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Just when you thought it was safe to turn on the boob tube, the Office of National Drug Policy starts a new TV ad campaign. The previous campaign attempted to tie drug use to terrorism. Among the more sinister ads was one where an apparition of a dead girl tells a woman working in an office, "you killed me," implying she died in a terrorist attack due to the woman's "illegal" drug consumption. Using the government's logic, not only are all drug users aiding and abetting terrorist, they're murderers too. The latest ad campaign takes aim at internal dissenters and critics of the drug war. It features two men talking, one of them saying simply to legalize drugs. The response is, "so you want drugs sold to kids on playgrounds.....," to which the original speaker says, "I guess it's not such a good idea." To attempt to discuss the 30+ year drug war in a 30 second snippet is a serious attempt to insult most Americans intelligence.
The ad campaign does prove that, not only do bureaucrats and politicians not get out much, but they also have too much time and money on their hands. These ads cost hundreds of millions of tax dollars to produce and air, yet by the Office of National Drug policy's own admission, have little if any effect on drug consumption.
Unlike the governments ads, lets seriously consider some of the causes and effects of the drug war. The first assumption made by the drug warriors is that legalization will bring drugs onto our nations playgrounds. If the folks at the National Drug Policy Office would leave the office more often, or venture out of the confines of their gated suburban neighborhoods, they would see that drugs are not only being sold on playgrounds already, but near schools as well. Most of this happens in lower income areas which crosses racial lines and is based purely on economic and political conditions. Naturally, the people living in these areas have little if any political or economic clout. Add to that the facts that too many of the people living in these areas are on some sort of government assistance, and sometimes view children as an added government check, and you have the main ingredients for disaster. This attracts thugs seeking the high profits made possible by the "illegal" status placed on these drugs by the government. These thugs usually take over corners, buildings and even whole streets making life much more dangerous and difficult for law abiding citizens who have to live and work in these areas.
The death and violence that accompanies the drug trade are due mainly to the fact that drugs are illegal. Young people are enticed away from entry level jobs, with the lure of making thousands of dollars a week in illegal drug trafficking. Of course all this money will attract competition, causing drive by shootings and other forms of deadly violence. The profits are so astronomical that even the possibility of death can't deter those with criminal inclinations seeking a quick and "easy" buck.
The ads imply that those buying drugs are helping fund criminal enterprises and, therefore, directly responsible for terrorism and murder. If that ain't the pot calling the kettle black! The truth is that the only thing keeping "illegal" drug prices and profits artificially high, is the government's war on drugs. The reason that criminal gangs and terrorists around the globe profit from illegal drug sales is strictly because they are illegal. Those buying drugs in the inner city are no more responsible for funding terrorism than those pumping gas at the local gas station.
Contrary to popular perceptions, drug use and addiction are not confined to the poverty stricken. Many of the customers of the inner city drug traffickers are college age suburbanites, and sometimes even their professionally employed parents. Most of the individuals that purchase drugs do not commit violent crimes, yet are susceptible to fines and prison terms if caught possessing an "illegal" substance. This, of course, leads to overcrowded conditions in jails, too often allowing for early release of violent criminals.
So, why would the government continue to pursue a policy for decades that actually increases drug use and violence? To put it as succinctly as possible, money and power. The truth is that the drug war has created huge bureaucracies hooked on tax dollars that fund their existence. These bureaucracies successes are not measured in the reduction of drug use, but rather on the amount of money they spend and the number of arrests made. In reality, they benefit more from an increase in drug use than from a decrease. They are just as addicted to taxpayer dollars, as street corner drug dealers are to quick and easy drug profits or a junkie to his heroin. The existence of dealers, addicts and bureaucrats are mutually dependent.
Power is also an incentive for the government continuing its war. Politicians have used the drug war as an excuse to trample the second, fourth and fifth amendments to the constitution, while allowing law enforcement officers to profit by circumventing due process (Zero Tolerance). The drug war has spawned laws that allows the government to snoop into everyone's business dealings and bank transactions. It has allowed our governments influence and money to spread beyond our borders. Today, drug agents and military personnel are involved in anti-drug trafficking operations all over the globe, including Peru where a missionary and her infant son where killed during a US sponsored interdiction exercise. If one counts the number of peasant farmers terrorized by guerrilla groups funded by illegal drug profits, the casualties of the war on drugs rise astronomically.
Will ending the drug war end the problem of drug abuse? Absolutely not. Drugs that alter a human's state of consciousness have been around as long as humans have. Legalizing certain drugs does not equal moralizing their use or making them healthy to consume. Strangely enough, the majority of drugs that alter consciousness and mental function are legal and even advertised on TV and magazines. There are many biological and social factors that lead to a person's desire for, or addiction to certain drugs. History has shown time and again that all the laws in the world, or all the law enforcement officers on this planet can not curtail some people's appetite for drugs or money.
Will making drugs more available cause more use and or overdoses? No one knows for sure, but ending prohibition did not cause any measurable rise in alcoholism. If anything it made it easier for all those who felt they had a problem to seek treatment without fear of legal repercussions. It also ended the violence between bootleggers and gangsters that sought to control the illegal flow of booze. Who will be more vigilant of the quality of his product and the customers survivability, a legitimate business that can be sued or a faceless thug standing on a corner?
Speaking of prohibition, at least those that favored it were responsible enough to follow the letter of the law by adding an amendment to the constitution (18th Amendment). Fortunately, it was later repealed (21st Amendment). Today's drug warriors have chosen to violate and circumvent the constitution, sacrificing our rights in the interim. Much like ending prohibition, ending the war on drugs will vaporize profits for criminals, ending most drug related violence and help to put an end to the infringement of our constitutional rights. Who knows? It may even get drugs off our streets, out of the playground, and away from our schools.
(Editor's note: The author of this piece seems to have forgotten another powerful incentive for government to continue the "war on [some] drugs indefinitely. They have given themselves the power to confiscate the personal property of whomever they wish, even on very thin pretext of involvement with drugs, often with no charges ever being made and certainly not depending on any conviction of actual criminal activity. This, along with the vast amounts of taxpayer money, makes the drug trade extremely profitable for all levels of the government and they will do murder and worse to prevent anything from challenging or changing this situation. The sad part is that the people of this country have been hoodwinked into letting them get away with it. Sad. Susan Callaway, Editor)