Saturday, June 18, 2011
Gary Johnson On The Issues - Drug Policy Reform
Despite our best efforts at enforcement, education and interdiction, people continue to use and abuse illegal drugs.
The parallels between drug policy today and Prohibition in the 1920’s are obvious, as are the lessons our nation learned. Prohibition was repealed because it made matters worse. Today, no one is trying to sell our kids bathtub gin in the schoolyard and micro-breweries aren’t protecting their turf with machine guns. It’s time to apply that thinking to marijuana. By making it a legal, regulated product, availability can be restricted, under-age use curtailed, enforcement/court/incarceration costs reduced, and the profit removed from a massive underground and criminal economy.
By managing marijuana like alcohol and tobacco – regulating, taxing and enforcing its lawful use – America will be better off. The billions saved on marijuana interdiction, along with the billions captured as legal revenue, can be redirected against the individuals committing real crimes against society. Harder drugs should not be legalized, but their use should be dealt with as a health issue – not a criminal justice issue.
Getting Smart about Drugs
The History Is Clear
AMERICANS WERE PROMISED IN THE 1970'S AND 1980's that hefty enforcement budgets and tougher sentences would lead to less crime and drug abuse.
* We have all been raised to believe that there are only two camps in the drug policy universe -- "pro-drug" and "anti-drug" -- and that any person who does not support the "War on Drugs" is automatically "pro-drug." This simply isn't the case.
* Since only criminal gangs and cartels are willing to take the risks associated with large-scale black market distribution, the War on Drugs has made a lot of dangerous people and organizations very rich and very powerful.
* The same happened with Alcohol Prohibition (1920-1933). Prohibition had only a minimal effect on the desire of Americans to drink (in some cases, it clearly made drinking more attractive), but pushing alcohol underground had other effects: overdose deaths, gang violence, and other prohibition-related harms increased dramatically during the Prohibition years.
Make Marijuana Legal
OVER A MILLION AND A HALF AMERICANS were arrested last year on drug charges, and nearly 40% of those arrests were for marijuana possession alone. Does this make sense?
* A recent Gallup poll reports that 46% of Americans now agree that marijuana should be legalized, a dramatic increase in support that reflects Americans' increased knowledge and understanding of the issue. Proposals to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol have been considered in several states, and Governor Johnson has supported those efforts; he believes the federal government should end its prohibition mandate and allow each state to pursue its own desired policy.
* Governor Johnson believes it is insane to arrest roughly 800,000 people a year for choosing to use a natural substance that is, by any reasonable objective standard, less harmful than alcohol, a drug that is advertised at every major sporting event.
* As Governor Johnson often points out to concerned parents, "it will never be legal for a person to smoke marijuana, become impaired, and get behind the wheel of a car or otherwise do harm to others, and it will never be legal for kids to smoke marijuana." But we have to understand that marijuana is our nation's #1 cash crop despite the prohibition; it will always be available to those who really wish to use it.
* When polled, high school kids say marijuana is easier to get than alcohol. Perhaps this is because they buy from black market dealers who do not ask for ID?
* Legalization of marijuana would instantly and dramatically improve conditions on our southern border. Marijuana is Mexico's #1 illegal export, dramatically reducing the power and wealth of the drug lords, and instantly helping to restore stability in a nation whose stability and sustainability is truly vital to our economic and national security interests. If we truly wish to reduce border violence, take the profit out of it.
BEFORE WE CAN GET SERIOUS ABOUT REDUCING the harms associated with drugs, we have to accept that there will never be a drug-free society.
* To create a drug-free society, we'd have to build a police apparatus so intrusive that all Americans would have to be under surveillance 24 hours a day... presumably for their own good. Would citizens of the "land of the free" ever stand for that?
* Abuse of hard drugs is a health problem that should be dealt with by health experts, not a problem that should be clogging up our courts, jails, and prisons with addicts. Instead of continuing to arrest and incarcerate drug users, we should seriously consider the examples of countries such as Portugal and the Netherlands, and we should ultimately choose to adopt policies which aim to reduce death, disease, violence, and crime associated with dangerous drugs.
* Honest, effective education will be key to succeeding with this transition. America has cut teen cigarette use in half, not by criminalizing possession and use, but through a combination of honest education and sensible regulation.
* We can never totally eliminate drug addiction and drug abuse. We can, however, minimize these harms and reduce the negative effects they have on society by making sure drug abusers are able to access effective treatment options (jail is not an effective treatment option).