War on drugs is over: We lost

By PHIL HOSKINS

The “War on Drugs” has been going on for several decades now without any discernable benefit to either our country as a whole or the American people. It has produced this minimal benefit while exacting a very high price, both in terms of dollars spent and the toll on the lives of people caught up in its net.

Our prisons bulge with people whose “crime” is frequently one having only themselves as the “victim.” These are the users of substances deemed dangerous by the Federal Drug Administration who has been granted authority to name and rank substances by their perceived danger. Congress apparently is unable on its own to discern the difference between methamphetamines and marijuana so it has given the bureaucrats at the FDA the authority to do so.

Not only is this of doubtful wisdom as a political and Constitutional matter, it is really an act of cowardice by politicians anxious to mollify those who think some substances are the devil’s handiwork. Did our founding fathers really contemplate a system where government was instituted to protect us from ourselves, to dictate what could and could not be done with one’s own body? Undoubtedly the answer is no. This is the brainchild of two strains of thought that have run through our nation’s history, ebbing and flowing.

One thread is based in a Puritanical religious fervor which claims the moral authority to dictate the lives and actions of others. This tradition abhors almost everything that might be described as “fun” and has sought to ban everything from dancing to alcohol to same-sex marriage.

The other tradition is rooted in the primacy of commercial values, contending that those who promote commercial interests have the right to require all citizens to play in their game. They base their opposition to the use of mind-altering substances on “productivity” issues: workers should not be able to choose being stoned because it isn’t productive; one should always be at one’s peak because that is what a full economy demands. Other commercial interests would monopolize the production of mind altering substances to their own and protect their income stream for their own substances.

Of course neither tradition speaks openly to the electorate of its true objectives but rather cover them with the politics of fear. We are warned that smoking a joint will lead to jumping off a building (“Reefer Madness”) or that it is a “gateway drug” that will force us to next become enslaved to heroin or crystal meth. Studies are promoted to show that indeed, some substances alter our brain activity and some even do so permanently.

Why the government should have the power and right to prevent the alteration of my brain escapes me completely. Is it not my right to do so at my own will, to kill as many brain cells as I may wish? Where in the Constitution did I give that right to the bureaucrats at the FDA? Whose body is this anyway?

This is a fight that long ago was lost. Americans have all along vetoed the War on Drugs – except as it may apply to others. Marijuana use continues unabated. The use of illegal substances waxes and wanes as to any particular substance, but we have proven ourselves to be incredibly resourceful in finding what we want and need.

The arguments against this “War on Drugs” have been stated many times in many places so I need not repeat them all here. It is time, however, that we declare the war over. It is time to reclaim for our individual self the right to govern our own body and our own actions, so long as they do not impinge on those of another person. It is time to face reality and stop the wasteful spending of hundreds of billions of dollars to imprison people who are after nothing more than their own version of happiness.

Yes, removing criminal sanctions from all substances will lead to abuses and harm. So does the present system, which produces a huge underground delivery system and prevents reasonable efforts to prevent those abuses and ameliorate that harm.

This is one more issue upon which Congress needs to face reality and take the risk that getting it right may alienate a few loud moralists but redound to the health and vitality of our nation and the political process. Congress needs to end this “war” and get the government out of the business of controlling our lives.

(Phil Hoskins is a Hollywood attorney who founded “Take Back West Hollywood.”)

Comments

  1. Richard Taylor

    1) Legalize all drugs.

    2) Take the money wasted on THIS war, and turn it over to treatment and education.

    3) Change the look and feel of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 dollar bills.

    4) At some pre-determined end date in the future, declare all other versions of US currency null and void. Allow holders of old currency to convert to new prior to end date while paying taxes on”newly” discovered income

    5) End result will be:

    Violence associated with drug trafficing will cease;

    Government will have massive influx of tax revenues;

    Prison populations will drop due to release of non-violent drug offenders, saving money;

    A likely initial spike in some addictions due to folks trying substances who never used previously due to illegality; countered by the increase in treatment and education listed previously.

    It won’t solve everything. Some violence due to the actual drugs consumed would still exist but far more manageable than current situations.

    My $.02

  2. Jeffery Haas

    The War on Drugs is the archetype and psychological model for the War on Terror, a permanent war with permanent and ever increasing public debt, with no visible results foisted upon the public with the attitude that anyone who dares to oppose it risks being judged as the enemy themselves.

    While drug abuse and terrorism are both serious problems, neither is or ever will be addressed by our permanent wars.

    Permanent war is the Orwellian prophesy fulfilled by these twin monsters.

    The real enemy is liberty and the Constitution which enshrines it.

  3. Kent Shaw

    Ray,

    That was your most eloquent comment to date. I would have added that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor only after the United States had been embargoing oil shipments to Japan, itself an act of war. Once again, the United States initiated a war with a country that had not been a threat to this country.

  4. Kent Shaw

    Richard Taylor: “5)… Prison populations will drop due to release of non-violent drug offenders, saving money;”

    You will encounter resistance here. Yes the taxpayers would save hundreds of millions but that would cut into the profits of the privately run prisons, and there would be a great hue and cry about lost jobs in the prison industry.

    However you are totally correct with all you wrote in your comment.

  5. gene

    Read all of the above comments and agree with what each one was trying and(did) express. I would not argue this point with anyone but I believe we as a nation and we as a global community have gone beyond the point of no return. I am not sure how all this will play out but I strongly suspect it wouldn’t be something I would write home about. I hate to sound like a whimp but their are times is shakes me up, guess I have been in my confort zone to long. This world could implode at any time now, expecially with the help of bonehead bush and his sidekick, dickhead cheney. Obviously they are not the only ones, brain-dead america can always be counted on to be totally stupid and blind to the truth. I have said this before and I will say it again, if their is something you have been wanting to do as an individual, you better do it soon. Iran is next on the list and it doen’t take much imagination to realize the hell that will create for us earthlings. Anyone want a beer?

  6. Paolo

    Wow!

    An anti-drug war editorial, and 13 comments all pretty much in support of that position!

    This must be a cool website…

    One principle of life I’ve discovered is that whenever government declares a “war” on anything other than a foreign country that has attacked us, the result will be loss of freedom for all of us. This goes for the war on drugs, the war on poverty, and the war on terror.

  7. Paolo

    SEAL points out that he remains perfectly lucid despite high doses of Oxycontin, an opiate analog. It has been well known for hundreds of years that opiates are the most effective of all pain killers, and that people who suffer pain do not have the side effect of inebriation or euphoria that occurs in strictly recreational users. The pain, in effect, “consumes” the effect of the medication, leaving the patient mentally alert.

    These facts make the FDA’s war on plant extracts doubly evil. Heroin, if legalized, could be produced for a few pennies per dose. I don’t know what the pharmaceutical companies get at retail for Oxycontin, but it’s a lot more than that.

    There are several factions that support the War on Drugs. One, of course, is the pharmaceutical industry. Imagine if there were really a free market in (unpatentable) plant extracts: sales of Oxycontin would plummet!

    The next group that supports the War on Drugs is, of course, the criminals who sell drugs. With the criminal premium added to the cost of heroin, a dose that should cost a few pennies goes for a hundred bucks. Legalizing drugs would be the worst thing that could ever happen to criminals who sell drugs.

    And of course, there’s the useful nitwits who support the war on drugs because they are just religious busybodies who want to make rules about how everyone else should live.

    And let’s not forget the hordes of “police” forces on the government payrole who have total job security fighting a war on drugs that can never be won.

    All drugs should be completely legalized. No, not “taxed and regulated.” Just made completely legal. Addiction would go DOWN, as drug users would no longer have to fear arrest if they check in for treatment. Crime would plummet. Pain sufferers would have inexpensive, effective, over-the-counter treatments.

    By the way, I missed the part of the Constitution that gives the government authority to regulate plant extracts…could some one look that up for me?

  8. Ray

    Hemp has many practical uses and could be helpful for small time farmers. Many people, younger people would likely be less inclined if it grew along the road and wasn,t illegal. The excitement or chance taking is a lot of why kids do stuff. Oh what a lovely view, 40 acres of Kona Bud and a new John Deer….Dream on, the government can do it for thier medical marajuana, but we are about to see all herbs and natural health products be removed and controlled by the FDA. Just more government rule.

  9. There was never any “war on drugs.” As noted by Ray, above, drug-running is one of the biggest businesses of the CIA and US elites.

    Replace the preposition in these “wars,” and you get the real picture. “War OF drugs,” “war OF poverty,” and “war OF terror.” Thanks to these phony campaigns, we have more drugs, more poverty, and more terror. These are just devices for elites to increase their money and power at our expense. But don’t expect to hear this from the mainstream media.

  10. SEAL

    Here is an interesting fact. My scripts are paid for through medicare now-a-days. They send me a summary of each month listing what they pay for each Item. They pay $5.00 each for the 80mg oxycontin. If I had to pay for them with no insurance the cost is $10.00 each. Twice as much. That difference is across the board with few exceptions on all the medications I have received since the medicare drug program went into effect.

    Us cancer patients compare notes in waiting rooms. I have seen what other insurance programs pay for the same drugs I get and they are never as low as what medicare pays. This is also true of other medical tests and procedures. As the largest single insurer they drive the best bargain. Makes you wonder what the prices would be if everyone was on a national medicare. Also, explains why there is so much resistance to the idea.

  11. Scott

    I know!! We need a Johnny Marijuana Seed!! He can go thru the midwest planting pot everywhere. Then everyone could pick it freely for medicinal purposes. With enough seeds this “weed” would be very difficult to irradicate!! Johnny get busy!!!!

  12. Kent Shaw

    $10 each for a pill that cost a penny to produce. I knew it was bad, I knew we were being gouged but I had no idea it had come this far.

  13. David Williams

    Obviously the worst result of our government’s war on drugs is the incarceration of millions of casual users especially of those people who choose to smoke marijuana.But what I want to focus on is the unbelievable acceptance of the American people of drug testing in the workplace.

    Before anyone gets their panties in a twist,let me state that I’m not advocating the use of any mind altering substance while working.If a person is alcohol or drug impaired on the job,I think an employer is perfectly justified in taking disciplinary action against the offending worker.I think most people,for safety reasons would agree.

    What is unacceptable is an employer taking punitive action against a worker for what the employee does after work on his own time.

    Mandatory workplace urine tests are a flagrant abuse of a person’s right to privacy and constitute a direct violation of our sacred right to due process guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.We are guaranteed by law to be protected from undue search and seizure without a warrant based on probable cause.As far as I can figure,showing up for work does not constitute probable cause.

    My God!Just typing this is pissing me off so bad that I can barely stand it.Y’all(yes,I’m from the South)excuse me for just one second while I go twist one up…………..

    Whewwww…That’s much better.

    Somebody out there that is smarter(and straighter)please explain something to me.Let’s see…God created all the plants of the field,Right?Cannabis is a natural plant.How the fuck can a plant be against the frigging law?!! Seriously,that defies any possible definition of logic that a narrow mind can conceive.So, some asshole points to a plant and declares,”BAD, ILLEGAL,NO,NO….Let’s go have a drink”.I can not stand it!

    If we,as citizens,are willing to give up the precious and sacred rights that were secured by the blood and dying breath of those who came before,we not only no longer deserve those rights;we are beneath contempt and should just go to the head of the line that is forming at the gates to the concentration camps that we all so often speak of.

    If there is any more of an invasion of privacy than the required confiscation of my urine,I can not imagine what it could be.The only way ANYONE is going to get my urine is by catheter,and only after I am rendered helpless by overpowering force!

    These are not words that are thoughtlessly written.I mean everything that I say.Not because I am brave or tough or stubborn.My beliefs were forged by the massacre at Kent State,by the assassinations of John and Bobby,by the unbearable murder of Martin Luthor King,by the tears of thousands who perished in Southeast Asia on both sides.And now,they are reinforced daily by the barrage of despotism forced upon us by cowards and thieves who dare to say to the world that they represent America.They don’t represent me and they never will.

    David Williams in Western North Carolina

  14. Ray

    David, I applaud you. I feel exactly the same way. These nazis just keep squeezing the vice. We only think we have any rights and freedoms anymore.

    And why should guys like Seal, who lives in pain because of service to this country have to pay one red cent for medication? The whole goddam system of federal government is designed to extract every stinking penny they can from us dummies. From illegal income tax, excise tax, soon to be terrorist tax, etc. Now I’m pissed just thinking about how screwed we are. I better twist one fore I blow a gasket!

  15. If our current draconian drug laws are not reformed, we’ll wind up with one-half the population either in jail or out on probation, and the other half watching them. A KGB Police State economy is no basis for an economy or a free people.

  16. anthny

    The war on drugs was a deception just like the war on terror is.

    We did not lose the drug war, police and government and courts and judges are making huge profits from drugs.

    The only losers are the american people who got arrested and are spending time in prison for a disease that is related to our sick society.

    Most doctors and researchers have confirmed that alcohol and drugs are a disease and can be cured with the proper treatment. Of course this treatment goes againist everything the war on drugs is for, and that is to milk us for all we have.

    GOD BLESS AMERICA

  17. It is apparent that no one that read Mr. Hoskins article has every been around some one under the influence of methamphatmine or seen the devastation it takes on a ones body in a short period of time. Meth users destroy brain cells and end up becoming psychotic. Guess who benefits? The pharmaceutical companies because the psychosis has to be treated with medications! Who would like to be chased by someone wielding a butcher knife because they are psychotic? The by- products of meth production are toxic and contaminate the ground. Guess who has to pay for the clean up of meth labs that have exploded? You, the tax payer that complain about the drug laws, that is who. Have you ever seen a new born baby withdraw from heroin? They have tremors, are irritable, and can even have seizures. Great way to start your life isn’t it? New borns exposed to meth go through withdrawal too and grow up to have attention deficit disorder, thus the increase in prescribing of medications for ADHD (thus the increase in the number of prescriptions written in recent years), making more money for the pharmaceutical companies and increased cost to tax payers in an attempt to educate the kids because they need special education classes. Has anyone had a loved one killed by a drunk driver who thought they were able to drive without any problem, and alcohol is legal! Have any of the writers seen a child with fetal alcohol syndrome because mom chose to drink while she was pregnant? The result is that we have a bunch of kids that have low intelligence and require special education classes paid for by you, the tax payer.

    During World War II hemp was raised on some farms for a short period of time due to the need for more rope. There are places in the US that you can still find hemp growing wild along creeks. The only difference is that the THC is of such low quality (as it was in the 60’s) that it is not worth the effort to harvest it for use – effects are minimal unlike what is available on the market today.

    Before everyone dismisses me as a religious zealot I consider myself an agnostic. Just like anything else in life what we label as “illegal drugs” might be okay in moderation, but then so is food. Our problem is that there are those that lack the self-control to do things in moderation and that is why 60% of the population is obese. Then there is the physiological addiction of some drugs that is so powerful they take over, nicotine and opiates to name two. This is just a reality check for those out there that have their blinders on.

  18. the Don

    Ahh! Many good comments, thank you all,

    Let us not forget the opium wars and the Boxer Rebellion in China, June 13, 1900. The US was then the junior partner with Britain in forcing the Chinese to accept the importation of opium.

    And we should not also forget Air America flying in heroin from SE Asia during the VietNam War. Or during the Chinese (China again) revolution when our gov’t assisted Chiang Ki Shek and his nationalist party (support for the warlords) by buying the opiuum produced by these exiled losers operating in the “golden triangle” of SE Asia and then sold in the ghettoes of Amerika. Does one think the present China has forgotten?

    As a witness to this travesty of freedom and justice for 40 years I can tell you all that it is the suppression of marijuana that has led to the use of hard drugs by our youth, not the smoking of a joint. Birds do it, deer do it, people have done it for 1000s of years.

    As a father and grandfather I would rather see teenagers smoking pot than ice.

    All animate lifeforms seek ways to get

    high. This is a very, very serious problem for those that would prefer us dumbed down.

    Love this open discussion.

  19. Ray

    If one cent of every dollar spent by the fed on the so called drug war, and one cent of every dollar that the fed make on importation and sales of drugs, was placed in a fund to educate and reform those who cannot control themselves, the country would be better off. You will never stop drug use with prison time or fines. Heroine addicts are given the drug in Amsterdam to keep dealers away. Yes drugs and alcohol are a big problem. The point being argued here is the fact that the governments so called wars on drugs, crime, poverty, terrorism, etc. are all ineffective and very costly for taxpayers but very profitable for the pharma and government enities. They are designed to provide money extraction and control. Some prescribed medicine costs as much as $25.00 a pill. Many medicines are prescribed that are not needed and old folks become addicted to them. I have sat and talked to elderly folks who have thier kitchen table covered in pill bottles. They are prescribed ten or more different pills that have them so screwed up mentally. They know that they are screwed up and they cannot get away from it. They are zombies and are alone. It is so sad. Pill makers send thier sales guys out to doctors and give them samples, buy them gifts, just like in DC. Bribes to write prescriptions for thier pills. Its all about money. Moderation of ones abuses is a personal decision, one that government cannot control and should not attempt to. If they truly want to help, they should educate properly with proper curriculum and not teach the crap that is now the mind control. TV is another source of anti-social behavior and attitude misdirection. Compare the series Lassie with American Idol. Gunsmoke with 28. Good value messages are gone away for mind controlled bullshit. Programing is sick these days. Drugs are no worse than booze or most anything that can be abused and misused. Personal choice is not something the feds should be in control of.

  20. paolo

    Hi Mary,

    Your posting mentioned a lot of deleterious effects of various drugs, including alcohol, but you stopped short of advocating continuation of the war on drugs.

    Of course, any drug or psychoactive plant extract can be harmful. However, making those substances illegal makes the problem much, much worse.

    A police officer once told me, “If you could see the filthy home a crack addict lives in, and see the effects of crack on little babies, you’d support the war on drugs.”

    My response was, “If you could see the filthy home an alcoholic lives in, and see the effects of alcohol on little babies, you’d support bringing back Prohibition.”

    You said those of us advocating an end to the war on drugs need a reality check. Actually, we don’t. The reality is that the war on drugs makes the problem of drugs much, much worse–just as Prohibition made the problem of alcohol much, much worse.

    Under Prohibition, drinkers did not feel free to seek treatment, fearing prosecution. Drinkers frequently got sick from contaminated alcohol, because those who sold it knew their customers could not very well complain to the police. Criminals took over the manufacture and sale of alcohol, and enforced their territorial claims with gang violence.

    Each of these phenomena are happening right now, in exactly the same manner, with the “War on Drugs.”

  21. Teleri

    Well. I think the plethora of comments in favor of Phil’s editorial pretty much says it all. Even the one mildly critical makes sense (as in, ALCHOHOL is the most dangerous abused drug out there right now & is LEGAL)

    Marijuana originally became illegal at the insistence of Dupont who had just perfected nylon. Hemp being the major competitor, the laws against pot included the hemp plant and overnight a crop which was one of the first cultivated in the history of humanity, one which several of our founding fathers grew (yes, Washington) and which has about as much ability to get you high as breathing near a tobacco factory became illegal. Now of course it is the pharmaceutical companies keeping it illegal – and their target is marijuana itself. Thus hemp products are becoming legal again…

    What a travesty. The American public remembers the adverse affects of Prohibition, even though our leaders ignore it. Polls throughout the past 40 years have shown that Americans do NOT think marijuana should be illegal – certainly not medical marijuana. Many polls show a growing wish to see all drugs decriminalized, for the public have read and understood the implications of Amsterdam’s success. Even the most anti-drug types I know personally would be happy to see certain drugs legal & controlled (to see the despair on the faces of drug dealers, as a friend of mine puts it).

    This issue has caused a whole generation to grow up scofflaws, demeans our respect of government, and created a bunch of criminal cartels that make the Mafia look like your brother-in-law’s chicken thieving relatives.

    It needs to stop.

    BB

    Teleri

  22. The rich control the drug trade and drug war totally. Even selling booze and guns to the indians wasn’t better. The war hasn’t even begun. Where there is smuggling, there is a buck to be made. I expect another 911 stunt soon.

  23. JimZ

    For further research on this topic, check out the documentary movie “Grass”. You will be informed. I trust their information. I actually met their research team at the SXSW Film Festival kickoff party and hung out with them and the director.

    They told me they were actually surprised what they came up with themselves. Our entire system of anti-drug laws is based on flimsy politicized evidence and outright lies.

  24. Lou Raskin

    External solutions to internal issues will always be a waste of money. On the other hand, many employment opportunities were created. Go figure!