Shifting the Quagmire

Could it be that Pat Robertson’s remarks last month on the drug war have created a shift in Washington already? On Thursday, President Obama echoed Robertson that we should reconsider incarcerating “nonviolent, first time drug offenders,” as Raw Story reports:

“We have to go after drug cartels that are not only selling drugs but also creating havoc on the US-Mexican border,” Obama said. But he added that drugs should be treated as a public health issue and that the United States would benefit by spending less time and money jailing offenders.

Now – I don’t mean to take away from this significant shift in tone because this is a very important step. Addiction, in all its forms, is a public health issue, and hard drug users certainly need rehab over prison. We, as a country, should not be locking up nonviolent drug users for mandatory sentences while we release other violent criminals, like sex offenders. However, the president elaborated:

“On drugs, I think that a lot of times we have been so focused on arrests, incarceration, interdiction, that we don’t spend as much time thinking about how we shrink demand,” he said.

Is it possible the democrats actually have an abstinence only education program they support? That after 40+ years of telling the American public that drugs are harmful, the problem is we just haven’t gotten the message? Just two days after declaring America is in a “Sputnik Moment,” the President’s answer on the drug war is… to have the Ad Council fry more eggs?

This is a good example as to why Milton Friedman called the drug war a “Socialist Enterprise.” This “policy shift” won’t decrease the level of government involvement in what we could call the intoxicants market. Policy will still attempt to eradicate supply (an effort in futility) and now the president is proposing an escalation in eradicating demand (another effort in futility) that will only serve to justify demands for funding more social engineering experiments. Reality is humans like to consume intoxicants, some more than others. A government program can’t change this aspect of human nature.

This is not to say that education on the wide assortment of intoxicants isn’t valuable or necessary, but it is to say that the government is going about the issue in the entirely wrong manner. The problem for the government with honest intoxicant education would be justifying continued marijuana prohibition when it’s statistically compared to the grim statistics surrounding alcohol consumption or other drugs, especially considering marijuana has the highest safety rating.

While I certainly welcome President Obama joining Pat Robertson in openly reconsidering prison terms for drug users, it is disappointing that a serious examination of prohibition and its failings as a policy is something the president is still unwilling to even broach. To paraphrase William F Buckley, we still await the day when a politician with audacity says, “Look, this hasn’t worked.”

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2 Responses to Shifting the Quagmire

  1. roopost says:

    Drae,
    I enjoyed this post and the Buckley interview you posted a few days ago. I concur with the notion of removing many of the ‘usage’ or ‘carrying’ penalities that go with the current culture as it touches the ‘drugs’ question. Certainly its time to reconsider the notion of use as a crime.

    Certainly the ‘war’ on drugs (with with most ‘wars on’ ) is a colossal failure.

    Obama is, in that he has stepped foward, taking a reasonable if tentative step. I think its charming that Pat Robertson is the source of this assertion – however tentative.

    I wonder if this view will be met with open arms by those who on the same ‘sides’ as these two. Or, will one be considered an out of touch ‘blue blood’ and the other moving too fast for the stalwarts of the party.

    Kind regards,

    • Drae says:

      The reason I mentioned Pat Robertson was that Obama very well may have taken a cue from the relative calm that met Robertson’s comments. If Robertson can get away with it to his audience, I think it’s a safe bet the president can float the same balloon, as they say.

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the Buckley. It’s unfortunate the original video I watched back in high school is not on youtube, or I would certainly post it. They broke the mold with that one, as we’ll never see anyone debate quite like him.

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