Many are growing increasingly skeptical of the claims by government officials about winning the war against drugs. Should this war be supported because a smaller percentage of teenagers use marijuana, or should it be opposed because a larger percentage of teenagers and young adults use cocaine and crack in the USA? Should people be optimistic when multi-billion dollar shipments of cocaine are confiscated, or pessimistic that seizures continue to increase yet have such little impact on price and consumption? Drug prohibition was doomed to failure from the start, no less so than alcohol prohibition, and the best alternative is an immediate return to complete legalization of such drugs.
Suppression of voluntary trade mostly drives the market underground and adds a criminal element, or so history teaches. So, the trade and use of drugs should not be prohibited and any abuse must be dealt with by means of education, moral fortitude, willpower and social institutions, without benefit of coercive force of arms. Unfortunately, this proposition is not obvious in our so-called “free” societies – perhaps due to the widespread conviction that individual responsibility is merely a relic of ancient philosophy and religion and the modern, scientific age has superseded the need for these. But this is wrong and shortly it will be obvious why.
The war on drugs received several major increases in funding during the 1980s, and the US military is now heavily involved in drug-law enforcement. Despite these increased resources we are no closer to success with drug prohibition than communism is at creating a “new economic man.” The fact that a full array of illegal drugs is available for sale throughout the federal prison system, the Pentagon and in front of the Drug Enforcement Administration building in Washington, DC demonstrates that little has been accomplished.
One lofty goal of drug prohibition was to prevent crime by removing access to mind-altering drugs. The great tragedy is that prohibition has created a vast new area of criminal activity – crimes such as robbery, burglary and prostitution committed in order to pay for the high prices of illegal drugs. It is well documented that drug users commit crimes to pay the high prices brought on by prohibition and that wealthy addicts do not. And, of course, the vast smuggling operations on the USA-Mexico border have involved murders galore. Yet the futile “war” is continued.
The rate of crimes with victims increased during the alcohol prohibition of the 1920s only to decline rapidly in 1933, the year Prohibition was repealed. Crime continued to decline until the mid-1960s and has been increasing ever since – the prison population increased by 35 percent between 1984 and 1988 in the USA. During that period the “criminals on parole” population increased by over 50 percent! More innocent bystanders are being killed, more school systems are infected and more neighborhoods are destroyed by the growing problems of prohibition.
The 1990 arraignment of Washington, DC Mayor Marion Barry was a notorious media event but, in fact, drug prohibition has been corrupting the political process for a very long time. This corruption is not confined to the United States. A look around the globe shows that countries that produce, process and sell illegal drugs are also afflicted with corrupt political systems – consider several of them in Southeast Asia, Lebanon, Mexico, Afghanistan and many in South America.