Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Let's End the Longest War in U.S. History; Support for Legalization of Weed Is Now At All-Time High

Canadian columnist Neil Reynolds writing in the Globe and Mail:

"The American war on drugs – or, more generically, the global war on drugs – can’t be won. The more intensely that governments wage it, the more certain is the defeat. This is because risk determines reward. More pressure on the supply of drugs means more risk and more profits. More profits mean more drugs and more violence. The proof is in the body count across Mexico, across Central and South America and, indeed, across the Western Hemisphere."

"Ironically, drugs became a significant problem only when governments declared war on them. Although Richard Nixon cited drugs as “public enemy No. 1” when he declared war in 1971, the statistical evidence doesn’t support the pronouncement. The U.S. incarceration rate, now the highest in the world, was one-eighth the problem 40 years ago than it is now. From 1920 through 1970, the rate remained flat: with 0.1 per cent of Americans in prison at any one time. By 1980, the rate doubled: 0.2 per cent. By 1990, it doubled again: 0.5 per cent. By 2010, it reached a record high: 0.8 per cent. This exceeds two million people – roughly 25 per cent of whom are serving time for drugs."

"The consequences of the war on drugs are appalling, from excruciating personal suffering to intractable national tragedy. It’s enough to note that the death toll in Mexico alone exceeded 15,000 last year, bringing the number of people killed in the past five years to nearly 40,000."

"Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, incidentally, says legalizing drugs would save the United States $44-billion a year in law-enforcement costs and generate another $42-billion in tax revenue – finally, after the longest war in American history, a peace dividend that could buy a lot of help for a lot of troubled people."

Related: Support for legalization of marijuana in the U.S. is at an all-time historical high based on a new Gallup poll (see chart above), and according to CBS News: "If the steady climb in public support for marijuana legalization continues at its current pace, politicians will soon have to address the laws that fly in the face of that movement in opinion."

39 Comments:

At 10/18/2011 11:29 AM, Blogger Savior Faire said...

What is interesting is that in California, they want to legalize marijuana, at the same time making the plastic bag it comes in illegal.

 
At 10/18/2011 11:56 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

BTW, as an American puppet-state, Afghanistan's production of opium has exploded, after being snuffed out by the Taliban.

"Insecurity and rising opium prices drove Afghan farmers to increase cultivation of the illicit opium poppy by 7 percent in 2011 ...

Afghanistan’s is the world’s largest producer of opium — the raw ingredient used to make heroin — providing about 80 percent of the world’s crop."

Sometimes, US Marines protect opium fields of growers loyal to Karzai.

Afghanistan has become the longest shooting war in US history, and almost certainly we will lose this war. It only cost $2 trillion or so.

But remember--we are against government waste and for austerity. And we are strict constructionists---you know, where it says in the Constitution we should occupy countries on the far side of the Earth for decades at a time.

And throw people in jail for smoking a plant they grew on their own land.

 
At 10/18/2011 12:32 PM, Blogger Paul said...

"BTW, as an American puppet-state, Afghanistan's production of opium has exploded, after being snuffed out by the Taliban."

Shorter Benji: bring back the Taliban!

"It only cost $2 trillion or so."

Benji's made up numbers fit quite nicely with his other made up facts.

 
At 10/18/2011 12:56 PM, Blogger E said...

I believe Benjamin confused the estimated cost of the Iraq occupation ($1.9 trillion per CBO) with the amount spent on operations in Afghanistan to date ($250 billion).

This error detracts little from the argument that the poppy surge highlights the futility of eradicating drug production, even in nations that we supposedly control.

 
At 10/18/2011 1:17 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Would employers want to hire a prospective employee who tests positive for drugs even if the drug is legal? Legal medical marijuana users are already finding out legal does not necessarily mean employable, and the courts are currently siding with the employers. Actions, even legal ones, have consequences. Buyer beware applies here, too.

 
At 10/18/2011 1:40 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

It worked for Apple.

 
At 10/18/2011 2:41 PM, Blogger E said...

Walt G.,

Some employers, such as the Cleveland Clinic, are already taking steps to eliminate lawful tobacco smoking among their workforce. Institutions concerned about employee drug use (whether on the job or off) have tools to address such issues, and such measures will likely continue even if criminal penalties for drug use are abolished.

If anything, I would expect screening to become more prevalent, or even mandated by government to serve industry interests or public health objectives. Such intervention would no doubt undermine freedom of association, as well as limit the employment opportunities for some individuals deemed competent by the employer but not by state regulators. Not exactly a libertarian utopia, but then nothing is.

Nevertheless, I think that for the employer, the employee, and the society at large that this is preferable to the current state of affairs in which homes are raided, property is seized without due process of law, and humans are put in cages because of what they put in their bodies.

Here's a recent article that speculates about post-drug war reactions:

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2011/07/10/an-unhappy-ending-to-the-drug-war/

 
At 10/18/2011 2:47 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I'd be for legalization if it wasn't so easy to sit on the couch smoking weed and mooching off the taxpayers.

 
At 10/18/2011 3:19 PM, Blogger MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

Maybe they can ban salt and transfats in the same bill they write to legalize dope to streamline legislative efficiency.

 
At 10/18/2011 3:45 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

WASHINGTON -- The United States will have spent a total of $3.7 trillion on wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, costing 225,000 lives and creating 7.8 million refugees, by the time the conflicts end, according to a report released on Wednesday by Brown University.

Paul--And we are still in, and costs may rise further.

And we have established a narco-Islamic corrupt state in Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of opium.

The first-class idiot Bush jr, and his warmongering buddies and GOP got us in there, and the fool Obama cannot find his way out.

We spent $3,333 every year for every man, woman and child in the US on national defense, homeland security and the VA. That's $13k every year for a family of four.

And we are "fighting" a few hundred or possibly one thousand guys armed with homemade bombs, who have no air force, no navy, no tanks, no armored vehicles, no satellites, no recon, no regular forces.

That's called national defense, Washington DC style.

 
At 10/18/2011 3:51 PM, Blogger The King said...

The War on Poverty is the longest & most expensive war we've waged. The second longest & expensive war we've waged is the War on Drugs. Neither war is winnable! We should stop fighting both. Legalize drugs & legalize poverty!

 
At 10/18/2011 5:45 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Defacto legalization is already happening in many states. I will ask the question again - does anyone have any evidence that this is improving things? Anyone seeing a drop in violent drug related crime in California, or recently in Airzona?

I would prefer an answer from someone who isn't currently smoking a hallucinogen.

 
At 10/18/2011 6:16 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

The King says: "The War on Poverty is the longest & most expensive war we've waged. The second longest & expensive war we've waged is the War on Drugs..."

The War on Violence is much longer and many times more expensive than the War on Drugs. So is the War on Ignorance.

Yet, there's plenty of violence and ignorance.

 
At 10/18/2011 6:36 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron says:

"Legalizing drugs would save the United States $44-billion a year in law-enforcement costs and generate another $42-billion in tax revenue."

What about the social costs, e.g. for rehabilitation (since when you legalize it, you get more of it), health issues, lost productivity, injuries, fatalites (including other people), etc.?

"Rice and co-workers estimated that the cost to society of alcohol abuse was $70.3 billion in 1985; a previous study by Harwood and colleagues estimated that the cost for 1980 was $89 billion.

By adjusting cost estimates for the effects of inflation and the growth of the population over time, Rice projected that the total cost of alcohol abuse in 1988 was $85.9 billion, and Harwood projected that the cost in 1983 was $116 billion.

(RICE, D.P.; Kelman, S.; Miller, L.S.; and Dunmeyer, S. The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: 1985).

 
At 10/18/2011 6:50 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

"Support for legalization of marijuana in the U.S. is at an all-time historical high based on a new Gallup poll."

Just because something is popular doesn't mean it'll improve society.

Poll: Tax the rich, corporations
9/21/11

Americans favor raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for President Barack Obama’s proposed jobs plan by a margin of two-to-one, a new Gallup poll Wednesday says.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said that they backed increasing income taxes on individuals earning over $200,000 and families earning at least $250,000, while only 32 percent were opposed.

An even greater majority thought that taxes should be raised on corporations, with 70 percent of respondents favoring hiking taxes on corporations by eliminating tax deductions and 26 percent were opposed.

 
At 10/18/2011 7:38 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Paul: "I'd be for legalization if it wasn't so easy to sit on the couch smoking weed and mooching off the taxpayers."

I know what you mean, but that's two separate issues.

 
At 10/19/2011 1:06 AM, Blogger KauaiMark said...

"...generate another $42-billion in tax revenue"

How are you going to tax something you can grow in the backyard?

 
At 10/19/2011 8:13 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

paul-

as opposed to sitting on the couch drinking beer mooching off taxpayers?

 
At 10/19/2011 8:14 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

k-mark-

you can grow tobacco or tomatoes in you backyard too.

most people choose not to.

 
At 10/19/2011 10:41 AM, Blogger Bruce Hall said...

If we legalize drugs and then someone in a drug haze kills someone else, would the law say:

1. it's a homicide
2. it's a drug crime which adds penalties to the homicide
3. it's a legal defense against homicide - temporary insanity.

The problem with legalizing drugs is that the behaviors associated with drug users tend to be destructive or irresponsible, at best. I suppose alcohol-related penalties could apply in some cases (DUI).

The argument for legalizing marijuana can be compared with legalizing beer. But can we go farther (which will most certainly be the case) that heroin and cocaine should be legalized just like vodka and whiskey... just stronger versions of "drugs." Is there a line that doesn't get crossed?

Beyond that philosophical debate, there are the real issues of societal costs for taking care of the results of drug use (to which Paul alluded). Will drug users be given unemployment benefits and health care when they show up at the emergency rooms? Or will drug use constitute the "right to die?"

The fact that drug issues have escalated in the U.S. may point more to "looking the other way" more than stronger enforcement. Our justice system has created a maze of protections for sellers and users that stymie the police and prosecution from acting efficiently and effectively. Drug use in schools? Why not? No one cares; everyone is doing it; we took a survey and everyone said it was harmless.

If WWII was fought the way the war on drugs is being fought, we'd all be speaking German and Japanese.

 
At 10/19/2011 10:46 AM, Blogger Paul said...

Morganovich,

You have a good point, but drug legalization would only make the problem worse. I could go for it if all public assistance was tied to random drug/alcohol tests.

 
At 10/19/2011 10:58 AM, Blogger morganovich said...

marko-

i have no idea what you mean by "de facto legalization" as i am unaware of anyplace that such is true of drugs in general, particularly distribution which is where the preponderance of violence is.

results from portugal are quite encouraging however:

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10080

 
At 10/19/2011 11:43 AM, Blogger $9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

Its a bad idea to ban activities that "tend" to cause some disliked behavior. Free speech tends to permit offensive speech, the 5th & 6th amendment tends to let criminals go free, the 2nd amendment tends to permit gun violence, and so on. If Group A tends to have higher incidences of crime, we don't cleanse them from the nation.

Balancing social goods, deploying the cautionary principle and the like shouldn't override a fundamental right to your personal autonomy, in action or thought. If you commit a crime against another (violence, theft, etc) in exercising those rights, then you're busted.

BTW, did you purposely write, "all time high"

 
At 10/19/2011 11:47 AM, Blogger The King said...

To PeakTrader ... the War on Violence is not a declared war. The others are ...

And, any of these "savings" estimates are usually hot air. They are never realized, but provide fodder to make the case.

Consider the income tax amendment .. "only to tax the rich!" What a scam that was. Now, we will only tax millionaires. How long before we are all taxed as millionaires, ala AMT!

 
At 10/19/2011 12:17 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Morganovich, I am referring to the medical marijuana laws now in place in many states. Some states have decriminalized, and others are not prosecuting - hence "de facto decriminalization". In AZ, something like 99% of applications for medical MJ cards are being approved. There is no distribution yet, but the law allows personal cultivation. This is all very recent, but I don't think we have seen any reduction in crime rates in AZ yet. I don't suspect we will see much of a reduction, if at all. As you point out, other drugs are still illegal - but I think this all shows that legalizing pot won't make a lick of difference. That is assuming that pot has some reasonable regulations around it - but I doubt any state any time soon will allow you to get pot at the corner grocery at will. Most countries that previous allowed that have scaled back. I think the whole "remove drug prohibition and everything will be better" is more of an unrealistic day dream than anything else.

 
At 10/19/2011 12:20 PM, Blogger Marko said...

Oh, and all that being said, I very strongly believe that the federal government should get out of the drug criminalization business - the power to regulate trade between the states should not (and I believe does not) confer police powers to the feds.

In other words, the states should decide what drugs are legal and what drugs aren't. That to me is the biggest problem.

 
At 10/19/2011 12:49 PM, Blogger E said...

KauaiMark,

Let's draw a comparison with beer. Most states tax alcoholic beverages but allow individuals to brew a generous personal supply of beer at home. (In my case, the limit is 200 gallons per year!) Brewing and bottling beer at home is not difficult, yet most people chose to buy the finished, taxed product in a store rather than making their own. Home production has little if any noticeable impact on tax revenues because only a minuscule portion of the beer-drinking public brews at home.

I believe that an even smaller percentage of cannabis users would choose to grow the plant at home, particularly because of the difficulty of growing cannabis relative to brewing beer. Once a brew is active, a fermenter need only be checked a few times per week. However, cannabis plants must be monitored and maintained on a regular basis, like any garden. Also, one must have access to the outdoors, or alternatively, the means to buy indoor growing equipment. These factors would make home growing impractical and costly (in terms of dollars, time, or both) for the average person. Most would opt for convenience and pay the tax.

Also, saving money is rarely a compelling reason to brew beer at home. My last batch of home-brewed beer was produced at a total cost of $0.75 per 12 oz bottle. This is approximately equivalent to the price of a cheap domestic beer, except that I also had to invest 4-5 hours of my time. Small batches lack economies of scale, and that is why home brewing is mostly the realm of connoisseurs, do-it-yourselfers, and other types of beer nerds. I would expect much the same with cannabis if it were regulated in a similar way.

 
At 10/19/2011 1:02 PM, Blogger E said...

Bruce Hall,

Would you not agree that the association of drug use with violence is prone to selection bias? People who smoke pot in the privacy and security of their homes rarely end up in arrest reports.

 
At 10/19/2011 1:50 PM, Blogger Bruce Hall said...

E,

Legalization [decriminalization, if you wish] implies acceptability which implies "go ahead and use drugs where and when you want." Naturally, employers would be free to restrict drug use during working hours just as alcohol use can be restricted. The issue is still do we stop with beer or is wine okay and if wine is okay then is cocaine okay and is heroin okay and are designer drugs okay?

You certainly understand the "logic"... alcohol is alcohol and mind/mood altering drugs are mind/mood altering drugs. Stated another way, if a little is okay, a lot is okay.

It is simple-minded to think that decriminalization of drugs will lead to the elimination of problems associated with them... or that cartels will suddenly become responsible corporations who pay their taxes and act responsibly. It is also simple-minded to believe there are no costs to ensure that drug-associated actions remain "legal."

However, if you truly believe that a stroke of the pen solves the problem of undesirable or destructive actions, perhaps you believe that the Chinese won't steal proprietary information or allow counterfeiting because they are members of the WTO and engage in "free trade."

The world is full of simple, easy-to-understand, wrong answers.

 
At 10/19/2011 2:31 PM, Blogger Moniker said...

Bruce Hall -
Where is the evidence that drug use has decreased as a result of its criminalization?

People who want drugs will seek them out, legal or not.

Making drugs illegal 1. gives them an allure that teenage wanna-be rebels are drawn to -- the logic being that drug use by definition breaks societal norms and consternates parents and adults; and 2. lands a lot of young adults in jail, which destroys their future job prospects and places them in a community of violent criminals during their formative years.

Again, making drugs illegal will never erradicate them. The question is whether society is better served by making them illegal and harshly punishing non-violent offenders, or simply accepting that a portion of the population will take drugs, for better or for worse.

 
At 10/19/2011 2:39 PM, Blogger E said...

Bruce, I disagree.

Legalization doesn't imply anything. Alcohol and tobacco are legal, but our laws generally does not endorse or even allow their use "where and when you want", nor does the American public view them as safe or harmless.

Also, be careful on that slippery slope of yours!

 
At 10/19/2011 3:03 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Moniker says: "The question is whether society is better served by making them illegal and harshly punishing non-violent offenders, or simply accepting that a portion of the population will take drugs, for better or for worse."

A portion of the population is taking those drugs for the worse, e.g. contributing to criminal activity and killings.

Obviously, they don't really care.

Legalizing drugs won't turn them into angels.

 
At 10/19/2011 3:40 PM, Blogger Moniker said...

PT -
"A portion of the population is taking those drugs for the worse, e.g. contributing to criminal activity and killings."

Do you think it is right to ask a police officer to put his life on the line to stop drug trafficking? Isn't it more rational to allow people to make their own decisions and stop risking the lives of law enforcement personnel to force compliance? Especially when drug use in this country is as commonplace as a Kleenex?

Laws that are inopposite to human behavior are destined to bring about criminality. Saying that we need to uphold drug laws because we have so much drug crime is absurd.

Drug related "killings" involve police officers, cartels, gangs and dealers. Individual addicts seldom kill simply because they got high. People kill because they are crazy, hold grudges, have anger issues, etc., but seldom just because they took drugs.

 
At 10/19/2011 3:51 PM, Blogger Bruce Hall said...

The notion that criminalization of drug use increase the allure is patently absurd. There are weak-minded individuals who will take/abuse drugs regards of the legal standing of the substance.

The issue is how to deal with such individuals and whether or not the suppliers of those substances should be rewarded as good corporate citizens or dealt with as criminals.

The easy answer is that the state simply steps away from the issue completely. No legal or moral stigma; no penalty for destructive behavior other than normal penalties for crimes against others or property; no penalty for supplying drugs other than taxes or jail for tax evasion [explain that to a cartel]. It's the strategy of "if we ignore the issue, it goes away."

Unfortunately, current thinking about "rights" leads us down the economic path that says people who screw up their lives [and those in their families] due to drug abuse would have the right to support by the state in the form of economic assistance and health care when their actions have cause them to be unemployable and unhealthy.

That, E and Moniker, is the issue I have. If the generic you want to screw up your lives with drugs/alcohol, fine. Just don't raid the taxpayer till to save your asses. And don't turn our cities and towns into slums with your presence when you've turned yourselves into trash.

Yes, I'm selfish; I don't want to pay for your selfishness.

 
At 10/19/2011 3:57 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Moniker, why don't you ask Obama (who changed his tune and adopted another Bush policy):

Obama Cracks Down On Medical Marijuana
July 12, 2011

First, on Monday, the White House released its National Drug Control Strategy, reporting that use of marijuana is the highest it's been in eight years. The policy document went out of its way to oppose marijuana legalization, arguing the drug is addictive and unsafe.

Second, late last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration concluded that marijuana has no accepted medical use.

Finally, the Justice Department has taken a tough line on marijuana too... Federal prosecutors warned that big medical marijuana shops aren't exempt from federal prosecution if they distribute the drug, even in states where medical marijuana is legal.

******

Feds Crack The Whip On California Marijuana Shops
October 7, 2011

Federal prosecutors turned up the heat on owners of medical-marijuana dispensaries in California by issuing them a 45-day deadline to shut down their shops or face criminal charges or seizure of assets.

Property owners have been issued letters stating that federal law trumps state law in this case and ordering them to evict the dispensaries or face criminal charges.

"There are very many patients who don't like the federal government interfering with their medicine," J Street Wellness Manager Ron Mullins told KCRA in Sacramento, Calif.

 
At 10/19/2011 4:37 PM, Blogger Moniker said...

"There are weak-minded individuals who will take/abuse drugs regards of the legal standing of the substance."

You make my argument for me. If we agree that a certain segment of the population will take drugs, legal or not, then the question is simply how best to deal with that element. Criminalizing the behavior is costly. Housing someone in prison costs around $40k a year. Not to mention the opportunity costs associated with taking an individual out of circulation, who might otherwise contribute to society in the form of labor, taxes, etc.

Not every person who takes drugs becomes a hopeless addict. If that were the case, somewhere between 30% - 50% (depending on the source of your statistics) of the US population would be holed up in crack houses. Instead, I know some that are high powered attorneys and other professionals, not to mention Silicon Valley elites.

"Unfortunately, current thinking about "rights" leads us down the economic path that says people who screw up their lives [and those in their families] due to drug abuse would have the right to support by the state in the form of economic assistance and health care when their actions have cause them to be unemployable and unhealthy."

Does it sound more economical to you to throw everyone who breaks the drug laws in prison?

I'm not an advocate of taking drugs. Personally, it's not for me, but that's not at issue. At issue is keeping the laws consistent with human behavior. At issue is recognizing that prohibition does not work and in fact is counterproductive.

 
At 10/19/2011 4:46 PM, Blogger Moniker said...

PT -
I have seen first hand how painful it is to die prematurely due to cancer, both physically and emotionally.

I saw someone who was not an advocate of drugs turn to marijuana on the recommendation of his physician and friends because it was so unbearable. Because he was throwing up all the time and couldn't keep food down, it helped boost his appetite and kept him eating.

Before he got morphine in the end stages, he smoked some joints. What's the difference?

And on that note, let's not forget about all the people who are addicted to prescription drugs. Where are you going to draw the line? It's more honest to just make drugs legal and stop all the absurdity in our current rules.

 
At 10/19/2011 5:16 PM, Blogger Bruce Hall said...

"At issue is keeping the laws consistent with human behavior."

No, that's no quite right. Human behavior has a wide range and, rightfully, some is curtailed and penalized." Does it cost society money to remove and incarcerate individuals who display certain behaviors? That's rhetorical.

Your argument is that if enough people display a certain behavior, then it should be deemed acceptable. That's the argument for eliminating immigration processes for individuals from Mexico/Central America. So, if enough people displayed tax evasion behavior, then the IRS should be eliminated.

A compelling argument. Actually, I have no problem with allowing people to use drugs... as long as there is an explicit, legal exemption keeping them from receiving public assistance of any kind. I'd support it even more if there were a 100% sales tax for the purchase of such drugs. Sellers would have to be subject to annual audit by the IRS. That would provide both revenue and jobs for the IRS.

But politicians don't have the balls to do that.

 
At 10/19/2011 7:24 PM, OpenID Sprewell said...

Bruce, you ask what happens if drugs are legalized and a druggie murders someone, if it would be considered homicide, worse than homicide, or temporary insanity. There's a simple response to that: what happens when someone gets sloshed out of their mind on alcohol now- which I'm sure you'll admit is no better than any other drug at fucking you up, including heroin or PCP- and kills someone? The same would apply for any other drug. Your arguments are silly because you act like alcohol is illegal and we don't have a ton of experience with intoxicants already. Yes, govt assistance should be subject to drug testing, or we could get rid of the assistance altogether, as I'd prefer. :)

 

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