Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Just say no

The National Review, the pre-eminent journal of American conservativism, also has been one of the nation's most persistent critics of the war on drugs. In this essay, Rich Lowry pillories drug czar John Walters for his campaign against marijuana users, even as the use of more dangerous drugs is on the rise:

The fight against marijuana isn't even working on its own terms. According to the Sentencing Project, since 1992, the price of marijuana has fallen steadily, declining by 16 percent. In 1990, 84.4 percent of high-school seniors said it was easy to get marijuana. In 2002, 87.2 percent said it was easy. Daily use by high-school seniors tripled from 1990 to 2002, going from 2.2 percent to 6 percent — the same level as in 1975.

As Allen F. St. Pierre, executive director of the pro-decriminalization group NORML, puts it, "Increased arrest rates are not associated with reduced marijuana use, reduced marijuana availability, a reduction in the number of new users, reduced treatment admissions, reduced emergency-room mentions, any reduction in marijuana potency, or any increases in the price of marijuana." Besides that, the war on marijuana is a smash success.

Marijuana is not harmless, and its use should be discouraged, but in the same way, say, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day should be discouraged. The criminal-justice system should stay out of it. Twelve states have decriminalized marijuana to varying degrees, fining instead of arresting people for possessing small amounts. They recognize that — as the authors of a new study for the conservative American Enterprise Institute argue — "the case for imposing criminal sanctions for possession of small amounts of marijuana is weak."

It's good to see a publication with such stalwart conservative credentials waging the good fight against the nation's hippocritical and costly drug war. But I'm starting to despair of seeing this nation enact a more sensible drug policy anytime in the near future.


Anonymous Jonathan Barnes said...

About ten years ago the National Review and New York Times Magazine in the same month had cover stories titled "The Drug War is Lost" and "Who's winning the Drug War?" William F. Buckley has written passionately against marijuana laws, most notably when he described his search to find weed for his sister who was suffering from cancer and sick from chemo.
Reasoning doesn't appear to cloud the minds of the millions of Americans who continue to support the Drug War, though they themselves once dabbled in the use of illegal drugs.
But there are some promising signs, such as the laws decriminalizing pot's use (for medicinal purposes) in some states, including Delaware.
With about 700,000 arrests made annually for marijuana offenses, it is clear why the feds are so adamant about trying to stop marijuana use: Without the money-making crime of marijuana use, a good part of the funding base of the Drug War is cut off.
Follow the money from the property seizures associated with the marijuana trade, and consider that many local police departments now share in the booty taken from people who thought they could get away with selling or growing ganja, and you'll understand what is at stake.
Don't count on the Drug War ending anytime soon, because if that happened, many cops, lawyers, judges, drug testing company executives, and cynical politicians would have to get real jobs.

9:24 AM

Anonymous geoff said...

"Hippocritical," I take it, means "pork-barrel," only more so.

9:41 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

You hit the nail on the head, Jonathan. It's all about the dollars. There's the drug asset seizures, and also the huge federal grants that let all the local police departments buy equipment they don't need. Until recently, I was optimistic things might change, because of the state-by-state referenda. But the money is too powerful a narcotic for the people who should be able to realize the drug war is a failure.

12:56 PM

Blogger Ol' Froth said...

From experience, I know that DEA is more interested in drug money leaving Pittsburgh, than they are in interdicting drugs coming into town.

8:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Geoff and I are the old timers in here. Am I missing something about "hippocritical?" Shouldn't it be "hypocritical," is is there some cool, druggie sort of use for "hippocritical."

'Like, man, that pot was so hippocritical.'


5:19 PM


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