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Stop the war!
Posted by: Dale Franks on Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Officials in King's County, Washington, at the urging of the local Bar Association, have been showing some sense in de-escalating the War on Drugs.
King County is sending minor street drug users and sellers through drug courts instead of incarcerating them; its average daily jail count is down from 2,800 to 2,000. The Washington Legislature was persuaded to cut back drastically on mandatory drug-possession sentences, apportioning funds to adult and juvenile drug courts, and family "dependency" courts. Tens of millions of dollars have been saved.

"This project isn't for fringy, ponytailed pot smokers," insists Roger Goodman, director of the bar association's Drug Policy Project. "We did it for the courts. We can't get civil cases heard for three years. And the drug cases are mostly so petty."
Cutting incarcerations by 1/3 is a pretty good start. And it's long past time it was done.
The uncomfortable truth is that despite decades of aggressive government crackdowns, U.S. drug use and drug-related crime are as high as ever. Made profitable by prohibition, violent criminal enterprises that purvey drugs are flourishing. Harsh criminal sanctions, even for minor drug possession, have packed jails and prisons. Public coffers have been drained of funds for critical preventive social services.

Prohibition has failed to stamp out markets and quality, or increase street prices for cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana. The drug war kicked off by President Nixon in the 1970s costs $40 billion or more a year. It is a massive, embarrassing, destructive failure.
Prohibition didn't work with alcohol in the 1920's, and it hasn't worked for illegal drugs for the past 30 years. Indeed, every few years, there's been a new drug to catch everyone's attention. Heroin, Cocaine, Crack, Ecstasy, Meth; they've all come and gone with monotonous regularity, and nothing that state or federal governments have done has made a dent in it.

Part of the problem is that people like to get high. They always have, ever since the Babylonians cooked up the first watery beer. Heck, it's probably been going on since the first caveman got twisted on fermented berries. As Dennis Miller once said, even if you took away every intoxicating substance possible, people spin around in circles until they fell down and saw God.

Trying to stem that tide is simply a waste of time.

Not only that, but it's been incredibly destructive of civil rights. Forfeiture laws allow the police to take your car, boat or house, automatically. (Police, who almost always get to keep the proceeds of forfeiture auctions, have lobbied for increasingly severe laws, for obvious reasons.) Even more frighteningly, since the 1970s, the police have used the drug war as an excuse to become increasingly militarized, acquiring an ever larger stock of military weapons. And they've used those them to conduct no-knock warrants, night-time raids, and other measures more appropriate to a police state than a free, commercial Republic.

Worst of all, the result has been a growing number of civilian injuries and deaths as police conduct armed raids on the homes of innocent people. In some cases, those innocent people have also been armed, and thinking they were the victims of home invasions, have fired on the police, sometimes killing and injuring them, or being injured or killed in turn.

In King's county, at least, they seem to be pioneering a way out of that mess.
So how did the King County Bar get the ball rolling? "It's the messenger, not the message" — the credibility of the bar association, says Goodman. The King County Bar in fact assembled a nationally unprecedented coalition of supporters, ranging from the Washington State Bar Association to the King County and Washington state medical associations, the Church Council of Greater Seattle and the League of Women Voters of Seattle and Washington.

And the first-stated goals weren't scuttling drug laws. Instead, the bar association announced its platform as (1) reductions in crime and disorder — "to undercut the violent, illegal markets that spawn disease, crime, corruption, mayhem and death"; (2) improving public health by stemming the spread of blood-borne diseases; (3) better protection of children from the harm of drugs, and (4) wiser use of scarce public resources.

Now the bar association and its allies are asking the Legislature to establish a commission of experts to design how the state can switch from punitive approaches to a focus on treatment, shutting down the criminal gangs that now control the drug trade.

As controversial as it sounds, programs for victims (most likely adults) of such dangerously addictive drugs as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine may be easiest to fashion. Rather than leaving them to the streets and black market exploitation, there may be ways to register addicts, provide controlled amounts of drugs in medical settings, and try to guide them into treatment.

For marijuana, control by cartels that now provide huge quantities might be broken by state licensing of home production and non-commercial exchanges. Or a state distribution system like state liquor stores, demonstrably effective in denying sales to youth, could be established.
The war on drugs has done more to erode civil rights, including property rights and gun rights, than almost anything else over the past thirty-five years.

For instance, because drugs are illegal, the price is sky-high, because of the risks inherent in dealing with illegal substances. Because the price is so high—and costs of production are so low—massive profits are there for the the taking. Because profits are so high, but there are no legal methods of distribution of dispute resolution, drug people have a tendency to go about armed, and to shoot guns at each other—and innocent bystanders. Because the drug folks use guns a lot, politicians try to restrict gun ownership. And so the vicious cycle of prohibition and rights restrictions constantly revolves.

If ever there was a war where America needed to surrender, it's the "War on Drugs".
 
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Comments
Your approval of half-measures and failure to insist on the immediate legalization of all drugs and release of all the prisoners generated by the drug wars shows that you are obviously nothing but an authoritarian theocrat.

Better watch it. Certain other libertarians are making their lists and checking them twice.
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
Your approval of half-measures and failure to insist on the immediate legalization of all drugs and release of all the prisoners generated by the drug wars shows that you are obviously nothing but an authoritarian theocrat.
I’d be perfectly happy to see that happen. It won’t though.

Baby steps.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
This is great news. A great start. If I were an official in King’s County, though, I’d assume there was now a combined federal-state task force trying to get my ass on something. The drug war is such a big boat of gravy for the law enforcement bureaucracy that they won’t take kindly to someone trying to clear the dishes. Look for compliant grand juries to announce "corruption" charges against the relevant pols and bar association poobahs by sometime next year.
 
Written By: Jim Henley
URL: http://www.highclearing.com
Yes, the drug war is a gravy boat for lots of groups.

I have no problem with people taking whatever they want in whatever orifice they want to stuff just so long as I can carry a gun anytime I feel like it.
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Not to mention all the DARE people and the drug counselors who make money by telling marijuana users not to smoke. Don’t let McQ see this article or he may have a conniption. Tell him that the State of Washington was just trying to save money so that we have more to spend on Iraq.
 
Written By: william
URL: http://
Back in 2002 the government announced that nearly one third of the organizations on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations also appeared on their list of major U.S. suppliers of illegal drugs.

I have a modest proposal for the war on terrorism: the U.S. government should set up an independent, self-financing, non-profit organization to manufacture Heroin and Cocaine in the United States.

Our product would be the cheapest on the market, because we could take advantage of economies of scale that even the largest illegal narcotics organizations could not match; we would use sophisticated modern manufacturing methods, and we would not incur the costs of smuggling the product into the United States.

We could purchase raw materials from Afghanistan, bolstering the economy of that struggling country while cutting the warlords out of the action.

Users would prefer our product because it would be cheaper, and, at the same time, the purity would be guaranteed. The criminal syndicates and terrorist organizations would suffer a devastating loss of market share, and revenues.

Drug-related deaths would decline, because most deaths from Heroin and Cocaine occur due to overdoses or impure product.

Gang-related crime in the inner city would decline, because much of gang revenues and warfare is related to distributing illegal narcotics. Also, a lot of crime is committed by drug addicts trying to get money to buy drugs. If drugs became inexpensive, this type of crime might decrease as well.

If illegal smuggling declined, the US would save billions in drug interdiction operations.

Once we identified our client population, we could work on getting treatment for those people.

Since our organization would be private and self-funding there should be no complaint that tax money is being used to fund drug dealing. On the contrary, this organization might be able to fund drug treatment and prevention programs, while still keeping drug prices below those of the criminal/terrorist competition.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
Don’t let McQ see this article or he may have a conniption.
I do love the terminally clueless.

Learn to use the search feature dimbulb.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Don’t let McQ see this article or he may have a conniption.
Huh. You know, you’re new here. Maybe you should take a while to figure out what we’re about before you pop off, and end up sounding like a moron.
 
Written By: Dale Franks
URL: http://www.qando.net
Hey, here’s an idea. Make using drugs legal with a proper license, but make that license exclusive of the right to own a firearm, operate a motor vehicle, vote, or in any other way take on the responsibility of not killing people.

Get as high as you like, hippie - as long as you can’t cause me any harm. Would generate a whole new revenue stream for the states, as well as putting a nice chunk of the population into that segment concentrating on public transportation.

Meanwhile, we can ensure that the people who drive, own guns, and vote all have relatively clear heads - or go to jail for "CLUI" - Civil Liberty Under the Influence.

-Gil
 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
Aldo, I want you to think about that for just a moment... "the U.S. government should set up an independent, self-financing, non-profit organization to manufacture Heroin and Cocaine in the United States." Read that to yourself over and over and tell me you would rather have the government set it up as apposed to just passing a law allowing private groups to handle it. Do you honestly think the government will give us a good product? I’d probably still buy it from the street, if I were a drug user that is. Be intelectually honest.

Frankly, I’d like to see the government get out and allow private companies to develope drugs. Then allow laws to be set to handle improper abuses.
 
Written By: Ike
URL: http://
Gil, would you suggest the same sort of licensing for anyone who uses alcohol?

Altho I am a drug user of libertarian temperment, I do not believe sudden abandonment of all drug laws would be a good thing. We need to combine decriminalization and demilitarization with the development of a culture of moderation. Right now it is almost impossible to teach people that the kick is in getting high, not in being high, and thus the less often you use the more you enjoy it because that first step is the big one.
 
Written By: triticale
URL: http://triticale.mu.nu
Ike,

It was more of an off-the-cuff thought exercise than a serious policy proposal. It could be tweaked in all kinds of ways to meet different objections. I assumed that the Feds would set it up intially because the start-up costs would be high, and their involvement would be needed to arrange import of the raw materials from Afghanistan (and maybe Bolivia). Then, as revenues began flowing, the Feds would gradually get paid off and eventually the whole operation would become private.

Since the private groups who are currently best situated to take advantage of a simple legalization would be criminal/terrorist syndicates, I think the government will inevitably be involved in deciding who the producers will be anyway.

For those who are less concerned about Federal involvement, we could assume that the government continues to subsidize the project in order to give the product to users at no cost at all, and to experiment with different kinds of licenses, prescriptions, or other "strings" for our customers. We have to recognize, though, that the more such strings we attach, the more users will go to the black market to avoid them, thus defeating our purposes.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
Kings County, Washington, eh? Now I know where to flee if California goes over to socialized medicine. Wonder what their concealed carry laws are like ...

Dale Responds: Washinton has a "shall issue" CCW law. It requires police chiefs or sheriffs to issue concealed carry permits within 30 days of application to residents who are not otherwise barred from owning a firearm.
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
Gil, would you suggest the same sort of licensing for anyone who uses alcohol?
Triticale: High is high. So yes.
 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
I completely agree with you all on the do away with the ’war on drugs.’

However, the only way I see it happening is to go in the other direction.We outlaw coffee since it increases the heart rate.We outlaw soda for heart rate and dental problems.We outlaw candy or any sugary substance.We outlaw everything.Then we can get enough people on our side to make changes.

If we keep it to a subject that only hinders a portion of the people then it is to small a group to affect change so we enlarge the group.
 
Written By: SkyWatch
URL: http://
Your approval of half-measures and failure to insist on the immediate legalization of all drugs and release of all the prisoners generated by the drug wars shows that you are obviously nothing but an authoritarian theocrat.

Better watch it. Certain other libertarians are making their lists and checking them twice.

Written By: Terry


Yeah. We will ship all the fake libertarians off to the Gulag. The remaining question: where will we put up the Gulag?

And, on a more controversial topic, what about cigarettes?
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
And, on a more controversial topic, what about cigarettes?
If that’s directed to me, I’d say cigs don’t even enter the debate - because they haven’t been demonstrated to alter a person’s decision making capacity. The concept is that people would be free to choose whether to be able to exercise the freedoms and responsibilities of citizenship, or whether to be able to get high.
 
Written By: Gil
URL: http://
Unfortunately you are right, the War on Drugs is a failure. But unless some extremely stiff *minimum* sentance is given for drug-induced/exacerbated crimes, it’s a case of penny wise pound foolish. Yeah you save some now on the drug posession but the extra crimes committed by people who were high as a kite will cost a lot in the long run. Maybe not more in *direct* costs, but almost certainly more once you add the property dammage et al.

Decriminalize possession, but crack down on allowing yourself to commit other crimes under the influence. Make committing any felony under the influence a capital crime w/o parole or pardon, and any misdemeanor under the influence a felony. That seems a reasonable trade. You can do what you want in the privacy of your own home, but commit a crime under the influence and we’ll come down on you like a ton of bricks.

RH
 
Written By: RobertHuntingdon
URL: http://
"because they haven’t been demonstrated to alter a person’s decision making capacity." - Gil

I’ve watched people face torrential rains and near blizzard conditions just to take a few drags. If that isn’t altered decision making capacity, I don’t know what is. ;)
 
Written By: Liberty Dog
URL: http://
Dale Responds: Washinton has a "shall issue" CCW law. It requires police chiefs or sheriffs to issue concealed carry permits within 30 days of application to residents who are not otherwise barred from owning a firearm.

Better and better. Thanks.
 
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
"Baby steps."

Baby.

Your diaper’s full.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php

 
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