How The West Was Lost: War on Drugs Losing Battle

How The West Was Lost: War on Drugs Losing Battle
Posted by FoM on November 27, 2001 at 09:23:10 PT
By Greg Sagan 
Source: Amarillo Globe-News 
I suppose we ought to spend some of our time looking at things not related to Sept. 11. Like the fact that this nation's war on drugs continues unabated.The most recent development comes from our staunchest ally, Great Britain. In a story I pulled from the Internet I learned that there is a serious political effort under way there to decriminalize pot. The reason? "The evidence shows that criminal sanctions do not stop people using drugs," according to DrugScope Chief Executive Roger Howard.
Last year's budget for fighting this war was around $18 billion. What we got from that money was more people in jail and a net reduction in the street prices of all the most popular drugs. Alcoholic beverages, which are also drugs and which cause significant irreversible harm, are legal and so are not counted in the cost statistics.My own casual survey here in Amarillo suggests the prices for legal drugs rose during the same time. I suppose one conclusion is that the people responsible for showing progress in the war on drugs know it isn't working, and they're probably drinking more.Anyway, in Great Britain they seem to have grasped something that still eludes us Colonials - that using the law to swat someone's personal consumption choices is futile, it's unprincipled for a free country, and it creates more problems than it solves. Since our war on drugs isn't solving any problem associated with its purpose, anything it costs is too much. But at $18 billion of our money the cost is astronomical for zero gain.I suspect that at least part of the problem is human nature. We westerners accept certain notions about ourselves that easily distinguish us from other cultures on the planet.First among these notions is the one about the absolute primacy of choice. If we are to be accountable for anything in life, we must be "at choice" in the matter. For example, if I am drafted, sent to a foreign country in an unjust war, and I kill people as I am ordered to, I can't use the Nuremberg defense - I was only following orders. I have a choice about following orders, and if I am willing to accept the consequences of disobedience, an order from a military superior is not binding on me.Making choices and living with the consequences is essential to two aspects of the human condition - accepting accountability and learning. We all learn from our mistakes. We'd better. The mistake we don't learn anything from is probably the one that kills us. And it's natural for those who have made the most egregious mistakes to learn that the best thing for society is to make sure no one else can make them.This is the underpinning of our war on drugs. Drugs have ruined lives and families, and we can expect a certain fraction of society to conclude that drugs should be illegal.The problem with this approach is that it ignores the possibility that some people will use drugs responsibly and harm no one. Shall they be penalized, too? If you believe they should, you are enlisting in the forces of tyranny.Now to accountability. To be "accountable" means, among other things, to be able to account for oneself, one's actions and the consequences arising from those actions. The opposite of "accountability" is being "victimized" - a condition that always argues, in some form, that I had no choice but to do as I did. People cannot be accountable where there is no choice. If you prod me over a cliff at the point of a bayonet it's murder, not suicide. Absent your weapon, I wouldn't even get close enough to a cliff edge for a freak accident to claim me.The same is true for drugs. You can't force me to take drugs against my will (without incapacitating me), and you really can't stop me from taking drugs if I intend to. The measures you would have to implement to succeed at it would be draconian.Another bothersome notion to us Westerners is that we hate to be told what to do when it comes to personal consumption. Look at our smoking. Every package of cigarettes sold in this country has a warning from the Surgeon General, and the people who smoke know the warning is there.But the problem is that the Surgeon General works for the government, and it is always appropriate to wonder at the government's agenda. We Americans have learned to suspect what the government tells us to do "for our own good" and drug use is no exception. If you don't believe that, ask teen-agers who smoke pot what they think of the government's stance.Finally there is the problem with virtue. We westerners are not so hung up on being virtuous that we will be content to live on wild flowers and spring water. Most of our economy is geared toward an upward spiral of consumption, and if one form is denied to us we will find another.Something to think about the next time we declare a war on ourselves.Greg Sagan can be contacted in care of the Globe-News, P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, Texas 79166. His column appears Tuesdays.Complete Title: How The West Was Lost: War on Drugs a Losing Battle Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)Author: Greg Sagan Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2001Copyright: 2001 Amarillo Globe-NewsWebsite: letters amarillonet.comRelated Articles & Web Site:Drugscope in Disorder - Observer U.K. Police Prepared To Support Relaxed Laws Drug Body Says Punishment Does Not Stop Drugs
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Comment #4 posted by kaptinemo on November 30, 2001 at 13:45:25 PT:
Greetings, Mr. Sagan
Stop by here anytime; we're probably the friendliest sources of information about international developments in drug law reform that you'll find.Just one thing; you've tried to give credit where credit is due, but in a general way. How about being more specific?Like where on the Internet you saw,
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Comment #3 posted by mayan on November 27, 2001 at 17:19:29 PT
This could be the tip of the iceberg! When the mainstream press jumps on this bandwagon, the war on drugs as we know it will cease to be. People are sick of the current media blackout & they have to resort to the internet for news. There they are finding out what is going on in Britain & Canada. Change in those countries is inevitable & when it happens there American drug warriors will find they are fighting a losing battle. The truth is spreading like wildfire & nothing short of totalitarianism can stop it!Get your life jackets ready anti's. The U.S.S. Drugwar is sinking fast!
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Comment #2 posted by null on November 27, 2001 at 10:42:52 PT
U.S. press finally notices
well it's about time: Someone in the U.S. press finally took notice and wrote an article mentioning what is going on in the U.K.! You'll notice Greg Sagan's means opf acquiring this well guarded information: the internet. (gasp... shocker there...) Although I don't think most journalists read the Amarillo Globe News, I hope that this starts a trend of the U.S. press picking up the U.K. debate. There does seem to be an above normal amount of article calling for a rethink/end of the drug war in the press these last few week. Maybe it is just wishful thinking on my part...
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Comment #1 posted by Robbie on November 27, 2001 at 10:23:04 PT
These last 4 articles
...have been wonderful. It's so good to see true dissent against our national drug policy, and given the war on terrorism, we're seeing precious resources spent on keeping Americans from doing things to themselves that, ostensibly ,harm no one else.The question is, will these pieces (with the possible exception of the National Review piece) get any play in our current "War is News" mindset? Even if everyday Americans are interested in other things, the news media keeps pumping out 9/11 sensationalism, War on the Middle East, and superficial patriotism. When the discussion should be focusing on fixing internal problems and re-prioritizing resources, I think that all this drug-policy reform sentiment will go un-noticed by mainstream Americans.It's a sad fact of our times...with people like Mark (on the right hand) Souder spouting the link between terrorism and drug-use...that fears are able to move people more quickly and resolutely than reason.
Under the news
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