The Bogus Drug War

by Steve Mason

We make some of our greatest gains
when we see old things in new ways

Did you ever stop to think about this nation's never ending War on Drugs? It's been going on for decades, has sucked up billions of dollars, and accounts for maybe half the prison population. To say that it cuts down on drug availability, or discourages drug usage, is laughable. Even though the DARE program has been shown again and again to have no effect, I still keep seeing those silly little bumper stickers.

So why would the government continue to pursue a policy that clearly does more harm than good? Is it possible that taking an item costing pennies to produce, and then making it illegal so as to run its retail value up to dollars, is the key? It can then be taken from the bad guys and doled out by the good guys - from local cops to the CIA - to buy information and cooperation for which they would otherwise have to pay in cash, and for which they would otherwise have to account.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I should perhaps begin by saying something about mind-altering substances and addiction. What follows is going to come as a shock, so pay attention. It flies in the face of everything you've been told, and everything you think you know about drugs. The first point to be made is that virtually all societies regularly use some sort of drug to effect the way they think and behave. In fact, even animals will indulge if given the opportunity. Monkeys and elephants, for example, love going on binges when they happen to find alcohol rich, over-ripe fruit. So there's nothing unusual, unnatural or evil about enjoying an occasional bender.

In 21st Century America, caffeine is perfectly legal and available at every turn. Let's keep those worker ants working. Kids can buy caffeine-laden sodas with a more than a dozen teaspoons of sugar at school. Adults can get their fix from the company coffeepot, or at one of the Starbucks now found on every block. Nicotine is so powerful a substance that an amount the size of a pea is lethal. This is kept from kids but readily available for adults. The same idiotic dichotomy applies to alcohol. In this fashion, children are "protected" from all sorts of things. I put the word protected in quotes because "deprived" makes far more sense. Deprived of an experience when young, when humans are designed for optimal learning, makes it all the more difficult to cope with that deprived aspect of life later in life.

And now to the second point to be made, drugs are not addicting. How many drugs have you tried? Are you addicted? Only people with Addictive Personalities become addicted. This is that small minority who abuses rather than uses their drug of choice. The DEA agent planning his next bust over 15 cups of coffee, and his obese, food junkie Drug Czar boss, are obvious examples that no one ever seems to see.

Clearly, there's a book waiting to be written on mind-altering substances and addiction, but this is just a short column, so let me move to the bottom line. Why, I ask once again, would a sane government pursue such an insane War on Drugs?

I already mentioned the fact that merely making something illegal will increase its price to the point where it can serve as a kind of underground currency. Marijuana that grows free in an empty lot is suddenly transformed into a highly valued cash crop. The law enforcement officers who seize packets of grass and then sell them to friends, are provided with a bonus the taxpayers didn't have to cough up. Would you be surprised to learn that all the drugs taken during the French Connection case (later made into a movie of the same name), went missing from the police evidence room?

Then too, because controlled substances are so often found and/or so easily planted on a suspect, this can serve as a quick and easy way to put away someone who might otherwise be on the street again in 24 hours. This is actually a positive result of the Drug War. Police officers typically know who the bad guys are, and a very small amount of crack (found or planted), works as an effective means of rubbish removal - the human kind. It's even better than a gun with all the associated investigations, media coverage, and multi-million dollar payouts following a shot between the eyes.

And what about the notion that keeping drugs illegal serves as a kind of welfare system in the ghettos? Making them legal would cut off a source of income and a kind of employment that now constitutes a major cottage industry at the bad end of town. A simple drive through your local slum should be more than enough to convince you that the so-called Drug War provides street corner capitalism with a very obvious leg up. One must wonder if suddenly legalizing drugs in a way similar to the repeal of Prohibition, would encourage denizens of the bad end of town to export their peculiar brands of mayhem to the good end of town. So here may well be yet another never mentioned benefit to the War.

Speaking of Prohibition, the folks selling booze were able to build their vast organizations only because alcohol was illegal. As a consequence, big bucks were continuously poured into the pockets of those legislators who most strenuously opposed Repeal. Keeping liquor illegal was a necessary part of the game. Those who produced pornography during the Frustrated Fifties did everything they could to keep it scarce. Protect the Children (the ones most in need of sex education) was their rallying cry. Today you see corporate casinos supporting the politicians who are most against gambling on reservations.

It's simple really. Ban a Behavior and you Build a Business. The people behind the War on Drugs recently had the cheek to assert that buying a recreational baggie of toot aided terrorists. The masses accepted this as though it was some sort of revelation. Yet if blow were on sale for a few dollars at your friendly neighborhood pharmacy, wouldn't that really put the skids on terrorism? Killing people and breaking things in an efficient fashion demands an expensive infrastructure. Would you be surprised to learn that the new attempt at Prohibition (this time of drugs), is what fuels this enterprise? Those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it. Making all substances that are illegal today, legal tomorrow, would put more of a crimp in the bad guy's style than anything Homeland Security seems so far to have accomplished.

Of course, the power that results from making something illegal, and then building enormous bureaucracies to control it, is a kind of narcotic in its own right. Remember the DEA agent who said he starts every day by thanking the Lord for dope? Big agencies spending billions and having the power of life or death, freedom or incarceration, over their fellows is a power trip not easily abandoned. It's a kind of continuing high - involving car chases and shootouts just like in the movies and video games. And on top of all that, Joe Six-pack sees you as a hero and a defender of the American Way - at least until you find some pernicious weed in his kid's car.

The War on Drugs also serves to convince taxpayers that their money is being well spent as the government works hard to protect them (and their children) from a clear and present danger. Even those who have never seen Reefer Madness come to believe they need to be saved from themselves, and so will far more readily accept restrictions of their liberty, combined with invasions of their privacy. If you accept being put in prison for growing a plant in your yard and smoking it in your home, you've already lost a much bigger war - the War on Freedom. This can only be seen as a negative result unless you're one of those who grew up "protected" and were never allowed to develop a sense of individual responsibility.

Look At It This Way

There are three main reasons why the War on Drugs, as advertised, makes no logical sense. These are:

1) There is a world of difference between use and abuse. Those who choose the latter eventually remove their genes from the gene pool, and thereby do everyone else a big favor.

2) There are no addictive substances, only addictive personalities. Such types (roughly 15% of the population), can get clinically hooked on sex and gambling, food and religion, jogging and tanning, just as easily as they can on cocaine and heroin.

3) And finally, the act of occasionally seeking an altered state of awareness is a perfectly normal drive that's found in humans and, indeed, in many other higher life forms from birds to primates.

But notice the phrase "as advertised" and keep in mind that the world is seldom the way you're led to believe it is. If you realize that the War on Drugs has nothing to do with cutting down on availability and discouraging usage, then suddenly - it makes perfect sense.

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