Monday, July 28, 2008

War on drugs

The occasional glass of merlot is about as far as I dip into drug use, but I'm intelligent to recognize when something doesn't work, and to perceive the cause and effect cycle that seeds drug related criminal activity.

There's no doubt that the US is in a drug use epidemic, yet upon closer examination, the majority of drug users are non-violent. Despite more and more draconian drug laws, the US still has one of the highest incidents of drug use in the world.

Drug use is not a criminal problem, it is a social and addiction problem. Locking up non-violent drug offenders with violent criminals and not giving them treatment for their drug addiction isn't going to do anything except turn some of them into violent criminals with a drug problem.

Which brings us to the root of drug-related crime. Ultimately, it's a vicious circle. The more laws there are, and the more the police try to enforce the law, the worse a problem drug related crime becomes. But why?

Simple. As more law enforcement effort is focused toward prohibiting something, the more profitable that something becomes.

Ultimately, the only reason drug crime (and other 'vice' crimes such as prostitution and gambling) exist is because of government prohibitions. A free market in drugs would reduce the level of profitability to a point where it would not longer enable criminals to reap huge rewards.

The best way — really the only way — to end drug crime is to end the prohibitions against them. Once drugs are legal, they will no longer provide the huge profit they now do and related criminal activity will dissolve. Drugs can be regulated and taxed. Drug use and users can be tracked through registration and distribution programs. Ninety percent of crime would disappear overnight.

But that's not what our government does. Instead, it continues to fight a war it can't win. The very effort to prevent drug sales and use drives them underground, thereby guaranteeing enormous profits to those willing to take the risk to be part of the market. The riches are then used to bribe public officials and gain a certain amount of protection from the public sector. And that doesn't include the money spent on drug enforcement, which is a business unto itself.

This cycle is doomed to continue indefinitely until our leaders wake up and admit they are wrong and do something to change policy.