This is a short message from inside the belly of the beast. Read it with an open mind and discuss it with others. You may agree with it. You may find it totally repulsive. Either way we are making progress.
The War on Drugs has been lost. We are spending millions and millions on law enforcement, on the housing of able bodied men in prisons, on the building of prisons, and on support for families who have lost the main person who can work. Has there been any lessening of the availability of drugs? No. Has there been any headway made in this fight? No. Now guess who has been paying these bills? Is it the dealers? No. Is it the users? No. It’s you and me.
Is the violence, associated with the drug trade, over drugs? No. There is no fight over drugs. There never has been. The fight is over money, plain and simple. The fight is over who gets to control drug “turf.” This is all because of the money to be made. People are being robbed, shot, maimed, and killed, not because of drugs, but because of money. Drugs are an illegal black market item and this causes profits associated with their sale to be astronomical. Has the violence associated with the fight over massive profits generated from the fact that drugs are illegal lessened? No. It’s actually increased because the profits associated with dealing drugs, as an illegal black market item, are almost beyond belief. By making it illegal you drive up the price and profits on the black market. As soon as you lock up one dealer, ten more scramble to take his place because of the money to be made. Will your son, daughter, father, mother, brother, cousin, uncle, etc. be next? If they badly need money, and the opportunity arises, they may very well be.
The government has made two false assumptions which have driven the stupid decisions our government has made in thinking that the “War on Drugs” could be won. First, that by making drugs illegal people won’t use drugs. Some people are going to use drugs whether they are legal or illegal. This has been going on since the beginning of time. We have been distilling spirits and crushing up roots, anytime it could give us a mind altering experience since Adam and Eve. It doesn’t matter whether the drugs are legal or illegal. Those that want them will find a way to get them.
There are just as many people strung out on prescription drugs as illegally obtained drugs. Prescription drugs are usually the preference of those with money (ex. Rush Limbaugh, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, etc.). “My doctor prescribed it so I can get legally blitzed daily.” You see they can afford a mind altering substance by paying a doctor. If they get caught with a stash of prescription drugs, they don’t go to jail. It’s a better all around deal.
Poor people can’t afford the doctor visit, so they just pick up what’s on the street prepared by some unlicensed pharmacists. They pick up naturally grown drugs such as marijuana, mushrooms and peyote etc. or grow their own. They also buy drugs cooked up by unlicensed pharmacists or some idiot with a beaker and some chemicals.
Others have no interest at all in drugs. Those that don’t use drugs, are not going to begin using them whether they are legal or illegal. You could give them a pound of cocaine or a six pack of Xanax, and they would flush it down the toilet. They surely should not bear the costs associated with drug use.
It should also be noted that of the 230 million drug users worldwide, ninety percent are not problematic. They use drugs recreationally and keep jobs and function in society without arrests or other criminal conduct.
The second false assumption the government has made in thinking that the war on drugs could be won is this. Our government thinks that locking up everybody associated with drugs will stop drug use that has been going on forever. The thought is that, “if we scare them bad enough they won’t dare do drugs.” It’s very popular for politicians to say we’ll just lock everybody up. That is the same mentality that led to the racks, hangings, electrocutions, dungeons, etc. This led to some of the most violent times in the history of mankind. Don’t try to find the cause of drug use and the violence associated with the black market money. Heaven forbid, you mean look for a cause and cure. Hell, let’s just lock everybody up.
No one even took the time to see how much it would cost to lock everybody up. Surely, no one thought of who was going to pay for it. The ones paying are people that either aren’t using drugs or aren’t dealing drugs. Further, no one thought this would ever become a never ending process with astronomical cost in actual dollars spent and manpower that could be better used elsewhere. It has nearly brought our government to its knees. Here are some actual figures. One trillion dollars has been spent in the war on drugs since 1971. The number of prisoners in prison for drugs in 1981 was approximately 40,000. Today it’s well over 500,000 prisoners. Average cost per inmate is approximately $30,000 per inmate, (By comparison we spend only an average of $11,655 per year for a public school student.)
Now, here is what is really stupid. We have already dealt with this exact same problem to a “T.” Back in the early 1900’s there was a popular drug that we made illegal. It led to organized crime getting involved for the huge profits that could then be made. There was still a tremendous demand for the drug, but it was now illegal. Huge black market profits were there for the taking. This led to all kinds of violence, shootings, maiming, and death. Fighting over drug turf to generate these profits occurred daily. Sound familiar?
Therefore, we legalized one of the top five worst drugs in the world. This drug makes you feel ten feet tall and bullet proof. You can drive ninety miles per hour and feel like you are going forty. It will make you swear you don’t feel anything right before you fall on your face and throw up. That’s right. You got it. Alcohol.
Why was it legalized? Because when we made it illegal, people used it anyway (just like they have been drinking wine and digging up roots to get high since we came out of caves). We also realized that locking everybody up was futile. We realized it was a stupid use of manpower to try and stop humans from doing something they have done since the very beginning of time. This was a huge waste of manpower and the cost was astronomical. The violence associated with black market profits related to alcohol disappeared. Sound familiar? We realized that taxing it could help us pay for any attendant costs associated with its legalization so that those costs did not fall on those that did not use it. We realized by regulating its use, we could better control it. We could better keep it out of the hands of our youth. Cartels would implode.
Regulating alcohol and taxing it made those using it more responsible for the problems and costs that arise from its use (ex. DUI, public drunk, etc. requires many to attend counseling and treatment and pay fines that are paid for by them and not those who don’t drink), This helps curb excessive usage by putting the cost burden directly on the user. Taxes on the alcohol help pay for other attendant costs and raise money for other governmental programs.
Portugal has done this and the results have been dramatic. Criminal activity associated with drug use has dropped drastically.
Is it a perfect solution? No. What would be perfect is if people did not use any mind altering substances, but that ain’t going to happen. It’s too entrenched in our society. Mind altering substances are now an accepted form of socializing and of medical treatment. It is in our very nature that some of us will either use drugs or abuse drugs. Some won’t. Accept it. Deal with it intelligently. Let’s at least be as smart as we were when we eliminated prohibition.
Just a word or two from inside the belly of the beast, hoping that one day, your son, daughter, or loved one does not get caught up in this ridiculous mess that we call, “ The War on Drugs.”
Jacque D. Hawk is the CEO and founder of The Hawk Firm. He has been named a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the American Trial Lawyers Association.