Elizabeth Barrett Browning started her famous sonnet with “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” and then proceeded to provide lots of examples
If I had similar talent, I would produce a sonnet that began “How is the Drug War a failure? Let me count the ways” because I also could give many examples.
- The War on Drugs is unjust because it requires the government to criminalize actions when there are no victims.
- The War on Drugs is a burden on taxpayers with untold billions of dollars spent on enforcement and incarceration.
- The War on Drugs is a boon to criminals and the underground economy.
- The War on Drugs diverts law enforcement resources from fighting crimes that have actual victims.
- The War on Drugs has been the main justification for intrusive and ineffective – yet still very costly – laws on money laundering.
- The War on Drugs is also the main justification for awful and reprehensible civil asset forfeiture laws.
- The War on Drugs also is the reason that non-drug users are grossly mistreated and even arrested.
- The War on Drugs turns otherwise law-abiding people into criminals.
- The War on Drugs is so misguided that it even resulted in the nearly unimaginable result of Clarence Thomas being on the wrong side of a Supreme Court decision and Ruth Bader Ginsburg being on the right side.
All this being said, legalizing drugs is about 99th on my list of 100 most-preferred policy reforms.
In part, this is because I’m stuffy and boring in my personal life and have never used drugs.
But I also worry about what will happen if we end drug prohibition while maintaining our bloated welfare state. The maze of handouts provided by Uncle Sam – for all intents and purposes – enables bad decisions. Would there be a significant number of people who basically drop out of society and become druggies while mooching off taxpayers?
Heck, I’m so libertarian I even worry that legalized drugs will even have bad fiscal policy effects since governments will figure out how to extract lots of tax revenue.
Though none of my concerns would prevent me from engaging in nullification if I wound up on a jury deciding a drug case.
And you’ll understand why I think we should get the government out of the business when you check out these details from a story in the Washington Post about someone whose life was turned upside down by the Drug War.
…a Florida man…was arrested when an officer mistook doughnut glaze for methamphetamine. Now Daniel Frederick Rushing is looking to sue the Orlando Police Department, which is also facing heat for its inaccurate roadside drug test.
When you read about what happened to him, you can understand why he’s unhappy.
Rushing told the Orlando Sentinel that he had been playing taxi driver for friends that day. He had just dropped off a neighbor at a hospital for a chemotherapy session and was giving another friend who worked at the 7-Eleven a ride home. But when officers saw Rushing go into the store twice without making a purchase, they grew suspicious. Officer Shelby Riggs-Hopkins followed Rushing’s car and pulled him over. …Riggs-Hopkins saw what she thought were drugs on the floorboard. “I recognized, through my 11 years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer, the substance to be some sort of narcotic,” Riggs-Hopkins wrote in the report. The officer retrieved several pieces of the white substance from the floorboard, ran a test and “received a positive indication for the presence of amphetamines.” Twice.
If this was the entire story, I would be upset. Why harass some guy if his only sin is being a drug user? He’s not hurting anyone else, so why not leave him alone?
And don’t Orlando cops have anything better to do than bust drug users? Are there really no murders, rapes, burglaries, and assaults in the city? You know, crimes that actually have victims.
But this isn’t the entire story.
As the officer placed Rushing in handcuffs and read him his rights, …“Rushing stated that the substance is sugar from a (Krispy) Kreme Donut that he ate.” …Still, Rushing was booked into jail and had to post $2,500 bail, according to court documents. He was vindicated a month later — and the meth possession charges were dropped — when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s chemistry section tested the substance found in his car. It detected no signs of drugs.
By the way, this wasn’t a one-time mistake.
The Washington Post column cites a related story from the New York Times that delved into the accuracy of roadside drug tests.
Data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab system show that 21 percent of evidence that the police listed as methamphetamine after identifying it was not methamphetamine, and half of those false
positives were not any kind of illegal drug at all. In one notable Florida episode, Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies produced 15 false positives for methamphetamine in the first seven months of 2014.
So the bottom line is that law enforcement resources are being misallocated, innocent people are having their lives wrecked, and government is being incompetent. That’s the holy trinity of big government.
But some people say we have to accept these awful consequences because decriminalization would lead to catastrophic results.
Not true, as Johan Norberg explains.
P.S. You may think only “crazy” libertarians favor liberalization, but there’s actually a very broad coalition of people who favor reform. Folks such as John Stossel, Gary Johnson, John McCain, Mona Charen, Pat Robertson, Cory Booker, Rick Perry, and Richard Branson.
P.P.S. For folks who don’t like having to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there’s a presidential candidate who has a very sensible view of the War on Drugs.