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Happy Drug Warrior No More:

Former Republican Representative Bob Barr was once a committed advocate of -- indeed, participant in -- the "war on drugs." One could assume that a change of heart was necessary for him to secure the Libertarian Party nomination for President. He explains why he now opposes the drug war here. An excerpt:

Bob Barr, formerly the War on Drugs loving, Wiccan mocking, Clinton impeaching Republican is the presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party.

Now, you may be asking how this happened and my answer is simple: "The libertarians won."

For more than three decades, the Libertarian Party and small "l" libertarians have done their part to prove to America that liberty is the answer to most of the problems that we face today. Over the past several years, I was one of the many people influenced by this small party.

Whether through the free market or by simply allowing families to make their own decisions regarding the education of their children, libertarians have taught us that liberty does truly work.

In stark contrast, when government attempts to solve our societal problems, it tends to create even more of them, often increasing the size and depth of the original problem. A perfect example of this is the federal War on Drugs.

For years, I served as a federal prosecutor and member of the House of Representatives defending the federal pursuit of the drug prohibition.

Today, I can reflect on my efforts and see no progress in stopping the widespread use of drugs. I'll even argue that America's drug problem is larger today than it was when Richard Nixon first coined the phrase, "War on Drugs," in 1972.

America's drug problem is only compounded by the vast amounts of money directed at this ongoing battle. In 2005, more than $12 billion dollars was spent on federal drug enforcement efforts while another $30 billion was spent to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders.

The result of spending all of those taxpayer's dollars? We now have a huge incarceration tab for non-violent drug offenders and, at most, a 30% interception rate of hard drugs. We are also now plagued with the meth labs that are popping up like poisonous mushrooms across the country.

While it is clear the War on Drugs has been a failure, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that reality. We need to look for solutions that deal with the drug problem without costly and intrusive government agencies, and instead allow for private industry and organizations to put forward solutions that address the real problems.

dearieme:
War on Drugs, War on Cancer, War on Terrorism - all rubbish; the clue is in the name. It's like "Project Hope"; it invites the question "Why are these lying liars lying to me?"
6.11.2008 7:54am
Vernunft (mail) (www):
And World War One wasn't a war of worlds. What a rip-off.
6.11.2008 7:56am
PersonFromPorlock:
So, Barr being a professional politician, we're left with the usual question: does he really believe what he's saying or is he just singing for his supper?
6.11.2008 8:06am
rbj:
Many alcohol prohibitionists came to see the error of their ways, no reason to doubt Barr here. Now only if people in power would come to the same conclusion.
6.11.2008 8:17am
Iolo:
"Politician Changes Views for Political Advantage" - wow, talk about dog bites man.

What a whore.
6.11.2008 8:43am
William Oliver (mail) (www):
lolo, is it your position that any person whose views on issues change as they get older is a "whore?"

I think you would have a hard time arguing that Bob Barr is doing this because he really thinks he has a chance at becoming president, nor that this is doing his career any good (as opposed to staying as a mainstream Republican party affiliate).

It's easy to call people whores, but I think that all the evidence here is the opposite. Barr is destroying his career in elected politics and taking a stance with a marginal party on the basis of principle. You might disagree with his positions (and I do in many things, though I agree with him on this one), but this is anything but being a "whore."
6.11.2008 8:48am
krs:
Does Bob Barr no longer mock Wiccans? If so, that's unfortunate.
6.11.2008 8:55am
Boose:
problem is, he still thinks that there is a "drug problem". The biggest part of the "drug problem" is the government interfering with a market. I'm sure that once companies started marketing drugs that are currently illegal, large portions of the problem, especially the gangs associated with drug distribution, would diminish greatly.
6.11.2008 8:56am
corneille1640 (mail):

I'm sure that once companies started marketing drugs that are currently illegal, large portions of the problem, especially the gangs associated with drug distribution, would diminish greatly.



Who knows....maybe some members of these gangs will go legit and their sons will become senators and presidents.
6.11.2008 9:00am
Tyrant King Porn Dragon (mail):

Whether through the free market or by simply allowing families to make their own decisions regarding the education of their children, libertarians have taught us that liberty does truly work.

Um. How are those "libertarian" achievements? Not every government policy that increases individual freedom can be traced to libertarian influence. In fact, I'd be surprised if the Libertarian Party has had any influence on government policy whatsoever.
6.11.2008 9:02am
FantasiaWHT:
Except the locking up "nonviolent" drug offenders has been at least a partial cause of the drop all crimes, violent and nonviolent.
6.11.2008 9:08am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
Anyone who thinks he changed his stance for political advantage, when that 'advantage' is being the Libertarian Party candidate for President has lost more than a few marbles.
6.11.2008 9:13am
JK:
bornyesterday took it out of my mouth, what it the world "political advantage" could we possibly be talking about here? Running for President as the Libertarian candidate sounds more like ritual humiliation than a career move.
6.11.2008 10:09am
ejo:
the same old non-violent drug offender blah blah blah. it's nonsense.
6.11.2008 10:14am
LTEC (mail) (www):
We know that Barr is against "the war on drugs", but what is he for? Does he want to legalize cocaine and meth and heroin? He doesn't say what laws he wants to pass or repeal! All he says is that he likes the idea of private companies testing their employees for drugs -- that is, a whole lot of private wars on drugs -- but he doesn't explain exactly what he expects to be the result of this.
6.11.2008 10:54am
The Unbeliever:
America's drug problem is only compounded by the vast amounts of money directed at this ongoing battle. In 2005, more than $12 billion dollars was spent on federal drug enforcement efforts while another $30 billion was spent to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders.
Well, why don't we take a vote, and ask the populace at large if they want all those "non-violent drug offenders" to be released from jail into the community? Any guesses on what the outcome would be?

$30 billion may be a lot, but given the federal budget's current size, I have a hard time railing against high spending in one of the few legitimate areas of government expenditure (law enforcement).
6.11.2008 10:56am
Jiminy (mail):
Whit had a great comment on another thread - how many serious crimes are reduced to simple possession or other non-violent offenses based on plea bargaining w/ a prosecutor. "Give us the name of your dealer, and we'll reduce your sentence to 1 year instead of 10." The statistics don't really give a clear picture based on that simple fact alone.
6.11.2008 10:56am
Mark Buehner (mail):
I think you guys are missing the point- if the drug charge wasnt a charge at all, we're not having this conversation. You dont need to cut a deal, because the big fish dealer doesnt exist either. We remove huge incentives to be a rich, hyperviolant, drug king-pin.

If somebody knocks over a liquor store for drug money, you lock him up for armed robbery for 20 years instead of cutting him a deal to go after Scarface and a nice front page article of how great the cops are doing at taking down the dealers.

Personally i'd rather live in a world where Scarface is replaced by Walgreens and we are locking up violent felons for violent crimes instead of cutting them loose to go after big fish that only exist because of the prohibition. When was the last time Al Capone menaced Chicago btw?
6.11.2008 11:08am
EH (mail):
Who knows....maybe some members of these gangs will go legit and their sons will become senators and presidents.

...and Libertarians.
6.11.2008 11:13am
jcr:
Don't fool yourselves, guys. Running for President is often the ultimate exercise in narcissism. When you're Bob Barr, you have no future in the Republican Party - why not try to get some air time at debates? You can come in a respectable third and then rake the speaking fees in later years.

I'm not saying that's what he's doing, but I think the "he couldn't possibly be pandering" canard is weak. There's really no reason apart from principle NOT to run for President on the libertarian ticket. I know I - as a non-libertarian - would do it in a heartbeat, and Barr has about the same chance as I do of going anywhere in the Republican party.
6.11.2008 11:16am
ejo:
uh, the mob is still alive and well in Chicago. again, the poster above who said put it to a vote got it right-although, of course, I might vote favorably if the junkies and dope fiends would stay on chicago's south and west side. I don't live there-what do I care if they ruin those neighborhoods.
6.11.2008 11:20am
JK:
Jiminy,
I really dislike that argument, we can't start treating people based on what a prosecutor initially charged them with. If you are convicted of or plea to a non-violent crime then you are a non-violent offender, period. Just as often as offenders "getting of on" a lesser charge, the prosecutor initially way over-charges the crime. There is simply no way of knowing the validity of the initial charge vs. the plea, so if you weren't convicted of a violent crime, you shouldn't be treated as if you did (prohibitively long jail sentences). Punishing people for crimes they were not convicted of is a very dangerous road.

While I accept that the current plea bargaining system is a necessary evil (it would be ridiculously expensive to try every, or even a majority, of cases), prosecutors shouldn't, and the good ones don't, reduce truly violent crimes to low-grade non-violent pleas.
6.11.2008 11:28am
Mark Buehner (mail):
uh, the mob is still alive and well in Chicago.


1.They dont literally run the city like the did during prohibition. Go watch The Untouchables.
2.They sure as hell dont survive by selling booze.
3.They survive largely BY SELLING &DISTRIBUTING DRUGS.

Ironic, isnt it.
6.11.2008 11:34am
Zywicki (mail):
This raises a question of intellectual migrations--does anyone know how common it is for drug prohibitionists to become legalizers, versus the other way around? My impression--although perhaps biased by what I happen to notice or because of the relative sizes of the original groups--is that people are more likely to intellectually migrate from prohibitionist to legalization.

Also, Barr does seem to raise the big question for prohibitionists--what exactly is their argument for believing that the drug war can be "won"? Is there any reasonable basis to believe that this will turn out differently from alcohol prohibition in the end? Or is the argument that the drug war is about containment, not winning?
6.11.2008 11:41am
ejo:
WRONG-the black/mexican gangs control the drugs. the old style mob does the politicians/municipal contracting. must not know much about chicago if you think the Mob doesn't still run the show. of course, the B/M gangs now have their captive politicians and judges as well by controlling their respective voting blocs. I don't know if the drug war can be won in any way-I just don't want them on my streets and in my neighborhoods. I don't care if they ruin others.
6.11.2008 11:55am
RobertG:
I too supported the war on drugs for many years. Then I started to tire of it and saw it was doing little if any good. And now just in the last couple of years I have seen two families devastated by faulty drug raids and charges. And in both cases when it became apparent the charges and suspicion were unfounded they were told "but if you could only see the damage drugs do".

And now just this year I had a policeman search my car even though I did NOT give him permission. And when I tried to file a complaint I was told "No harm, No foul". It is too high a price we pay.
6.11.2008 11:57am
Iolo:
lolo, is it your position that any person whose views on issues change as they get older is a "whore?"

It is my position that someone who got pwned in a past election, and who would sink into total political obscurity if he maintained his previous views, and who changes his views in a desperate attempt to remain in the limelight, is a whore.

It's easy to call people whores, but I think that all the evidence here is the opposite. Barr is destroying his career in elected politics and taking a stance with a marginal party on the basis of principle.

Balderdash. His career as a conservative Republican was deader than disco. Transforming himself into a libertarian, long shot though that is, was the only way to get any attention whatsoever. He could hardly suddenly pretend to be a liberal Democrat, after all.

Only five years ago his "principles" were completely different. Get real, he is a whore.
6.11.2008 12:04pm
musefree (www):

Um. How are those "libertarian" achievements? Not every government policy that increases individual freedom can be traced to libertarian influence. In fact, I'd be surprised if the Libertarian Party has had any influence on government policy whatsoever.

I believe Barr was making a reference to the libertarian ideology here and not the Libertarian party.
6.11.2008 12:20pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
I realize that legalizing drugs would reduce the profits in illegal drug distribution. But would those that are inclined towards criminality, or those that have a comparative advantage in criminal enterprises just turn to the next most lucrative alternative? Some would surely "go straight." As an upper middle class suburbanite, I don't feel the consequenses of the drug war too badly. What if gangs start demanding protection money from me for not spraying Roundup on my hydrangias or what if they infiltrate the lawn care industry?

I'm only half-kidding. I guess that, like today, the rich would be better able to insulate themselves from crime than the poor. Still, I wonder if the drug war isn't often opposed in theory by suburbanites, but supported in practice because the costs are concentrated in the places they don't live, but the benefits (making illegal drugs slightly more scarce/expensive) may keep a few suburban kids off drugs.

I guess I'd expect an overall drop in crime (primarily drug crime) if we repeal drug prohibition, but also a substitution to other crimes, with potentially different distribution of costs.
6.11.2008 12:35pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
WRONG-the black/mexican gangs control the drugs.

In their neighborhoods certainly. If you dont think the mafia is heavy into drugs you've been watching the godfather too much.

You must not know much about chicago if you think the Mob doesn't still run the show.

Heh. Sure, i dont know much about Chicago. I'm not going to get into a virtual pissing contest with you, but i'm pretty confident i have more first hand experience with how this city runs than you do. The Daleys run this city with more power than the outfit ever had. They have their businesses and their neighborhoods, but again you sound like you get your information from Law and Order episodes. If there are a hundred made men left in town i'd be shocked, in fact i know for a fact their arent. If you think DiFronzo meets Daley in dark alleyways to drop off envelopes youve seen too many movies. Chicago is as corrupt as you'll find, but its white collar these days. Friends and family get contracts steered to them, but guys arent getting their legs broken for not delivering a construction project for the most part. The outfit runs this city about as much as the Vatican does.

Regardless, the point is the Mafia was by far, and without question at is most powerful during prohibition and because of prohibition. Prohibition creates organized crimes and gangs as surely as water is wet.
6.11.2008 12:36pm
BobDoyle (mail):
Iolo: If I were not philosophically disposed to give people the benefit of the doubt and to interpret their behavior in the most charitable light possible until one knows for sure otherwise, I might think that you are a small-and-closed-minded, mean-spirited misanthrope who offers society nothing of redeeming value. However, I prefer to presume until I know certainly otherwise that you are perhaps having a bad day and that future commentaries will be more charitable and constructive.
6.11.2008 12:41pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
I guess I'd expect an overall drop in crime (primarily drug crime) if we repeal drug prohibition, but also a substitution to other crimes, with potentially different distribution of costs.

Look at things from an economic point of view. Drugs create resources for criminals because they are extremely profitable. They also create a huge incentive for crime, again, because they are extremely profitable.

Implicit in your post is the idea that criminals are criminals and if they cant rob a bank, theyll burn down a building just for kicks. That may be true in some ways, but that is a small percentage of the problem. Most people (even criminals, even dopers) are rational actors to some extant. If slinging crack or selling pot out of your locker gives you money and status in your community that you cant find elsewhere, its lucrative. The alternative may or may not be, but it doesnt follow that an absence of crime leads to different crimes. You can follow the percentage of locked up young men in an urban area from the invention of crack like a graph. If your theory was sound there would have been just as much crime before crack but in other 'fields', and all those criminals would move to selling crack leading to a decline in other crimes. That didnt happen- in fact the crack crisis created all kinds of additional unrelated crime (certainly something to do with the breakdown of social law and order).
6.11.2008 12:47pm
Iolo:
Oh, blah blah blah. I guess it is small minded and mean-spirited to point out the obvious now. Too bad. If you prefer to assume that politicians invariably act from principle - even when those principles change profoundly in a short period of time after a painful reverse in political fortunes - that is hopelessly naive your privilege.

Just because you like the new "principles" he recently switched to, does not mean he isn't a whore.
6.11.2008 12:50pm
BobDoyle (mail):
Iolo, again you seem to presume the worst. I am not a libertarian (although I do have some libertarian tendencies), and I am neither a supporter nor an opponent of Mr. Barr. And, although I tend to agree with Milton Friedman and others on the issue of legalization of drugs, I did not write what I did because I "like the new 'principles' he [Barr] switched to" but rather because I thought your approach assuming the worst of a person was both off-putting and, inevitably, an ineffective way of convincing others of your position, if you had one (other than that Mr. Barr is a "whore.")
6.11.2008 1:10pm
whit:

problem is, he still thinks that there is a "drug problem".


correct. fwiw, imo there are two schools o' thought among the eliminate/fix the drug war, legalize/decrim crowd, and barr falls in the former below

the first thinks pretty much all illegal drugs (marijuana, etc.) are BAD and people would be better off not using them ever, etc. but that the war on drugs as a 'solution' is worse than the problem. iow, one can be for legalization/decrim of mj (and/or more "hard drugs") without thinking that they are the least bit benign or can be used responsibly.

the 2nd camp thinks some, many, all of the drugs currently illegal should also be legal/decrim because they aren't "bad" if used responsibly, and they can be used responsibly. iow, mj used occasionally and recreationally isn't BAD any more than alcohol, caffeine, etc. used responsibly are.

the 1st and 2nd camps are reluctant comrades in the war against the war against drugs.

i generally fall into the latter camp. personally, for example, i think mj is "hella lame" and not benign, but a joint on the weekend is no worse than a couple of beers. although i would never smoke mj if it was legal, because i think it's lame.

i also think cocaine can be used responsibly, but is riskier than mj for a # of reasons.

either way, i think it's retarded to jail drug users
6.11.2008 1:14pm
PLR:
Nothing frees up a politician to talk crazy talk stake out an unambiguous policy position like an election he has no chance of winning.
6.11.2008 1:19pm
dejapooh (mail):
Didn't Amsterdam let go of the war on drugs? What was the result of that? From memory, I would say there were positive and negative things that happened. Someone with more information?
6.11.2008 1:37pm
Ken Arromdee:
If you are convicted of or plea to a non-violent crime then you are a non-violent offender, period.

That is true on a personal level. But it doesn't make sense when discussing the penal system in general. If a lot of "nonviolent drug offenders" actually plea-bargained their way down from violent crimes, then it's wrong to claim that the penal system is just imprisoning people who didn't do anything but smoke some pot. It's imprisoning people who haven't been convicted of more than that, but who usually did more than that.
6.11.2008 1:42pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Prohibition was repealed because the people were tired of it and wanted a change.

Is their any indication that a majority of the people want drugs legalized? At best pot use for "medical" purposes is supported and I bet Ohio, for instance, would vote against even that.
6.11.2008 1:43pm
Jam:
Bob Barr changed his position with regards to FEDERAL drug laws many years ago. It is not a recent event.
6.11.2008 2:14pm
Iolo:
your approach assuming the worst of a person was both off-putting and, inevitably, an ineffective way of convincing others of your position, if you had one (other than that Mr. Barr is a "whore.")

I don't really care whether or not others find this observation convincing.

Bob Barr changed his position with regards to FEDERAL drug laws many years ago. It is not a recent event.

As recently as 2002, he trumpeted "the constitutional right and responsibility of Congress to pass laws protecting citizens from dangerous and addictive narcotics, and the right of Congress to exert legislative control over the District of Columbia as the nation's capital."

According to wiki, only this month did he come out in favor of medical marijuana.
6.11.2008 2:22pm
Jam:
I have been aware of his change in FEDERAl drug issues over a year ago. That is partly how he ended up joining forces with the ACLU.

Re. DC: Congress has plenary powers over DC, right?
6.11.2008 2:32pm
BobDoyle (mail):
If you do not care whether or not others find your observations convincing, is your only purpose in posting in such a mean-spirited and uncharitable way to intentionally offend others?
6.11.2008 2:34pm
whit:

"the constitutional right and responsibility of Congress to pass laws protecting citizens from dangerous and addictive narcotics, and the right of Congress to exert legislative control over the District of Columbia as the nation's capital."

According to wiki, only this month did he come out in favor of medical marijuana.



to be fair, there is nothing in the above quote that is inconsistent with being in favor of medical mj.

not to mention that mj is not a narcotic, but that's a bit picky

even if it was, it's still not inconsistent
6.11.2008 2:39pm
pete (mail) (www):

the first thinks pretty much all illegal drugs (marijuana, etc.) are BAD and people would be better off not using them ever, etc. but that the war on drugs as a 'solution' is worse than the problem. iow, one can be for legalization/decrim of mj (and/or more "hard drugs") without thinking that they are the least bit benign or can be used responsibly.


I pretty much fall into this camp, with the exception of marajuana, which I would classify at about the same level of bad consequences as alcohol. I think the pro-legalizers do their cause a disservice when they act like there will not be negative consequnces if drugs are legalized. You make drugs legal and the use will go up and that will cause a lot of problems since many of these drugs are highly addictive, contribute to lots of very bad decision making, and have severe health consequences including death.

I was one of those suburban teenagers who only drank alcohol very occasionally until I was 21 and only tried pot once to see what it was like when I knew there was no chance I would get caught. I had a lot of fun doing these things, but was afraid of getting caught and punished and so stayed away from them for the most part. Some of the people I knew went ahead and did it anyways, but I also had a lot of friends in high school and college who did the same thing I did and stayed away primarily for fear of punishment.
6.11.2008 2:45pm
whit:

I pretty much fall into this camp, with the exception of marajuana, which I would classify at about the same level of bad consequences as alcohol. I think the pro-legalizers do their cause a disservice when they act like there will not be negative consequnces if drugs are legalized. You make drugs legal and the use will go up and that will cause a lot of problems since many of these drugs are highly addictive, contribute to lots of very bad decision making, and have severe health consequences including death.



i am in the other camp (i think many drugs that are illegal can be used responsibly), however i appreciate your pov.

the one thing i disagree with is that making these drugs legal (and./or decrim;ing) will make their use go up.

i think that MAY be true, otoh it may not

i hesitate to assume that's true. it may be similar to the myth that "more guns = more violent crime" that many anti-gunners make.

i also think there's a good argument that making them legal decreases the chances they will be abused, since many will be able to be used with doctor oversight, and they don't have the same desirability. frankly, the fact that they are illegal makes them desirable for a lot of people.

in regards to MJ, it is both non-addictive (physically) and there is no LD50 - iow, you can't die from it. you could die from cancer, but MJ doesn't need to be smoked.

again, i think mj is LAME, but i think Zima is lame too :)
6.11.2008 3:10pm
Fub:
whit wrote at 6.11.2008 12:14pm:
the 1st and 2nd camps are reluctant comrades in the war against the war against drugs.

i generally fall into the latter camp. ...
I think that some in the first camp (drugs are terrible but prohibition makes them worse) have taken that position because they have found the second camp to be more likely to attract factually false and entirely personal attacks which inhibit further rational dialog. IOW some are closet members of the second camp.

Very few discussions of drug prohibition, here or elsewhere, do not include at least one accusation along the lines of "you just want to legalize drugs so you can take them with impunity". That accusation is either a conversation stopper or a flame war igniter. In either case it makes rational discourse difficult at best.

The second camp's position (some drugs are not very harmful) tends to attract that accusation, even if they have no inclination to use any drug, including legal ones. I have seen this happen frequently in both cyberspace and meatspace. Joining the first camp is sometimes just a preemptive defense tactic necessary to make rational conversation even possible.
6.11.2008 3:25pm
whit:
fub, this is very true. i am also very disheartened by all the 2nd campers who spout junk science to "make their case". ideologues in ANY subject tend to do so, from feminists, to gay advocates, to intelligent design advocates, etc.

and even as somebody who is pro mj legalization (or at least decrim), i am noticing that a fair amount of pretty robust research is starting to come out that is not exactly positive for mj to put it mildly.

and the slippery slopers are correct. many who are for (for example) medical MJ ***are*** using it as a slippery slope for full blown legalization (which is support), but to deny the slippery slope (which many legalization advocates do) is also disingenuous.
6.11.2008 3:39pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
Thats very true. The intersting thing about the drug war is the level of propoganda that accompanies it. Even outright misinformation. I have a problem on a base level with lying to people, particuarly students, even in an effort to protect them. Its bound to backfire. I know when i found out through personal observation that pot was more likely to make you eat a bag of cheetos than to jump off a roof, i began questioning a whole lot of things i was told. I suspect it is not unheard of to wonder if heroin or meth is really as bad as its made out to be or just more anti-drug hysterics. We have done a terrible disservice to several generations.
6.11.2008 3:40pm
pete (mail) (www):

again, i think mj is LAME, but i think Zima is lame too :)


You are right that Zima is lame. It is however a very impressive way to market malt liquor to yuppy white people.

I am pretty sure that in places like Amersterdam the use has gone up, but that might be because Amersterdam was a destination for those who wanted to use legally. I hope you are right that if legalized the use won't increase that much, but I think casual use at least will. I suspect that the use of alcohol went up after prohibition ended (with the coinciding bad effects) because people like me would have increased their consumption once it became legal, but accurate stats for blackmarket items are hard to come by.

Unfortunately there will always be a large minority of people who can not control their drug and alcohol use and these people's actions have very negative consequences on themselves and others. Any legalization program will have to take this into account if it wants to gain popular support. I suspect that the vast majority of the population (including suburbanites) knows people, at least casually, whose lives were really messed up by illegal drugs. You are going to have to convince them that legalizing drugs on the balance won't lead to a lot more destroyed lives.
6.11.2008 3:43pm
hattio1:
Pete,
Like whit I want to question your assumption that drug use will go up if legalized. I've heard (but have no cites, and don't really know if it's true) that typically when drugs are legalized use goes up initially but then drops below previous levels. This makes sense to me. Those who haven't tried because of fear of legal troubles might try it, but as they are not risk-takers in general, most won't want to be impaired frequently, and assume all the risks that being impaired entails.
I've heard that use of hard drugs has gone up in Amsterdam, but that is mostly from immigrants who move there to use legally. Again, I don't know if that's true, but it makes sense to me (at least for nearby countries).
6.11.2008 3:45pm
whit:
mark,


Thats very true. The intersting thing about the drug war is the level of propoganda that accompanies it. Even outright misinformation. I have a problem on a base level with lying to people, particuarly students, even in an effort to protect them. Its bound to backfire. I know when i found out through personal observation that pot was more likely to make you eat a bag of cheetos than to jump off a roof, i began questioning a whole lot of things i was told. I suspect it is not unheard of to wonder if heroin or meth is really as bad as its made out to be or just more anti-drug hysterics. We have done a terrible disservice to several generations.



this is totally true. let's get real. DARE is total propaganda. and much of the what the DEA puts out is too. and don't even get me started on the mass media. congress with their anti-ephedrine anti-scientific hype was the last straw.

i've worked a long time undercover, hung out with a lot of dopers, and most of the anti-drug propaganda/lies HURT the cause of trying to decreaase drug abuse. it's boy who cried wolf. when you lie to people about one drug (mj and/or cocaine), then that makes people suspect you about everything.

i can state one thing about meth...

i know (especially whne i was undercover) tons of people who use all sorts of drugs recreationally and responsibly - from mj to cocaine, to LSD, etc. many, if not most, do not regret trying these drugs, and the only major negative they face is risk of getting caught. meth is the exception.

meth is FINALLY the drug that is as bad, or worse than the propagandists claimed about other drugs. the problem is they lied for so long, that nobody believes them.

almost every meth user i have ever met becomes addicted relatively quickly, and nearly all regret ever trying it. it really is that bad. not that i think meth users should be sent to jail, but meth IS the drug yer mommy warned you about.

a lot of the hype about meth labs blowin' up etc. is a bit overhyped. the hype about the noxiousness of the chemicals is not.
6.11.2008 4:11pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
I've heard nothing but horror stories about meth. I recommend the movie The Salton Sea with Val Kilmer for a look at life as a tweaker. Its not glamorous.

It brings up an interesting point- what to do about a drug that really, truly is almost certain to ruin your life, even with just a few uses.

My thought is that if you legalize every substance (its not really as crazy as it sounds, drug prohibition is actually a very new phenomenon. Like, 20th century new- a testament to the drug war that that sounds so radical to modern ears) you have a ton more money to spend on honest prevention and rehab. You remove the legal stigma of drug use that glamorizes it, and replace it with a social stigma... ie- you dont want to be like Uncle Ron, the meth adict with no teeth, its not secret and lurid anymore. I think that level of honestly and sunlight would cut down the number of experimenters with hardcore drugs. Especially since you can focus your efforts and resources. Pot sells itself, we're wasting money making that the front line. Being a toothless hillbilly tweaker that doesnt sleep and argues with furniture, on the other hand, is an image you can really pound into people's heads and get results.
6.11.2008 4:40pm
BT:
I was driving through beautiful &exotic Summit,IL today and on the bumper of the police car in front of me was the statement, "This police car was bought &paid for with the assets seized from a drug dealer."

It will be awfully hard to get cops and other government agencies to give up the goodies they get through the war on drugs.
6.11.2008 5:00pm
CheckEnclosed (mail):
The primary reason that the War On Drugs should be ended is that freedom to use the drugs you want to is good in of itself, and the State ought not to abridge that freedom.

It just so happens that prohibition of things people like to use does not work, with the War On Drugs being a prime example, along with prohibition of alcohol. The government's relation to tobacco (provide subsidies to those who grow it, impose regressive taxes on those who use it, sue the companies that sell it, stiff the lawyers on their fees) is almost comically dysfunctional.

Still, the perfect need not be the enemy of the good. For many years, absinthe was illegal in the U.S., while other alcoholic beverages were not. Very few organized crime types set up absinthe organizations. Quite possibly, we could legalize all drugs excpet, say, crystal meth. with no worse outcome than the ban on absinthe had. Further, there is no reason to treat a merchant who sells adulterated cocaine any better than one who sellls adulterated milk or penicillin.
6.11.2008 5:24pm
Oren:
Quite possibly, we could legalize all drugs excpet, say, crystal meth. with no worse outcome than the ban on absinthe had.
My intuition is that if you legalize MJ, cocaine and the hallucinogenics (LSD, shrooms, *-DMT, *-AMT) there will be little demand for anything harder Then again, I can't really back that up (I'll at least be honest about it).

Opiates are an issue though.
6.11.2008 6:14pm
Fub:
BT wrote at 6.11.2008 4:00pm:
It will be awfully hard to get cops and other government agencies to give up the goodies they get through the war on drugs.
Much harder than that. I just pointed out this fact on the DRUG OFFENDERS IN PRISON thread, but I'll do it again.

The chief drug law enforcement officer of the nation, Director of ONDCP, is required by law to take any measures necessary to prevent any Schedule I drug from being legalized. The ONDCP already has your tax dollars and mine to bankroll the political opposition to ending prohibition.

See 21 U.S.C. Section 1703(b)(12):
[The ONDCP Director] shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 812 of this title and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that—
(A) is listed in schedule I of section 812 of this title; and
(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;
6.11.2008 6:21pm
Joshua:
Also, Barr does seem to raise the big question for prohibitionists--what exactly is their argument for believing that the drug war can be "won"? Is there any reasonable basis to believe that this will turn out differently from alcohol prohibition in the end? Or is the argument that the drug war is about containment, not winning?

When it comes to drug prohibitionists, that last statement rings most true to me. Or to be more precise, it's just another culture war - using the power of the law to keep drugs so stigmatized that they never go mainstream and start influencing the national culture.

The worst part is, the prohibitionists actually have a point there. Without the influence of LSD, marijuana and other illegal drugs to introduce a cachet of rebelliousness and otherwise liven things up, the radical student movement of the late 1960s would probably have lost its appeal and flamed out by the mid-1970s (assuming it ever caught on in the first place), before it ever had a chance to poison the larger American culture, and by extension American politics. On the other hand, if those drugs were legal and generally available to the masses at that time, America may well have become an explicitly transnational socialist state by now.
6.11.2008 7:01pm
whit:

It will be awfully hard to get cops and other government agencies to give up the goodies they get through the war on drugs.



to some extent this is unfortunately true. govt. agencies by their very nature seek to extend their power, influence, and budget. plus, i can state firsthand being a narcotics detective is FUN. the grants are good too, not to mention the seizures.

however... there are a pretty fair # of cops who think the war on mj (at a minimum) is ridiculous and could not care less about mj.

this is true even of some DEA agents i have spoken to.

my first cop boss (small town police chief) told me flat out - "whit, i could not care less if people are smoking marijuana in their homes."

many jurisdictions have de facto (if not de jure) decrim'd it ALREADY. seattle city council passed something making it a "low priority" for their cops, many jurisdiction treat possession of relatively small amounts as a civil infraction (minor fine), and i can tell you a LOT of cops when they catch people with a "minor amount of bud" have the people dump it on the street in front of them instead of citing them.

this is an incremental step in the right direction, and is occurring on the state and local level. the feds are still gung ho, schedule I all the way unfortunately.

but back to the main point, there are a lot of cops, and even many cop administrators who would like to do real police work, and leave the stoners alone
6.11.2008 7:08pm
BT:
Here is another goodie: there is usually a lot of cash around when the bust goes down. Given human nature, given the track record of many police depts, etc. I think it is fair to say that some of that cash never gets declared and gets split up amoung the chosen few. Tax free. That is a nice goodie. A friend of mines father was a retired Chicago vice cop. According to my friend, he was a millionaire primarily due to getting his take over the years. So there is another incentive to keep the status quo.
6.11.2008 7:36pm
Uthaw:
An excellent essay against legalization.


In claiming that prohibition, not the drugs themselves, is the problem, Nadelmann and many others—even policemen—have said that "the war on drugs is lost." But to demand a yes or no answer to the question "Is the war against drugs being won?" is like demanding a yes or no answer to the question "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" Never can an unimaginative and fundamentally stupid metaphor have exerted a more baleful effect upon proper thought.

Let us ask whether medicine is winning the war against death. The answer is obviously no, it isn't winning: the one fundamental rule of human existence remains, unfortunately, one man one death. And this is despite the fact that 14 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States (to say nothing of the efforts of other countries) goes into the fight against death. Was ever a war more expensively lost? Let us then abolish medical schools, hospitals, and departments of public health. If every man has to die, it doesn't matter very much when he does so.

If the war against drugs is lost, then so are the wars against theft, speeding, incest, fraud, rape, murder, arson, and illegal parking. Few, if any, such wars are winnable. So let us all do anything we choose.

Even the legalizers' argument that permitting the purchase and use of drugs as freely as Milton Friedman suggests will necessarily result in less governmental and other official interference in our lives doesn't stand up. To the contrary, if the use of narcotics and stimulants were to become virtually universal, as is by no means impossible, the number of situations in which compulsory checks upon people would have to be carried out, for reasons of public safety, would increase enormously. Pharmacies, banks, schools, hospitals—indeed, all organizations dealing with the public—might feel obliged to check regularly and randomly on the drug consumption of their employees. The general use of such drugs would increase the locus standi of innumerable agencies, public and private, to interfere in our lives; and freedom from interference, far from having increased, would have drastically shrunk.

The present situation is bad, undoubtedly; but few are the situations so bad that they cannot be made worse by a wrong policy decision.

The extreme intellectual elegance of the proposal to legalize the distribution and consumption of drugs, touted as the solution to so many problems at once (AIDS, crime, overcrowding in the prisons, and even the attractiveness of drugs to foolish young people) should give rise to skepticism. Social problems are not usually like that. Analogies with the Prohibition era, often drawn by those who would legalize drugs, are false and inexact: it is one thing to attempt to ban a substance that has been in customary use for centuries by at least nine-tenths of the adult population, and quite another to retain a ban on substances that are still not in customary use, in an attempt to ensure that they never do become customary. Surely we have already slid down enough slippery slopes in the last 30 years without looking for more such slopes to slide down.
6.11.2008 11:35pm
Allen Asch (mail) (www):
Bob Barr has been moving this way for quite awhile. I remember seeing him address an ACLU membership conference in 2004 where he got a chilly reception from the ACLU members when he was introduced, but got strong applause by the end of his speech. In fact, video of Bob Barr's entire speech to that ACLU conference in 2004 is available at:

http://www.aclu.org/2004memberconf/live/july8.html

Also at that link, by the way, is video of speeches to the 2004 ACLU conference from Coleen Rowley, Kenneth Starr, Barry Lynn, Wayne LaPierre, Howard Dean, and Richard Clarke, among others....
6.12.2008 12:43am
TokyoTom (mail):
Jon, thanks for posting this. However, it's a disappointment and a shame that Barr hasn't taken this opportunity to lay out a REAL anti-drug war position, that explains all of the horrific costs of the drug war and tackles straight on the need to get the feds out of the banning, interdiction and sowing corruption businesses.

What he's written up here ignores the main issues and is no act of courage (and involves little principle). What a shame.
6.12.2008 1:38am
fishbane (mail):
i know (especially whne i was undercover) tons of people who use all sorts of drugs recreationally and responsibly - from mj to cocaine, to LSD, etc. many, if not most, do not regret trying these drugs, and the only major negative they face is risk of getting caught. meth is the exception

Ditto. I know a fair number of recreational users of various things (almost all professionals with incomes well up the curve), some more exotic than others (and some of those are still legal), and the only thing that got people in trouble was meth. Sadly, the people I'm thinking of went to hell so quickly that nobody could really help. One suicide, one in jail.

You're absolutely right - lots of people are silly about the danger of drugs, but meth is the drug that mother should have warned you about. I'd rather be around alcoholics - they don't die as quickly, and are sometimes amusing.
6.12.2008 2:11am
whit:

You're absolutely right - lots of people are silly about the danger of drugs, but meth is the drug that mother should have warned you about. I'd rather be around alcoholics - they don't die as quickly, and are sometimes amusing.



also, i'd way rather be around stoners than alcoholics. the former are generally less violent, less pathetic, less dangerous, and less destructive.
6.12.2008 10:17am
FWB (mail):
Rhetorical question:

Why was the 18th amendment of the Constitution required since it appears Congress can just ban anything it desires?
6.12.2008 1:14pm
Oren:
FWB, under the precedent at the time, yes.

but back to the main point, there are a lot of cops, and even many cop administrators who would like to do real police work, and leave the stoners alone
Absolutely they'd "like to", but if the city council slashes your budget while demanding more hours, something has got to give. Money ain't nothing.
6.12.2008 1:29pm