“The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable.” – Frederic Bastiat, The Law
It is really a strange day when I agree with Pat Robertson. The evangelical preacher recently announced his support of reforming what the United States considers illegal activity, particularly marijuana possession. More and more individuals from all political walks are moving towards reforming (and ending) the war on drugs, the only people who don’t seem to get the message are bureaucrats and elected officials.
Organizations like NORML and Students For a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) have been fighting for years to reform the drug laws of this country and they are continuing to gain support and strength. They are even partnering with other freedom-supporting organizations like FIRE to challenge campus administrations. The people in support of marijuana legalization is a diverse group: you have Republican moms, maverick politicians, youth, jurors… basically, your average person.
Prohibition of drugs causes far more social and individual damage than legalization ever could. Study after study after study continues to show that criminalization does not decrease use, and may in fact make things worse. Marijuana is not a “gateway drug”. Laws forcing you to purchase from a drug dealer is the “gateway”. Marijuana is easier for teens to get than alcohol simply because drug dealers don’t check ID’s. If drugs were treated like alcohol and cigarettes use among teenagers would go down and medical treatment for addiction would go up.
The continued government position that somehow marijuana is as dangerous as heroin or methamphetamines makes people feel lied to, and rightfully so. When you are told marijuana will cause you to go insane and it doesn’t, it makes you wonder if the government has lied about other drugs, and they have. Drugs like ecstacy continue to be demonized by the state but lack scientific backing. There should be actual research involved before freedom is restricted, particularly when drugs with significant medical benefits are outlawed arbitrarily.
Unfortunately, government bureaucrats and elected officials are not in touch with facts and are slow to recognize the growing trends towards liberty in this area. The DEA continues to use their emergency powers to bypass the political process and act as drug dictators, outlawing what they see fit. They did it with ecstacy and they have done it with K2. Employees of the DEA do not have the same incentives that the general public has. The DEA wants to continue getting funding and to do that they must stay active and prove their worth, and that means finding new demons to fight as often as possible.
As the Federal government tells us that marijuana prohibition will still be “vigorously enforced” and local police departments are militarizing to fight small levels of marijuana with deadly consequences. Flush with federal funds, local law enforcement must prove they are using the money wisely and that means more high risk raids for low risk “crimes”, as Radley Balkooutlines almost daily with his updates at The Agitator .
In a free society the default position should always be freedom. The only reason to restrict individual liberties is with overwhelming evidence that restrictions are necessary to preserve the liberties of other people. The war on drugs does not fall in that category. Laws should be made with logical reasoning and a pursuit of the best outcome by the most efficient and ethical methods, not emotional experiences, pandering to a vocal minority or special interest groups.
The truth is, something has gotta break. The continued disconnect between government officials and the general public is going to lead to conflict. I personally believe that a Prop 19 style referendum will pass in the next 10 years in one state and when the economic benefits become obvious to other state legislatures more reform will follow. The Federal government will continue to prosecute marijuana use even in states where it is legal. This will happen until the courts find the drug laws outside the purvey of the federal government (highly, highly unlikely) or it becomes so expensive to prosecute drug use that it becomes de facto legal and prosecuted only when the government cannot find anything else to prosecute someone for.
Realistically, decriminalization should be a uniting issue for the left, the right, and libertarians. Whether you believe in an individuals right to do what they wish with their own body or you believe the government should be fiscally responsible, ending the War on (some) Drugs is the right move.