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September 24, 2009

Is Drug Prohibition Worth It?

Quote of the Day: “Those who suffer from the abuse of drugs have themselves to blame for it. This does not mean that society is absolved from active concern for their plight. It does mean that their plight is subordinate to the plight of those citizens who do not experiment with drugs, but whose life, liberty, and property are substantially affected by the illegalization of the drugs.” — William F. Buckley

Subject: Is Drug Prohibition Worth It?

There have been positive signs that America is reconsidering some aspects of drug prohibition.

  • In February, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Administration would stop medical marijuana raids in states where it’s legal
  • In  May, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case arguing that California’s medical marijuana law was in conflict with federal law
  • The Obama Administration did not object when Mexico liberalized its drug possession law last month

But as America takes baby steps toward Drug War reform, statesmen south of the border are suggesting something bolder.

This week, the Global Public Policy Forum on the U.S. War on Drugs  was held on the front lines of the Drug War, in the border cities of El Paso and Juarez. The Forum was organized by the University of Texas-El Paso, but the idea originated with the El Paso City Council. The Council also unanimously called for “an honest open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics” (although that resolution was vetoed by the mayor under the threat of losing federal funds).

Regrettably, Obama’s “Border Czar” and “Drug Czar” chose not to attend.

But we agree with the El Paso City Council.

Indeed, prohibition can cause the retail price of drugs to be as much as 25 times higher than the production costs. Even if 75% of drug shipments were intercepted, the trade would still be profitable for drug lords.

Today, only a fraction of drug shipments are intercepted. This means the only way to “win” the War on Drugs is to lose the Bill of Rights and our way of life by substantially increasing arbitrary searches and seizures at home, and employing a much larger military as a narcotics police force across the globe.

In order to accomplish . . . what, exactly?

Drug prohibition costs hundreds of billions in both direct costs and opportunity costs such as the lost wages of the imprisoned. It endangers the lives of innocents caught in turf wars. It promotes chaos and instability in much of the world — and all of this in a futile attempt to save a tiny fraction of the population from themselves.

But if we lifted the prohibition on drugs . . .

  • Drug prices would fall to a fraction of what they are now, meaning hopeless addicts would be less likely to rob you to pay for their fix
  • The Taliban would lose their revenue stream
  • We would have safer streets in America and much of the world

Please tell Congress to end the chaos in Mexico, in Afghanistan, and on our streets. Tell them to end drug prohibition. In your personal comments, explain how prohibition has created such huge profit margins that the government can’t stop the flow no matter how hard it tries. You can send your comments here.

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