Pubdate: Thu, 06 Dec 2012
Source: Troy Messenger (AL)
Copyright: 2012 Troy Messenger
Author: Scott Beaulier
Note: Scott Beaulier is Executive Director of the Manuel H. Johnson 
Center for Political Economy at Troy University.


The world is becoming more and more tolerant towards recreational 
drug use, and the US is behind the world trend.

Pot, for example, is legal in Amsterdam, and drug possession across 
most of Europe is treated with greater acceptance and softer 
punishments than in the US. Closer to home, we have examples of how 
attitudes about drug use are a changin': up in Vancouver, Canada, 
"heroin shooting galleries" exist to assure safe injections of illicit drugs.

And, even in the US, there are pockets of greater tolerance: in the 
Fall 2012 elections, for example, the states of Colorado and 
Washington legalized recreational marijuana use.

Cooling it on the drug war and giving people a little more freedom is 
right from a moral standpoint and makes a lot of economic sense too. 
The War on Drugs has been a failure because it obstructs free, 
voluntary exchange between consenting individuals. Though many people 
find consumption and production of drugs to be despicable, the actual 
exchange is "victimless": no party is hurt in the exchange itself. 
The violence and crime related to drugs comes from the fact they are 
banned: legalize the market for marijuana, heroin, or crystal meth, 
and crime from the legal drug trade will be equal to the amount of 
crime coming from the Starbucks coffee trade (i.e., near zero!).

Contra Jason Whitlock, who equated the National Rifle Association 
with the Ku Klux Klan and blamed the NRA for "loading up our 
community with drugs," the federal government's War on Drugs is the 
main cause for crime in the drug market.

By preventing people from acquiring products-sex, drugs, gambling-in 
formal markets, the War on Drugs pushes them into the informal economy.

Banning the exchange of drugs doesn't stop the activity, but, rather 
shifts it underground. Instead of a safe, clean exchange above 
ground, we end up with the ugly outcomes we read about in the news: 
drug dealers, who have to be violent and armed to the hilt to 
survive, become the suppliers.

But, since there's no rule of law or property rights to protect 
production, the market is uncertain and prone to violence and wacked products.

Our experience with Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, is a 
tragic example of what happens when the government bans something 
valued by consumers.

Alcohol remained available, but it was supplied by gangsters like Al 
Capone and Bugs Moran instead of Anheuser-Busch and Seagrams. 
Gangsters emerged to protect turf and assure large, concentrated 
profits for their distribution operations. After Prohibition was 
repealed in 1933, violence related to alcohol trades dropped and 
exchange came above ground.

The difference wasn't the people, but, rather the policies: 
criminalizing products people want doesn't end well for society, and 
Prohibition serves as an important reminder of what not to do.

European countries like the Netherlands and Portugal have, to some 
extent, come to realize the drug war is pointless.

Rather than chase after suppliers, they have decriminalized and 
focused the resources being eaten up by enforcement on rehabilitation 
and awareness campaigns. The savings to taxpayers are tremendous; the 
quality of drugs for users is more predictable; and the overall 
safety for the average person is far greater than it otherwise would be.

It's high time Americans take a page from the Europeans or look back 
at their own experience with Prohibition. Alabama policymakers, in 
particular, could use looking at what we're doing to drug offenders: 
Our drug laws are some of the strictest in the country, and just 
think of all the tax dollars and productivity being eaten up by 
imprisoning young drug offenders.

More relaxed drug laws do not lead to societal collapse; as 
counterintuitive as it may seem, looser drug laws, instead, make 
society safer, better, and a little more fun.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom