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Saturday, August 17, 2019
HomeOpinionAnother Episode of Drug War Lunacy

Another Episode of Drug War Lunacy

War on Drugs protest in Washington, D.C.
War on Drugs protest in Washington, D.C.

War on Drugs protest in Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning started her famous sonnet with “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” and then proceeded to provide lots of examples

If I had similar talent, I would produce a sonnet that began “How is the Drug War a failure? Let me count the ways” because I also could give many examples.

All this being said, legalizing drugs is about 99th on my list of 100 most-preferred policy reforms.

In part, this is because I’m stuffy and boring in my personal life and have never used drugs.

But I also worry about what will happen if we end drug prohibition while maintaining our bloated welfare state. The maze of handouts provided by Uncle Sam – for all intents and purposes – enables bad decisions. Would there be a significant number of people who basically drop out of society and become druggies while mooching off taxpayers?

Heck, I’m so libertarian I even worry that legalized drugs will even have bad fiscal policy effects since governments will figure out how to extract lots of tax revenue.

Though none of my concerns would prevent me from engaging in nullification if I wound up on a jury deciding a drug case.

And you’ll understand why I think we should get the government out of the business when you check out these details from a story in the Washington Post about someone whose life was turned upside down by the Drug War.

…a Florida man…was arrested when an officer mistook doughnut glaze for methamphetamine. Now Daniel Frederick Rushing is looking to sue the Orlando Police Department, which is also facing heat for its inaccurate roadside drug test.

When you read about what happened to him, you can understand why he’s unhappy.

Rushing told the Orlando Sentinel that he had been playing taxi driver for friends that day. He had just dropped off a neighbor at a hospital for a chemotherapy session and was giving another friend who worked at the 7-Eleven a ride home. But when officers saw Rushing go into the store twice without making a purchase, they grew suspicious. Officer Shelby Riggs-Hopkins followed Rushing’s car and pulled him over. …Riggs-Hopkins saw what she thought were drugs on the floorboard. “I recognized, through my 11 years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer, the substance to be some sort of narcotic,” Riggs-Hopkins wrote in the report. The officer retrieved several pieces of the white substance from the floorboard, ran a test and “received a positive indication for the presence of amphetamines.” Twice.

If this was the entire story, I would be upset. Why harass some guy if his only sin is being a drug user? He’s not hurting anyone else, so why not leave him alone?

And don’t Orlando cops have anything better to do than bust drug users? Are there really no murders, rapes, burglaries, and assaults in the city? You know, crimes that actually have victims.

But this isn’t the entire story.

As the officer placed Rushing in handcuffs and read him his rights, …“Rushing stated that the substance is sugar from a (Krispy) Kreme Donut that he ate.” …Still, Rushing was booked into jail and had to post $2,500 bail, according to court documents. He was vindicated a month later — and the meth possession charges were dropped — when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s chemistry section tested the substance found in his car. It detected no signs of drugs.

By the way, this wasn’t a one-time mistake.

The Washington Post column cites a related story from the New York Times that delved into the accuracy of roadside drug tests.

Data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab system show that 21 percent of evidence that the police listed as methamphetamine after identifying it was not methamphetamine, and half of those false

positives were not any kind of illegal drug at all. In one notable Florida episode, Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies produced 15 false positives for methamphetamine in the first seven months of 2014.

So the bottom line is that law enforcement resources are being misallocated, innocent people are having their lives wrecked, and government is being incompetent. That’s the holy trinity of big government.

But some people say we have to accept these awful consequences because decriminalization would lead to catastrophic results.

Not true, as Johan Norberg explains.

P.S. You may think only “crazy” libertarians favor liberalization, but there’s actually a very broad coalition of people who favor reform. Folks such as John Stossel, Gary Johnson, John McCain, Mona Charen, Pat Robertson, Cory Booker,Rick Perry, and Richard Branson.

P.P.S. For folks who don’t like having to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, there’s a presidential candidate who has a very sensible view of the War on Drugs.

P.P.P.S. Speaking of Hillary Clinton, her understanding of the economics of drug prohibition may be even more inane and uninformed than her understanding ofthe economics of taxation.

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Written by
Contributing Economist

Daniel J. Mitchell is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, and a top expert on tax reform and supply-side tax policy. Mitchell’s articles can be found in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Investor’s Business Daily, and the Washington Times. He is the author of "The Flat Tax: Freedom, Fairness, Jobs, and Growth," and co-author of "Global Tax Revolution: The Rise of Tax Competition and the Battle to Defend It."

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    An elected government should not declare war and militarize against its own people. Historically, the use of force to address/prohibit non-violent, victimless activities has produced only negative results.

    * Our policy regarding drugs is in the hands of pay-to-play frauds and two bit crooks.

    * Drug prohibition coupled with the senseless contra wars in Latin America in the 1980s, which was funded by clandestine CIA cocaine shipments into North American cities, has destabilized the whole region, causing mass violence and a flood of refugees to seek or force entry into the United States.

    * Portugal decriminalized all drugs. in 2001. The percentage of drug addicts infected with HIV has rapidly declined, from 50% to 20%. The number of drug overdose deaths and “problematic” drug use, especially among adolescents, has also greatly decreased.

    * In 1926, during alcohol prohibition, the federal government began a campaign of deliberately poisoning vats of liquor with kerosene, gasoline, benzene, cadmium, iodine, zinc, mercury salts, nicotine, ether, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, carbolic acid, quinine, acetone, methanol, and several other deadly toxins. Estimates place the body count above 10,000.

    * Illegal Drug Cartels cannot operate without the support and collusion of politicians, banks, government bureaucrats, and police officers.

    * Keeping various psychoactive plants and their derivatives illegal and unregulated equates to more robberies, more home invasions, more murders, more broken families and more shattered lives, and all mostly done by law enforcement agencies. Add to that list: more environmental devastation, more poisoning of lands, streams and wildlife—all preventable by regulated legalization.

    * Prohibition has been a slow but relentless degradation (death by a zillion cuts) of our cherished national and international institutions that will leave us crippled for numerous generations.

    * The US Federal Government has become one of the most dangerous and corrupt corporations on the planet.

    * In 1989, The Kerry Committee found that the United States Department of State had made payments to drug-traffickers. Concluding, that even members of the U.S. State Department, themselves, were involved in drug trafficking. Some of the payments were made even after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies, or even while these traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies.

    * The involvement of the CIA in running Heroin from Vietnam, Southeast Asia and Afghanistan, and Cocaine from Central America, has been well documented, by the 1989 Kerry Committee report, academic researchers Alfred McCoy and Peter Dale Scott and the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Gary Webb.

    * The United States jails a larger percentage of it’s own citizens than any other country in the world, including those run by all the worst totalitarian regimes. US citizens still use drugs at a much rate higher than most other countries.

    Prohibition has morphed into a very serious moral transgression against all humanity.

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