Thursday, February 12, 2009

U.S. War on Drugs is Failing

As drug violence spirals out of control in Mexico, a commission led by three former Latin American heads of state blasted the U.S.-led drug war as a failure that is pushing Latin American societies to the breaking point. "The available evidence indicates that the war on drugs is a failed war," said former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. "We have to move from this approach to another one."

The commission, headed by Mr. Cardoso and former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and César Gaviria of Colombia, says Latin American governments as well as the U.S. must break what they say is a policy "taboo" and re-examine U.S.-inspired antidrugs efforts. The panel recommends that governments consider measures including decriminalizing the use of marijuana.

The report, by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, is the latest to question the U.S.'s emphasis on punitive measures to deal with illegal drug use and the criminal violence that accompanies it. A recent Brookings Institution study concluded that despite interdiction and eradication efforts, the world's governments haven't been able to significantly decrease the supply of drugs, while punitive methods haven't succeeded in lowering drug use.

Mr. Gaviria said the U.S. approach to narcotics -- based on treating drug consumption as a crime -- had failed. Latin America, he said, should adapt a more European approach, based on treating drug addiction as a health problem.

~Wall Street Journal


At 2/12/2009 5:10 AM, Blogger Malachi said...

As pointed out by David Henderson over at EconLog, the quote of the day is in that article:

"If the drug effort were failing there would be no violence," a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

Whoops, a U.S. official accidentally tells the truth.

At 2/12/2009 10:34 AM, Blogger bix1951 said...

Too many interests make money from the system we have.
Follow the money
drug dealers

At 2/12/2009 10:45 AM, Blogger QT said...

Ironic that we would prefer drugs to be illegal thereby ensuring that this industry pays no taxes, bears no responsibility for the health consequences of its product, and provides no consumer protection whatever.

Why do criminal drug lords deserve exemption from the legal and public health consequences of their product? Why should they be treated differently from a chinese factory that sells heparine contaminated with melamine or a peanut producer who ships products contaminated with the salmonella virus.

"Whoops, a U.S. official accidentally tells the truth"

No, a U.S. official comments on law enforcement, a subject he knows little about. Ask a law enforcement professional. Attempting to reduce supply raises the price of illegal drugs thereby increasing profit and incentives to producers. How does one repeal the law of supply and demand?

Wouldn't it be more practical to legalize drugs then tax & regulate the crap out of this industry sucking out the profit and then introducing the producers to the joys of the American tort law.

At 2/12/2009 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be more practical to legalize drugs then tax & regulate the crap out of this industry sucking out the profit and then introducing the producers to the joys of the American tort law.

This is exactly why no domestic company will get involved in this "industry". These companies will be set up offshore beyond the reach of the trial bar. If the government attempts to levy a tax high enough to cover the societal costs of drug usage it will only wind up creating a black market. We will be back at square one. Maybe it's time to look at Singapore's response.

At 2/12/2009 11:27 AM, Blogger QT said...

What is Singapore's response?

At 2/12/2009 11:56 AM, Blogger QT said...

The Singapore solution which punishes posssession with long imprisonment, caning and execution is unlikely to be politically feasible in a country where warrantless wiretapping, enhanced interrogation, and the death penalty remain highly controversial.

A legal business that operates in another country is required to pay business taxes which it can then claim in its own country. If consumer protection laws and excise taxes would create a black market, why do we not have a black market in chinese toys with lead paint or toothpaste containing melamine?

Many people fear legalization would increase drug usage but the opposite has been shown for other addictive products.

If we look at the norms in the 19th century, it was customary for people to drink on the job. (the rum ration in the British navy was the norm well into the 1950s). Is drinking on the job considered socially acceptable today? Legalization has taken alcohol off the cool wall and effectively stigmatized alcohol abuse.

Smoking has also declined significantly over the course of the 20th century.

One advantage of legalization is that we would not criminalize a large sector of our youth population whether for possession or petty crime like break & enter. Creating a permanent underclass in the U.S. represents a huge economic cost to the war on drugs.

At 2/12/2009 12:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Forty years after Nixon declared the war on drugs and spent Billions to fight it all we have is multiple entrenched bureaucracy. You would think the U.S. taxpayers would flag this as not working instead a politician from South American.

At 2/12/2009 12:47 PM, Blogger QT said...

Imagine if this were an actual war like Iraq in 2043? Would a U.S. official declare:

"We've got them on the run."

When does more of the same produce a different result?

At 2/12/2009 5:27 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> U.S. War on Drugs is Failing

This is news? It's been doing that for over forty f***in' years.

> This is exactly why no domestic company will get involved in this "industry".

LOL, thanks to the anti-smoking lobby, that's probably true.

However, if we ever actually manage to restore some semblance of sanity which actually expects a semblance of personal responsibility of the part of the individual citizenry (GASP!!! Mirabelle Dictu!!) then the phara/tobacco companies would happily jump on the bandwagon and the problem goes away where it belongs.

Given that there are plenty of reasons for doing exactly that, independent of drug laws, isn't it about time we started working towards fixing the things the idiot damned boomers have been f***ing up for the last forty years?

At 2/12/2009 5:40 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Legalization has taken alcohol off the cool wall and effectively stigmatized alcohol abuse.

Not enough with youths, but there's limits to how much peer pressure can do anyhow.

Especially when the social structure strongly rewards pushing the envelope in some way, and the right (i.e., "sensible") ways are decidedly "uncool".

The Singapore method is lunacy. It's Islam as life law.

You're a thief? Off with your hands!

Gimme a break. Stone age behavior isn't any more called for as a solution to our ills than 40 years of prison for a blotter sheet of Acid.

More Draconian laws are not the solution to Drugs in a free society. They're the ultimate expression of a Truly Evil Nanny State: "Do as we tell you, or we'll KILL YOU. But first, we'll torture you to make an example."

Wired, 1993: William Gibson: Disneyland with the Death Penalty

At 2/12/2009 7:50 PM, Blogger Malachi said...

"Wouldn't it be more practical to legalize drugs then tax & regulate the crap out of this industry sucking out the profit and then introducing the producers to the joys of the American tort law."
-- QT

Umm, I don't disagree with you. That was kind of the point.

Legalizing it puts it in the hands of legitimate businesses giving all the participants the protection of the law.

At 2/14/2009 5:59 PM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

Two seldom considered unintended consequences of the drug war:

1. Whereas the alcohol and tobacco industries have tended to off less dangerous products to choose from, in the drug smuggling business, the more potent the drug, the smaller the space it takes up. Hence every illegal mind altering drug I can think of has become MORE potent than in times past -- and is ingested using more dangerous methods.

2. Because the drugs are illegal, no manufacturer can reveal their identity. Hence there is no incentive to produce safer drugs, with higher quality control - including cutting the substance with less dangerous dilutants. In short, we've stifled any business efforts to design safer mind altering drugs.

At 2/14/2009 6:03 PM, Blogger Richard Rider, Chair, San Diego Tax Fighters said...

Richard Rider's Thoughts on Drug Legalization.
Revised 10/1/2007

Some people feel that the solution to the drug problem is to become like Iran and other totalitarian countries -- crack down hard on drugs (and porn and deviant sex habits and on and on). Institute a death penalty for users and sellers, and repeal the Bill of Rights where drug violations might be involved.

Perhaps they are partially right -- kill a few hundred thousand people, institute a police state, and perhaps we can significantly reduce drug use in our society. But the country will not be the America that our Founding Fathers envisioned in 1776.

Furthermore, I doubt that we can put the genie back in the bottle -- drugs are here as we have far too many users out there already. Malaysia has the drug death penalty and still has over 300,000 addicts getting their product. After all, if we can't keep drugs out of our prisons, how do we ever plan to keep drugs out of the whole country?

But even if it would work, I would oppose such an approach. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who are willing to sacrifice freedom for security deserve (and will end up with) neither.

As a parent of boys who grew up in today’s society, I had the same concerns that all thinking parents have for their children and the temptation of drugs. I know that my children have been approached by drug dealers in school. But I also know that no one sidled up to my kids and tried to get them to buy a pack of Marlboros, or a fifth of Jack Daniels. Why? Because there is no excess profit in dealing in legal drugs, even though they are illegal for minors to use.

The key to understanding the drug problem is to realize that the huge profits (a 12,000% markup in cocaine, for example) are the direct result of prohibition. Most of the problems we ascribe to the “drug problem" are really the problem of drug prohibition. A $1 a day drug habit becomes under prohibition a $100 a day habit, and crime will inevitably result on both the buyers' and sellers' part.

There are only three ways you as a drug addicts can afford to pay the high price for illegal drugs:

A. You can sell your body. The major cause of prostitution -- male and female, teenage and adult -- is drug addiction.

B. You can steal from others. When I debated County Supervisor George Bailey on the Roger Hedgecock radio show (about the jail sales tax), Mr. Bailey said that 80% of all property crime (mugging, robbery, burglary and car theft) in San Diego is committed by drug addicts trying to get money for drugs. The lowest figure mentioned by law enforcement agencies is 40%, and 60% is normal for urban areas.

C. This third method is perhaps the most harmful of all -- become a member of a perverse version of a multilevel drug marketing system. Become a dealer, sell to your friends and expand the drug problem.

We should end this madness. Let's legalize drugs and eliminate such problems. We will still have the very real medical and social problem of drug abuse. Utopia is not an option But look at the benefits of drug legalization:

1. Drastically reduce property crime (burglaries, auto thefts, muggings and commercial robberies). Estimates start at 40%.

2. Greatly reduce the corruption of our law enforcement people.

3. Relieve our overburdened court system.

4. Relieve the overcrowding in our jails. Our country now provides the highest per capita incarceration of any country in the world, passing the 2,000,000 prisoner level in early 2000.

5. End the routine drug shootings of dealers and bystanders over turf wars and drug deal rip-offs. You don't see 7-11 owners shooting it out with AM/PM shareholders over who gets to sell alcohol at an intersection.

6. Destroy the multilevel marketing scheme that fills our schools and playgrounds with children selling drugs.

7. Destroy the power of the hoodlum gangs and drug lords.

8. Reduce the desperate acts of prostitution to acquire overpriced drugs.

9. Greatly reduce the overdoses from ingesting unknown purities cut with unknown materials. An estimated 80% of the nation’s 3,500 annual illegal drug “overdose” deaths are caused by these two factors.

10. Reduce the spread of AIDS and other diseases from sharing scarce prohibited needles.

11. Return to a respect for the Bill of Rights with its support for the 2nd Amendment, due process and privacy in one’s personal life. Gun owners are starting to understand that perhaps the greatest danger to their right to keep and bear arms is the hysteria connected with the drug war.

12. End government's Big Brother monitoring of our e-mails, our travels and our financial transactions under the guise of seeking “drug money."

13. Reduce our international balance of payments problem.

14. End the onerous action of asset forfeiture -- the confiscation of property from suspected drug users and dealers (i.e. minorities with a lot of cash) without even charging them with a crime, let alone convicting them.

15. End our inadvertent funding of the communist movements in Latin America (our drug money is used to buy protection for the drug lords and farmers in South America).

16. End our meddling in other countries' affairs in our vain attempt to curtail drug imports to the U.S. Significant savings to future military budgets should result, not to mention avoiding casualties from such conflicts and the increasing risk of a nuclear, biological or chemical warfare reprisal against our cities.

17. Allow companies to design safer, less potent drugs. Note the drop in potency in the “legal” harmful drugs -- alcohol and tobacco. Illegal drugs, however, become even more potent since a more compact product is easier to smuggle and carries no greater penalty if caught.

18. Stop persecuting people for private actions that, while they may harm themselves, do not directly harm others.

Understand, with this freedom will come increased responsibility for one's actions. We Libertarians come down hard on drunk drivers and others who first harm others and then claim diminished capacity. No “Twinkie defense” would be allowed. One would face both criminal penalties and restitution responsibilities if one harmed others.

At 2/26/2009 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw an interesting video today on the issue that shows multiple views on the story from different news sources. It's definitely worth watching:


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