War on Drugs & Politics; Penalties should reflect degree of harm.

by Ken Wear, 2003

The War on Drugs has become a disaster and disgrace -- a crime against reason. Enforcement efforts and penalties for trafficking should be based on severity of results in the hands of users. There is no drug that should be withheld from the market since there may be research or industrial uses. Denying funding for research (because the public may become informed about relative harmlessness of a drug such as marijuana) is the height of legislative fecklessness and stupidity.

The War on Drugs is the height of legislative arrogance and folly. Our legislators should have learned from making alcoholic beverages illegal (Prohibition). Personal tastes cannot be legislated. And, where there is demand, there will be supply. Yes, some drugs, because of their addictiveness and effects, are hazardous to society and efforts to interdict them are in the public interest. But efforts to control relatively harmless drugs have led to hideous police programs where confiscation has become a source of revenue for political entities and citizens are endangered for little purpose beyond maintaining riot squads. More, our prisons overflow, due to mandatory sentencing, with people innocent of any desire to harm others.

Illegal drugs continue to pour into the nation in record quantities while police effort is focused on relatively innocuous drugs that do little harm to users. Drugs should be categorized by degree of harmfulness to users and priority in efforts at control directed to the most harmful. I am not knowledgeable of the full sweep of drugs -- legal and illegal -- available to consumers. I make no suggestion regarding such drugs as headache remedies or laxatives that are commonly available over the counter. Beyond that I suggest four categories: 1) recreational drugs such as alcohol, marijuana*, ecstasy and tobacco, should be freely available over the counter or from the pharmacist and taxed as recreational; 2) drugs that produce deleterious health effects or mental health problems, such as methamphetamines, should be freely available by medical prescription; 3) dangerous drugs such as crack cocaine should be available by medical prescription under a system with more elaborate controls; and 4) deadly drugs, assuming they have legitimate uses in research or medical treatments or pain control, should be available through specific rigidly controlled channels with a limited number of pactitioners permitted by law to prescribe them. Four categories: recreational, deleterious, dangerous and deadly.

There should always be efforts at public education as well as inclusion of educational materials in texts used in our schools. (It is self-defeating to be overly descriptive of the harmful effects of a product since potential consumers are very discerning in detecting over-zealous efforts at manipulating their tastes.) Honesty is the best policy in describing sources, perils, costs, detection, . . .

We err in our national drug policy by recognizing only one degree of debilitation as well as in assigning penalties. For instance, our prisons are disproportionately filled with violators of regulations for marijuana, a relatively harmless drug, while traffickers in dangerous and deadly illegal drugs should face quick and certain execution.

If you feel execution too harsh, reflect on the history of the Russian conversion of their system of weights from the old system to the metric system now in use. The Russian government (Lenin's followers) decreed that, by a certain date, all scales in use must be converted to metric; the deadline came and went with scarcely any effect whatsoever. Another deadline was set with penalties, but that deadline came and went, with scarcely any effect. A third deadline was set, but this time the penalty was announced that anyone found using the old system would be summarily executed; needless to say no executions were necessary.

So it is: If we are truly serious about eradicating an evil from our society, the penalties for continuing that evil must be set extremely high. Traffickers in deadly drugs are fully aware of the consequences to their customers; making such drugs available is little different from murder-for-profit. In that light the death penalty is wholly reasonable.

Whether or not you agree with severe penalties, I am sure you will agree that the whole scheme of drug enforcement, where drugs with mild effects are treated as being as serious as those with deadly effects, is utterly simplistic, is badly out of balance with reality, and is sorely in need of revision. Of course devising a scheme for categorizing drugs will produce dissension and possibly need later revision, but aren't these the alleged roles of science and of legislative bodies to explore medicine and life and to establish public policy.

* I include marijuana as recreational because users produce less public harm than alcohol users and, while smoking pot may be more injurious to the body than tobacco, it otherwise does not produce physical ailments. Moreover, hemp, from which the psychoactive ingredient THC is derived, has many uses as forage and industrial resource and it varies widely in THC content (from none to high potency) in the various strains of hemp. If the effort to deny users of THC is to be pursued, at the very least search parties should be equipped with kits to determine the strength of THC in the plants that are discovered. Cultivation of an agricultural product having such diverse uses should be a normal pursuit of farmers; denying that should not be justified by the ignorance of law enforcement personnel.

The scurrilous behavior of legislators responding to lobbyists is evident in the manner of declaring marijuana to be a dangerous drug. (click here)

I have offered an amendment to our Constitution (click here) to deal with our drug problems, but that is both over-kill and too time-consuming for a problem that is so badly in need of reform.

The Good Drugs Guide features information on the various types of addictions, detoxification, and drug rehabilitation.

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If you found this essay by searching the Web, you may read the compilation of drug data by clicking here.
I encourage you to read Life Game and Drugs ; click here.
If you wish to examine more of this author's writings, Contents may be viewed by clicking here.

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