Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's Time for the Federal Government to Abandon the Drug War

By Bob Barr, Huffington Post, Posted on September 18, 2008

As both a U.S. Attorney and Member of Congress, I defended drug prohibition. But it has become increasingly clear to me, after much study, that our current strategy has not worked and will not work. The other candidates for president prefer not to address this issue, but ignoring the failure of existing policy exhibits both a poverty of thought and an absence of political courage. The federal government must turn the decision on drug policy back to the states and the citizens themselves. (link)


Like William F. Buckley, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin and tens of millions of other Americans, I have "tried" marijuana. Unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale. Unlike Sarah Palin, I did enjoy it.

The War on Drugs has been a failure. I think ending the prohibition against marijuana would be a good place to start in changing our drug policy. Marijuana is a harmless drug. It is absolutely ridiculous that society continues to ruin lives and waste millions of dollars arresting and jailing people for engaging in such a harmless activity. If we had more marijuana and less alcohol the world would be a better place. Maybe, if marijuana was legal, more people would choose to get high rather than drunk. The worst thing you can say about marijuana is that it makes people have a stupid grin on their face and think that Oreo cookies are the best thing they ever tasted. People stoned on marijuana are not prone to domestic violence or barroom brawls. Stoned people find life amusing and, by and large, are easygoing and peaceful. Marijuana may be a net plus for society.

It time to end the asinine policy of pot prohibition. It is time to end the hypocrisy. Millions of Americans routinely engage in the harmless activity of smoking pot but yet have to lie about it. If they don't lie about it they may get arrested, or lose their job, or lose visitation rights or custody of their kids. I suspect that a lot of people who hold important jobs and are accomplished and responsible people routinely smoke a little dope. But, they cannot say, "yeah, I like to get stoned every once in a while." They may say that in their youth they "tried" the drug, but they do not admit to currently using it.

Making millions of people be liars and hypocrites is the least of the things wrong with our drug policy. People really do get a police record or go to jail or lose their jobs or lose child visitation rights because of using marijuana. Millions and millions of dollars are spend on law enforcement to prohibit people from engaging in a victim-less crime. Police resources are wasted on enforcing pot prohibition rather than concentrating on real crimes. I also suspect that the prohibition against marijuana weakens the ability to control other really harmful drugs. If you tell a young person that marijuana is harmful and then they discover you lied to them, why should they believe you when you tell them that crack is harmful?

Possession of small quantities of marijuana should not be a crime. Dealers should be licensed and taxed. Marijuana should be treated like tobacco or alcohol. More harmful drugs should be treated primarily as a health concern rather than a law enforcement issue. We should spend more on honest drug education and treatment and less on punishing the user. We should end the war on drugs and admit that drugs won.

I am not supporting Bob Barr for President, but I am pleased to see he is talking common sense about our irrational counterproductive War on Drugs.

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  1. Rod, sorry, while I agree with a lot of this post with regards to the failures on the drug war - considering all the research I've done, MJ is not as harmless as you think. It is the most commonly used gateway drug on the market. There are forms of MJ on the market today that make the stuff you and I smoked back in the day look like regular cigarettes. The stuff is 10x stronger than anything you and I smoked and they are mixing it with everything from PCP to cocaine.

    The problem with this war on drugs is that they are going after the wrong people. Instead of the users - they need to be hitting the producers. The users are the victims in this war.

    I did a presentation on this at the University of Minnesota last year. I'm working on getting this study published.

  2. I agree that MJ should be legalized. It is no worse(from what I read about it) then alcohol. And alcohol is very legal. We can make laws for MJ similar to what we have for alcohol. If you go beyond a certain limit, you can't drive. If you go far beyond the limit, then you can be charged for "public intoxication", and hauled in. It just makes sense. At least to me.

  3. I agree, whilst MJ has harmful side affects, so have many other things that adults can freely indulge in. The harmful effects of the "War on Drugs" are only too obvious.

    The gateway argument has several counter arguments. The most compelling to me, is that by making MJ illegal it undermines the "drugs are bad" message and the authority of those who are delivering it.

  4. off topic:) thanks for advertising in my site sir.

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  5. I sure do wish someone could post/point to the corrorborating data for these claims:
    It is the most commonly used gateway drug on the market.

    There are forms of MJ on the market today that make the stuff you and I smoked back in the day look like regular cigarettes.
    The stuff is 10x stronger than anything you and I smoked and they are mixing it with everything from PCP to cocaine.

    I have never done drugs, not even experimentally, and probably never would unless terminal with a painful disease. But I do support legalization of MJ and tax the hell out of it. Then punish anyone acting irresponsibly under the influence, just like we do with alcohol. Though, don't get me started on how some people are likely better drivers just over the legal limit than others who are stone cold sober! :/

    Also, gateway drug is not really defined enough for me. Is it a drug that people do first to cause them to try other drugs (harder stuff), or is it a drug that others doing hard stuff tried first. Correlation is not causation. Just saying....