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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An End to Prohibition-

Around 1917 the U.S. government established some comprehensive regulations regarding the possession, use and access to drugs. Bodies such as The Women's Christian Temperance Union reacted to abuses of drugs and alcohol, gained influence, and the net result was a ban on the recreational use of drugs. In effect, the government was acting to protect citizens from themselves and their own choices.

Subsequent to this regulation was a ban on the manufacture, use and possession of alcohol. Again, influenced by such bodies as the temperance movement, this was government acting to protect people from their own choices by eliminating those choices and criminalizing certain behaviors.

A consequence of this regulation and restriction of individual choices was the rapid expansion of criminal forces to take advantage of a demand without a supply. Criminal suppliers of drugs and alcohol became wealthy, and the battle for that wealth was increasingly violent.

The regulation of drugs was separate from the ban on alcohol. When the overall cost of the ban on alcohol became too great, the public accepted a return to a moderately regulated system through which alcohol might be made, sold, and possessed for consumption. The regulation and restriction on drugs continued, and the general ban on recreational use of drugs has continued to this day.

For a time the illegal use of drugs continued to fuel a criminal economy which was content to remain in the background. Good people simply did not go to the side of town where drugs were sold and used, and the violence of that drug culture was largely ignored.

In the decade of the 1960's the use of drugs expanded from these dark realms. College campuses became another place where drug use was common, and a "rebellious" youth bent on exploring all aspects of life brought those drugs and their purveyors into environments previously unsullied by such "filth."

This was certainly not a problem for the criminal communities. Expanding their markets was quite appealing. Eventually even some of the rich and powerful were at least sometimes users. The taint of drug use colored entertainment, politics, and even the best of families. The fingers of the criminal organizations reached high and deep.

We are fast approaching the centennial of this failed effort to control the choices of citizens with regard to recreational drug use. The cost of enforcing these laws has become a huge burden on the society at large. Much of the enormous cost of incarcerating so many offenders is directly related to the illegal drug industry. Meanwhile, drug cartels have become so wealthy and powerful that they have camped literally on the borders of the United States, even taking control of entire towns in Northern Mexico.

Unless the U.S. government is willing to fight a real war on drugs, with real guns and bullets and death for multitudes, the only reasonable choice is legalization and a moderated system of regulation.

Consider the consequences. Drug cartels will immediately lose their vast wealth, and the motivation to continue in the drug market. Drugs will be regulated regarding mode of distribution and with regard to quality. The price of drugs will come down from the astronomical rates required by criminal distributors, and very few drug users will be compelled to steal or sell their bodies to secure this much more affordable substance.

The savings in enforcement cost and incarceration expenses can be applied to other services, to include expanded drug and alcohol awareness education. The choice as to whether or not use drugs would be returned to the individual, and the individual would not become a criminal for choosing to use drugs or alcohol.

Granted, there exists the possibility of some people who refrained from drug use due to the criminal aspect going ahead and now choosing to use drugs. There exists the possibility of an increase in antisocial behavior in some places at some times due to the reduced regulation and increased access. The degree is unknown, and predictions will remain speculations until the case is tested through a well planned and executed legalization of drugs.

I propose that the money saved in enforcing a failed drug management policy could be better spent in education and providing services to overcome such slight bumps in the road as I mentioned above. The legalization and reduced regulation is not a perfect answer to the problem. Indeed, the problem may be so deep seated in humans as humans that it cannot be fully overcome, by regulation or anything else created by human beings.

Even so, the present system enriches criminals, costs a great deal in a multitude of resources including human lives, and has accomplished little in the hundred years of regulation. Perhaps it is time to try something else. Something radical. Something that returns the dignity of choice to the individual regarding their own lives.


Carol said...

How odd! We think alike. I've had this very conversation with three different people in the last few days and we all seem to be of the same opinion. Makes you wonder what happened to being governed by the people and for the people. Thank God prohibition ended otherwise I would be one of those shady women doing unmentionable things for a glass or two of wine. Somehow that came out sounding like most of my dates.

C. lalis said...

This is great that ban on drugs occur with the help of women's Christian temperance union.

pboyfloyd said...

I like this article because it addresses this obvious lack of freedom in supposedly free countries.

Organizations like MADD have shown how effective they can be at forcing the government to address the problem of drinking driving(for example) at the 'user end' of the problem without actually making it illegal to drink.

This is fair enough as long as one knows the law. "Drink two beers and you better be keeping an eagle eye out while you're driving! Drink three beers and you better be ready for your car to be impounded!"

I think the trouble with the logical conclusion that drug 'wars' aren't working is that people LIKE the 'nanny state' when it comes to such things, it makes them feel better about the state bringing up their children for them.

Well, their little darlings are just making boo-boos while everyone else's idiot kids are f-cking up everything along with their own lives.

I recall asking my mom, who was totally against 'drugs' of course, if she'd like her grand-daughter to go to prison if the cops found a joint in her purse.

I think that that put the 'drug' problem in terms that she could understand.

Funny stuff Carol, you should be a comedienne!

Jerry said...

I couldn't agree more.

Carol said...

OH, also, there is something on my blog for you because you are the other half of my brain, or maybe it's the same half, I dont' think I use all of it!

Jerry said...

Did you know that you haven't posted in over a month? I know -- you just forgot.

You are missed, ya' know.