Like many on the Libertarian end of the pool, I’m in favor of ending the War on Drugs. I believe that it’s a horrible waste of resources, leads to unnecessary violence, and punishes people for things that are, in the end, personal decisions that impact no one else. You would think we would have learned this lesson from Prohibition, but apparently not.
At this point, however, we have an example that has shown was decriminalization does. Portugal, in 2001, decriminalized the use of all drugs. In that time, crime has gone down and drug use has lost some of its “breaking the rules” appeal. The Cato Institute has a more in depth look at what Portugal has done and how it has worked.
There is a quote from Jack Cole, a former New Jersey undercover Narcotics officer, in an editorial in the Lawrence Journal that points out a rather telling statistics. In 1914 when the first US Drug Law went into effect, the Federal Government estimated 1.3% of of the US Population was addicted to illegal drugs. In 1970 when the War on Drugs began? 1.3%. The most current statistics? 1.3%. So we have almost 100 years of Government fueled war on drugs, and the percentage of the populated addicted hasn’t changed.
In my viewpoint, the Federal Government should stop the War on Drugs, legalize the use of them, and then tax and regulate them. This will free up the funds and manpower used in the War on Drugs for other things, provide a boost for the economy, and remove the thrill of breaking the rules psychological thrill of drug use. If the Federal Government feels they must do something, then let them put money into treatment programs. In a study done by the National Research Council in 2001, the conclusion was reached that the most cost effective way to combat drug use in the United States was through treatment, not through stopping it at the source or the border.
The War on Drugs makes no more sense than Prohibition when you get down to the core of the issue. It amounts to the enforcement of a moral stance with the force of law. There are those who will claim that it helps stop other crimes, but it completely ignores the fact that prosecuting those crimes for the crimes themselves works in the case of alcohol, so there is no reason to think it won’t work the same with illicit drugs. Yet we continue to a useless War on Drugs continued for a variety of reasons.
We’ve reached a point where we need to realize that the War on Drugs needs to go away. Unfortunately, convincing the Federal Government of this and getting them to let go of the power they get from pursuing it is going to be more than a little difficult.