18 February 2008| A Drug Free America
Imagine no potheads
by Eric Plourde, on drug policy
Imagine a world in which the United States has finally won the War on Drugs. After years of massive government spending and violent enforcement tactics, at last the nation is a place where we can safely raise our children. Our families are stronger, our communities safer, and our population better off. Right?
Wrong. Dead wrong. Victory in the War on Drugs will create a hellish state in America. Disagree? Let’s look at the facts. In a recent study, 46.1% of adults ages 26 and older admitted to using some sort of illicit drug at some point in their lives. In other words, almost half of adult Americans are current or former drug users and would be tossed in the slammer. I don’t think this is what Nancy Reagan had in mind.
Currently, there are about 2 million Americans incarcerated in the prison system, leading to overcrowding problems. Imagine the strain on the prison system if every drug user were added; the American taxpayers absolutely cannot support such a heavy financial burden.
Though today’s War on Drugs disproportionately incarcerates the poor, winning the War will take victims from all levels of society. Prominent leaders and celebrities such as Steve Jobs, Clarence Thomas, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama, Paul McCartney, and many more would all become inmates in the newly expanded American prison system.
Part of the problem is hypocrisy. For example, Newt Gingrich has admitted to smoking marijuana, yet recently sponsored bill H.R. 41, which would require the death penalty for anyone smuggling one hundred dosage units of an illicit substance across the border. The death penalty! In essence, he wants to kill the very people he used to buy drugs from. This same type of strange attitude persists in the minds of many Americans who vehemently support the War on Drugs, then smoke a joint or two when an old friend from high school comes to town or pop a couple of un-prescribed Vicodin when the stress at work gets a little heavy.
The underlying truth that everyone is afraid to say is this: Americans like drugs. We love getting high; we enjoy feeling buzzed; we like tripping out. And we can handle it, which is why 46.1% of us choose to participate in the drug mania. Politicians and talking heads love to claim that America has a drug problem. Most of us do not have a drug problem; we have a government problem. The vast majority of drug related problems have nothing to do with the actual drug, but instead with how the government treats its Drug War victims. “I’m on probation”, “They suspended my license”, “He’s in jail”, and “I have a criminal record of drug use.” Drugs didn’t cause these problems - politicians, hypocritical voters, and the government did.
America needs to stop this culture of denial and embrace the fact that a large number of our citizens will always use drugs. By recognizing this and decriminalizing drugs, the government could regulate what is in them to make them safer and less addictive. Since it would no longer be illegal, people with actual drug problems could more freely seek help without fear of prosecution or social alienation. Those users without problems would be free to use substances without the fear that twenty or so of Uncle Sam’s best drug warriors will come busting through their front door to take them away from their families. This would be a freer America, a more honest and open America, and a less hypocritical America, and it is way overdue.
The above work is the opinion of the author, and not necessarily that of the Prometheus Institute