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More Notables Come Out Against the Drug War, But Not Obama

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  1. Balzafire
    Decriminalization is not endorsement.

    That’s what people who oppose the War on Drugs should repeat again and again to social conservatives and paternalistic liberals who support the policy. To decrminalize an activity is not to endorse it. People who decry the foreign aid, the arrests, the incarcerations, the property seizures, and the taxes that go to support them do not therefore approve of drug use. Instead, they consider the costs of criminalization far heavier than the benefits.

    More and more notable individuals agree. Two op-eds have appeared advocating the end of the “war.” Here is an op-ed by George Schultz and Paul Volcker in the Wall Street Journal that begins:

    “We believe that drug addiction is harmful to individuals, impairs health and has adverse societal effects. So we want an effective program to deal with this problem.

    “The question is: What is the best way to go about it? For 40 years now, our nation’s approach has been to criminalize the entire process of producing, transporting, selling and using drugs, with the exception of tobacco and alcohol. Our judgment, shared by other members of the commission, is that this approach has not worked, just as our national experiment with the prohibition of alcohol failed. Drugs are still readily available, and crime rates remain high. But drug use in the U.S. is no lower than, and sometimes surpasses, drug use in countries with very different approaches to the problem.”

    Schultz was a Cabinet member in Nixon’s and in Reagan’s administrations. Volcker was head of the Fed under Carter and Reagan. They have signed on to a report issued by the Global Commission on Drug Policy that unambiguously declares the War on Drugs a failure with “devastating consequences.” Forty years of police work and prison crowding haven’t put a dent in rates of drug use, and they have taken billions of dollars of revenue. What small-government or free-market conservative could agree with the initiative after four decades of contrary evidence? What libertarian or classical liberal could agree?

    Not Jimmy Carter, whose op-ed in The New York Times along the same lines appears here. Carter writes,

    “Drug policies here are more punitive and counterproductive than in other democracies, and have brought about an explosion in prison populations. At the end of 1980, just before I left office, 500,000 people were incarcerated in America; at the end of 2009 the number was nearly 2.3 million. There are 743 people in prison for every 100,000 Americans, a higher portion than in any other country and seven times as great as in Europe. Some 7.2 million people are either in prison or on probation or parole—more than 3 percent of all American adults!”

    It makes no sense, and Carter recalls that when he proposed in 1977 decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, most of the country accepted the proposal as sensible. But the ascent of Reagan turned U.S. policy toward stopping imports, a policy destined to fail since it did little to reduce demand (notwithstanding Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign).

    If only President Obama believed the same. His drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, raised hopes early on because he seemed to recognize the flaws and costs of the war. But since then, nothing seems to have changed. In fact, according to this notice, Obama’s DEA has increased raids of medical marijuana providers well above Bush’s record. One person quoted in the notice (issued by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of police officers, judges, prosecutors, and Federal officers who advocate ending the War) is LEAP’s executive director and a former Baltimore narcotics cop, who states,

    “Over the past few weeks, us cops who have been on the front lines of the ‘war on drugs’ have made numerous attempts to schedule a meeting with the drug czar to share our concerns about the harms these drug laws are causing. The fact that he refused to sit down with us and discuss these issues—even when we went directly to his doorstep—speaks volumes about how much the Obama administration would rather ignore the failed ‘war on drugs’ than do anything to actually address it.”



    By Mark Bauerlein
    June 17, 2011
    http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/more-notables-against-the-drug-war-but-not-obama/36331

Comments

  1. Balzafire
    I found the comments by readers posted below the above article even more interesting than the story itself. The story itself does not present any new ideas, but the comments below pretty well summarize what I've been thinking.

    goxewu (1 day ago)
    What does one think the public and poilitical response to an Obama proposal to decriminalize personal marijuana use would be? What would be the content of speeches, press conferences, House and Senate resolutions, op-ed pieces, etc. by the likes of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, et al.? What are the chances of decriminalization actually happening with Obama "doing the right thing" and the likes of Ron Paul and a couple of superannuated public officials with nothing to lose anymore (where the f**k was Braveheart Schultz when his President started the f**king "War on Drugs"?) standing stalwartly by his side? Please remember what it took (and is still taking) to get the completely reasonable and practical overturn of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military.

    There are very, very few actual libertarians who actively combine a distaste for "big government" with letting people make their own decisions about what they put into their bodies, when to end their own lives, whether to terminate a pregnancy, whom to marry, etc. Most anti-"nanny-state," pro-market conservatives have a grandstanding moralizing component that wants to legally prohibit or curtail certain "sins" (e.g., drug consumption and homosexuality).

    You want something like decriminalization to stand a chance of happening? You re-elect Obama and give him substantial majorities in both houses of Congress. Then you might get single-payer healthcare, equitable tax rates, no more "starve the beast" with public services, and, maybe, the decriminalization of marijuana.

    Until then, let's not pillory Obama--who actually has to try to govern--for not saying what the irrelevant Mssrs Schultz and Volcker can say now that they're safely long out of office.


    markbauerlein (1 day ago)
    No, I think you'll find that pro-market conservatives are against the War on Drugs. You see objections to it stated in National Review and Wall Street Journal often--no "grandstanding moralizing component" there.

    The political calculation is, of course, the central question. My prediction, however, is that if a politican came out in favor of decriminalization of marijuana, with sure stats to back up the pains and costs of criminalization, it would be a political winner.

    goxewu (23 hours ago in reply to markbauerlein)
    Prof. Bauerlein was talking about President Obama, who can acutally do something, maybe. And I'm talking about conservative politicians who can actually do something, maybe.

    Op-eds in the National Review or WSJ are simply urinating against the wind of what pro-market conservative politicians, not niche-media types will do. (The WSJ itself isn't niche, but it's op-eds on anything but business influence a comparatively tiny audience.) During the upcoming campaign, we'll probably get a hedging maybe-I'll-consider-it-when-the-time-is-right from Obama on marijuana decriminalization (similar to his stand on gay marriage). But Prof. Bauerlein and I and practically everybody else who reads a magazine other than High Times, knows with near-certainty that the Republican candidates (with the possible exception of Ron Paul) will shout a deafening "NO!!" to any suggestion that marijuana should be decriminalized.

    If Prof. Bauerlein's prediction means that if an important conservative Republican member of the House or the Senate comes out in favor of marijuana decriminalization, then a bill to do so would even get out of committee, I want to take that bet. As they say in the poker tournaments, "All in, baby."
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