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24 September 2009

This War On Drugs Is Lost!

Drug prohibition can be traced back to the moral reformers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mainly comprised of Methodist, Progressive women from the Northeast. As the movement grew, the crusaders looked to California and the South to institute criminal drug laws. This primarily happened, as we shall see, because of racism and moralists. Further, we must understand that the War on Drugs has been a miserable failure. We must decide what type of society we want . Are our civil liberties sacrosanct or should we exchange some liberty in order to continue to fight a war that was lost long ago? What can we learn from other countries? How are we jeopardising our national security and creating instability elsewhere? Do we want to cede to the government the right to tell adults what they should be allowed to put in their bodies?

If you look at coroner and emergency room records, along with police blotters, from the turn of the 20th century, you will discover that the percentage of the population addicted to illegal drugs was 1.3%. The same percentage has continued since our first national foray into prohibition with the passage of The 1913 Poison Act Amendments. This legislation was constitutionally dubious. As an aside, you will recall that we had to amend the Constitution to ban alcohol, but the same did not occur with regard to drugs.

Prior to 1913, there were only two real types of addicts. The first were the Northern veterans from the Civil War, who suffered from the “Soldier’s Disease.” They had been given morphine for injuries during and after the war. (Southern soldiers were not likewise afflicted because morphine was unavailable in large quantities either during or after the war.) The second group was predominantly comprised of Midwestern, agrarian housewives, who had become addicted to “tonics” sold by traveling medicine men and catalog companies. Most of these tonics contained upwards of 50% cocaine. Probably one of the most effective pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress that directly affected public health was The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. It did not ban drugs; rather, it introduced truth in advertising. Once the public became aware of the dangerous ingredients in these “medicinal tonics,” sales plummeted and usage became rare.

If you trace drug legislation back to the beginning, you will find that criminalisation is rooted in racism.

San Francisco criminalised opium because of the fear that Asian men would lead white women into “depravity.” Inspired by anti-Chinese sentiment, California was a nationally recognized pioneer in the war on drugs. In 1875, it instituted the first know anti-narcotics law in the US, a San Francisco ordinance against opium dens. By 1907, seven years before Congress restricted the sale of narcotics by enacting the Harrison Act, the Board of Pharmacy had engineered an amendment to California’s poison laws so as to prohibit the sale of opium, morphine, and cocaine except by a doctor’s prescription. The Board followed up with an aggressive enforcement campaign, in which it pioneered many of the modern techniques of drug enforcement, including undercover agents and informants, criminalisation of users, and anti-paraphernalia laws, climaxed by a series of well-publicised raids on pharmacists and Chinese opium dens.

Cocaine was criminalised because of the fear that black men would lead white women into "depravity." Terms like the “Southern Menace” and “N3gro Cocaine Fiends” were bandied about from the Halls of Congress to the pulpits to women’s groups. Even today, drug sentencing guidelines have disparate impacts. Minorities are more likely to use crack cocaine, which carries much longer, and mandatory, prison terms. Powder cocaine possession can result in no jail time.

Marijuana was criminalised because of the fear that Hispanic men would lead white women into depravity. (Yes, the word “depravity” was used with respect to each drug.) “Marihuana” had begun to penetrate north of the border from Mexico, carried by immigrants and soldiers during the revolutionary disorders of 1910-1920. Though hardly known to the American public, marijuana or “loco-weed” was noticed by the pharmacy journals, which surmised that it was a relative of Indian hemp or perhaps jimsonweed. In Mexico, its use was mainly associated with delinquents and soldiers, lending it a discreditable reputation for madness and violence. With this in mind, the Board duly added “loco-weed” to its 1913 legislation.

In 1994, the Rand Corporation released a study that showed its cost seven times as much to incarcerate people on drug possession crimes than it does to rehabilitate with the former having nearly a 90% recidivism rate. 80% of all felony convictions have some drug nexus. Half of those are straight drug crimes. 60-70% of all criminals have drug problems.

In 1990, murder prosecutions were 50% as successful as they were in 1980. Resources were focused and spent on drug crimes. We MUST hold people accountable for their actions’ however, drug criminalisation has little effect on minimising drug usage. In countries where drugs are legal, crime is lower than in the US. Alcohol causes much more violent crime than marijuana. In the same way we punish the actions of an alcohol intoxicated individual, but not his alcohol intake, we need to punish the actions of the drug intoxicated person, but not his usage.

Do we want a nation of drug addicts? Of course not. We need more education at the local level, which is run by locals for locals. The Federal government has failed miserably in fighting this “war.” We have wasted billions without any real success. Just look at the cost of drugs. The prices haven’t increased. If we were making a dent in drug quantities, prices would have increased.

In prison, you can get any drug that you want. Charles Manson had to be moved from Corcoran State Prison for a time after he was found to be selling drugs…and, he was in solitary confinement! Also, California literally has thousands of inmates serving time for just smoking marijuana while out of parole. They serve their full terms and come out addicted to more powerful drugs.

Look at the loss of civil liberties since drug criminalisation. The 4th Amendment has been eroded because of drug criminalisation. At one point, if you were arrested, the search was limited to those places on your person within your reach. Supreme Court cases dealing with drugs have allowed for searches of your trunk, etc., without a warrant.

Prohibition takes the government and the people out of the equation. We have no ability to regulate the purity, distribution and usage. We have no ability to tax. There are many reasons that this is the case. Alcohol and pharmaceutical companies have fought decriminalisation and regulation. They have pumped millions, if not more, into the criminalisation of “illicit” drugs and the “war” on drugs. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means that it is considered not to have any medicinal value. Marinol, a synthetic marijuana drug, on the other hand, is a Schedule II drug, which means that it has pharmacological value. The latter is prescribed and dispensed at pharmacies. Possession of the former may result in your incarceration. Why the disparity? Because it is the Drug Enforcement Agency that decides, not doctors such as the Surgeon General. The DEA is heavily lobbied by pharmaceutical companies.

In Holland, they decriminalised marijuana and hashish decades ago. The country has 50% of the drug usage that the US does. As one legislator has said, “they have succeeded in making marijuana boring.” The Netherlands’ biggest problem is with drug immigration. Nearly 40% of the drug addicts in Amsterdam are from other countries. They are homeless and those are who you see on park benches in the middle of the day.

Switzerland has dealt with heroin addiction far better than any other country in the world. If an addict goes into the programme, he can get his maintenance drugs, along with medical and psychological help. The addicts work, pay taxes and cannot use any other drugs or alcohol. Drug usage has been halved in the last decade.

In 2001, Portugal legalised all drugs. Distribution is still illegal, but possession and usage are not. Most people imagined that the country would become full of addicts, but that did not happen. Drug usage actually dropped and addiction fell by 50%. It is no longer a crime or taboo to seek out the authorities to ask for help. Usage amongst children and teens is down 75%.

The British have had a system of heroin maintenance since the 1920s. It was de-emphasised somewhat during the 1960-1920s as a result of the US led “War on Drugs.” However, in recent years the British are again moving toward heroin maintenance as a legitimate component of their National Health Service. This is because evidence is clear that methadone is not the answer for all opioid addicts and that heroin is a viable maintenance drug which has shown equal or better rates of success in terms of assisting long-term users establish stable, crime-free lives.

Germany conducted a major study on heroin maintenance from 2002 until 2005 with over 1000 long-term heroin addicts receiving oral methadone or i.v. diamorphine at treatment centers in seven participating cities. The study proved diamorphine to be significantly more effective than methadone in keeping patients in treatment and in improving their health and social situations. Many participants were able to find employment. Some even started a family after years of homelessness and delinquency. Since then, treatment had been continued in the cities that participated in the pilot study, until heroin maintenance was permanently included in the national health insurance programmeme.

While most European Union countries have not completely decriminalised drugs, the movement is in that direction. In November 1990, the EU ratified The Frankfurt Resolution, which reads:

“Drug using is for the majority of users a temporary part of their biography, which can be overcome within the process of maturing out of addiction. Drug policy may not render this process more difficult, but it must support this process… A drug policy fighting against addiction exclusively with the criminal law and the compulsion to abstinence and offering abstinence only has failed… Criminalisation is a counterpart to drug aid and drug therapy and is a burden for police and justice they cannot carry… The aid for drug users must no longer be threatened by criminal law… it is necessary to lay stress on harm reduction and repressive forms of intervention must be reduced to the absolute necessary minimum.”

The Resolution suggested that Europe enact legislation decriminalising the purchase, possession, and consumption of marijuana and other drugs, and support the controlled legal drug trade. This led countries to examine alternatives to penal sanctions, specifically imprisonment, and treat violations of drug laws as civil offences.

For centuries, China had horrible opium problems. Mao solved them. He killed the addicts. Singapore and even Saudi Arabia have drug problems and they are very repressive societies. Singapore and China embrace similar values and assumptions that drug problems stem from individual shortcomings and failings which can only be corrected through compelled participation in strict and regimented programmes which have as their goal the reform of the deviant. Policies adopted by both countries do not appear to be particularly effective, as over recent years there has been increasingly severe consequence for those who use illicit drugs. Once an individual is identified as a user of illicit drugs, he or she is likely to experience a hierarchy of increasingly punitive measures and longer periods of enforced detention if further drug use is detected. These measures include corporal punishment. Even with the increasingly severe punishment, drug usage continues to explode in China. Data on drug abuse in Saudi Arabia is particularly scarce; however, we know that amphetamine usage has skyrocketed. Drug addicts are considered ill and treatment, rehabilitation and monitoring are the usual steps taken by the government. However, the Kingdom puts drug traffickers to death by public beheading and the authorities regularly report several executions per month of Asian and African nationals for drug smuggling convictions.

What to do with your children? First understand, it is easier for a child to get drugs than it is cigarettes and alcohol. So, you must start education early in your children’s lives. Bring them to meet addicts that can tell them about the horrors of addiction. Support local and state programmemes. Shame drug usage – just like we did with smoking.

Drugs are a national security issue. Mexico doesn’t have a drug problem. It has a drug money problem. The drug market is said to be worth 75 billion dollars a year. We are asking them (and other countries) to fight our drug war and they haven’t had any success. Those of you concerned about illegal immigration, think about how many Mexicans flee because of the drug war that Mexico is fighting as our proxy. How many more come here to sell drugs to our users?

Obviously, we cannot overlook Afghanistan. The US demands a disproportionate amount of opiates and Afghanistan cultivates the largest poppy crops in the world. We are funding Al Qaeda and the Taliban. US drug demand has caused further instability in an unstable region of the world.

Oh, and for you environmentalists, you can produce 5 times as much hemp pulp per acre as you can with one acre of trees. Hemp takes 8-9 months to grow. Trees take decades.

We can either live in a free society or a drug free society. We can’t have both.


1/3rd of all inmates are in prison for drug offences.  In the Netherlands, where sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll are all legal, the Dutch justice ministry has announced it will close eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty.