Opinion: End drug prohibition
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Drug legalization supporters shouldn’t compare their plight to Prohibition, writes Kevin A. Sabet in Wednesday’s Op-Ed pages. The former senior adviser to President Obama’s drug czar says it’s too nuanced a situation -- legally, historically and culturally -- to compare alcohol to drugs. He writes:
Still, a favorite argument of drug legalization supporters is that because ‘we all know’ alcohol prohibition failed, drug prohibition is destined to fail too. Given modern America’s thirst for liquor, it is a clever political maneuver to link the two policies in this way. But notwithstanding one’s position on the success or failure of alcohol prohibition, there are key differences between that policy and modern-day drug enforcement that render a comparison almost useless for serious policy analysis.
Sabet follows this with a list of differences, including:
[I]t should be remembered that unlike illegal drugs today, alcohol was never prohibited altogether. Laws forbade the sale and distribution of liquor, but personal use was not against the law.
Reader ‘vesaldini’ writes on our discussion board: ‘This is a wonderful example of clear-headed analysis.’ And ‘Socorro V’ asks: ‘Are not alcohol and tobacco problems enough? Must we increase the list of substances that kill our citizens?’
But the majority of readers take issue with Sabet’s Op-Ed. Some support drug legalization for economic reasons, while others argue that government shouldn’t be in the business of telling Americans what we can and can’t consume. There are also readers who claim alcohol is more hazardous than marijuana. Here they are in their own words.
Prohibition is not the solution
I am totally against the Drug Prohibition Regime and can’t wait to see it thrown away into the dustbin of history greatest inequities humankind has inflicted on itself. I would have thought that any rational, responsible and caring individual could see that drug abuse and its profoundly disruptive consequences calls for enlightened policies where education, health and regulation would play central roles; that it calls for policies where no room is left for the Victorian values Prohibitionists seem so keen on: abstinence or punishment.
One can only assume that something deeply ideological, prejudicial or irrational prevents people from understanding that the problem is prohibition, and not the drugs themselves; that no matter what drug one is considering, prohibition is not the solution … far from it. If anything, what decades of pursuing and enforcing the prohibition regime and its dastardly offshoot, the so-called War on Drugs, have taught us is that it can only make things worse! […]
The government’s hypocrisy
It is a stretch to assume that the social and health problems associated with alcohol abuse can in any way be compared to those caused by the use of cannabis. Alcohol destroys the internal organs of abusers. Marijuana has no known long-term effects. Alcohol is highly addictive. Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. Cannabis is less addictive than caffeine and withdrawal, at worst, amounts to a few restless nights and a few days of low appetite. Alcohol is the fuel of all kinds of violence. Marijuana users tend to be quiet and communal.
What is amazing to me is that our government supports and collects taxes on the two deadliest drugs in our society, alcohol and tobacco, but wants to send people to jail for making the much more rational choice to use marijuana recreationally instead.
What would Thomas Jefferson do?
The cruelest irony of this issue is that many far right goons, the so called champions of getting the government out of our lives and expanding freedom, have always been the biggest advocates of this outdated, morally wrong, government intrusion into our lives and denying us our ‘right to happiness’, which Thomas Jefferson, the hard drug alcohol drinker, so correctly protected us with. George Washington gave his troops rum every day to keep them happy.
My life, my decision
The overriding question that the Mr Sabet clearly misses is this: Should the government be in the business of telling responsible adults what they can and cannot ingest? Many of us say ‘no’ to that, while many folks who call themselves conservative and say they want less government in their lives nonetheless accept that nanny-state role. What I believe government should do is offer factual education regarding what drugs of all kinds can do to people, regulate the purity of drugs, continue to punish irresponsible behavior that endangers innocent people (such as driving under the influence, etc), and then trust the rest of us grown ups to enjoy life responsibly in whatever way we choose.
Nothing will change
This article is a laugher for many reasons:
1. Part of the human condition is to seek mood-altering substances, aka get ‘buzzed.’ Been going on for about 100,000 years or so, live with it.
2. In spite of all the laws that prohibit it, Americans continue to pursue an artificial high, regardless of the consequences. Laws DO NOT have a deterrent effect on consumption.
3. The cost of drug laws on society has been astounding. We have incarcerated generations of minorities, forced the status of ‘convicted felon’ on hundreds of thousands of people with the attendant impact on society - with no impact on drug consumption.
4. The war on drugs has been an epic failure in every measurable category except one: a growth industry for the criminal justice system.
5. The public is already saturated with the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol. A change of legalization will not change consumption patterns that much. Those inclined to use will continue to, those that do not want the risk will refuse.
6. The odds of getting busted for drug possession, unless you are a minority in a gang neighborhood, is virtually non-existent. Therefore, in practical terms, it’s already available on demand.
7. The impact of alcohol and tobacco dwarfs the impact of drugs, legal or not. We lose over 400,000 to nicotine addiction, and another 50,000 or so to booze EVERY YEAR.
Secret: nothing will change.
*Spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.