Pubdate: Sun, 02 Jan 2011
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2011 Athens Newspapers Inc
Pubdate: Sun, 02 Jan 2011
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Author: Froma Harrop
Note: Froma Harrop is a member of The Providence (R.I.) Journal 
editorial board and a syndicated columnist whose work appears 
regularly in the Athens Banner-Herald.
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Popular)


Profound thanks are due televangelist Pat Robertson for stating so 
clearly what many of us have been screaming in the wilderness for 
years - that the criminalization of marijuana is a plague on young 
people. May he lend courage to politicians who know better, but won't 
do the right thing for fear of seeming "soft" on drugs.

"We're locking up people who take a couple of puffs of marijuana, and 
the next thing they know, they've got 10 years," Robertson said on 
his Christian Broadcasting Network show, "The 700 Club." These are 
mandatory sentences, he adds, that absurd laws force on judges.

Robertson does not call for legalization of all drugs, as do many 
disillusioned law enforcers, judges and prominent economists of all 
political stripes. He does say that criminalizing the possession of 
small amounts of pot is "costing us a fortune, and it's ruining young people."

Where are the foes of big government in this? They should note that 
the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's budget has more than 
quadrupled over the decade to $2.6 billion - without making a dent in 
the quantity of illegal drugs sold in this country. The narcotics, 
meanwhile, are more potent than ever.

But the DEA bureaucrats know how to expand a mandate. The agency now 
operates 86 offices in 63 countries and runs a shadow State 
Department that at times mucks up American diplomacy. It employs 
nearly 11,000 people.

And the DEA is but one expense in the drug war. Add in the costs of 
local law enforcement to round up suspects, courts to prosecute them 
and jails to hold them, and the war on drugs weighs in at about $50 
billion a year. States and municipalities bear most of the costs.

Of course, these numbers don't take into account the lost tax revenue 
that legalizing these drugs could generate. Harvard economist Jeffrey 
Miron estimates that taxing marijuana like tobacco and alcohol could 
add $6.4 billion a year to state and local treasuries.

If drugs were legalized, narcoterrorists, including the Taliban, 
would lose their chief source of funds, drug gangs would go out of 
business, and the drug-fueled bloodbath now tormenting Mexico would 
end. Border security would tighten vastly as drug traffic dried up.

Ending the war on drugs has support across the political spectrum. 
Many on the left regard America's drug laws as an assault on personal 
freedom and racist in their application. Prominent voices on the 
right - for example, William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman - long 
ago declared the war on drugs simply a dismal failure.

This month, Britain's former drug czar and defense secretary, Bob 
Ainsworth, declared that the war on drugs is "nothing short of a 
disaster" and called for government regulation of drug manufacturing 
and sales. "We must take the trade away from organized criminals and 
hand it to the control of doctors and pharmacists," he said.

No one here is advocating drug use. I never have touched hard drugs, 
but the "war" against them lost its romance the day a drug addict 
pointed a knife at my gut, demanding money for a fix that should have 
cost him no more than a head of celery.

Then there's the rank hypocrisy. President Obama admits to having 
"tried" cocaine, and President George W. Bush all but did, refusing 
to answer questions about his previous drug use. Yet we still ruin 
the lives of teenagers caught using or dealing in far less dangerous marijuana.

The injustice of this is what aroused Pat Robertson. A social 
conservative has now filled a gap in the anti-drug-war lineup of 
liberals, economic conservatives and libertarians. And we welcome him.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom