last year there were 2 million arrests, about 13 percent of all arrests, for drug violations. 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession alone. Let’s not forget the other costs, either.  LA County estimates that the cost of gang violence to the county exceeds 1 billion dollars per year. That’s just LA County. Some federal estimates suggest that gang violence is responsible for over half of all homicides in major cities.

It’s clear that America is losing the war on drugs. It’s also painfully clear that doing more of what we’ve done in the past isn’t the right answer. In one of my favorite movies, “Dawn of the Dead,” dead people come back to life, only to kill more people. One character looks at another and says, “When the dead come back to life, it’s time to stop the killing.” Perhaps it’s time to stop what we’ve been doing, and try a new approach.

Here’s my approach. The government should cease the war on drugs, and use the fifty billion dollars to buy and distribute drugs and the associated paraphernalia free of charge. Not just legalize, but actually give it away for free. There should be places, perhaps post offices, where one could walk in and then walk out with their drug of choice. No recording of ID, no lectures, no morality police. Prove you’re 18, and receive a dose of your drug, and, if needed, the associated equipment with which to enjoy it.

Now before anyone gets all religious and righteous, stop and think about it for a few minutes. Let me lay out some of the benefits of this approach.

First, the growers of poppies and coca would have a legitimate avenue to make a fair profit and make a decent living. It would also eliminate the need for the cartels to use violence to control the market, and would allow the government of drug producing countries to more effectively manage the production process. Sort of a “single payer” system for drug purchasing.

Second, it would eliminate the profit motive from the street gangs, depriving them of their sustenance and their raison d’etre. Without the need to control their turf to protect their drug profits, gangs would wither and die on the vine.

Third, if drug users could get clean needles with their drugs, it would help slow the spread of HIV and hepatitis. In fact, one study suggested that a clean-needle program could prevent as many as 4000 cases of HIV annually.

Fourth, it would help reduce the costs associated with bad drugs. The drugs would be of a known quality, reducing the incidence of hot-shots. It would also reduce the incidence of drugs being cut with undesirable substances such as arsenic. Eliminating those problems would alleviate the associated health care costs of drug related emergency care.

Finally, my plan would also reduce the amount of petty crime. No longer would junkies be forced to steal, mug, or burglarize to fund their habit. This is one of the reasons mere legalization isn’t sufficient. Legalization would still require the junkies to have cash. My approach eliminates that need, and therefore the need for junkies to become desperate.

I am certain that this proposal is not going to be popular. But sometimes, the most common-sense proposals are the most difficult to accept.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Helen
    April 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Won’t this just shift the spending to welfare for all the junkies too hopped up on their free drugs to work? I’m not a big fan of all the money spent on the drug war, because, as you say, it isn’t working. But this just seems to shift where the money goes. I guess at least you’d end the violence.

    • April 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm

      Possibly, but if they’re junkies, they’re not likely to have been working, anyway.

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