Neo-Hippie Ramblings - I'm a Non-Conformist Just Like All My Friends: Once upon a time...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time, in our great-grandparents' day, America had a drug problem. There was no regulation of narcotics whatsoever -- you could buy opium-based childrens' cough medicine over the counter or a bottle of Coca-Cola loaded with a little pick-me-up called cocaine. And a small percentage of the population became addicted to these drugs. Some overdosed and died, or simply wrecked their lives.

Rightfully concerned about this but convinced that prohibition and prison sentences were the answer, the US government came to our great-grandparents and said (dumbing it down a bit) "Opium is being used to ensnare your daughters so they can be sold into white slavery by the Chinese. Cocaine makes those uppity Negroes dangerous and bulletproof. Let us take these evil drugs away and protect you from the bad people who sell them."

So our great-grandparents let this come to pass, opened their wallets and forked over the tax dollars for enforcement year after year. Drug addiction was treated as a crime, not a disease. Demand was unaffected.

Even after the fall of alcohol prohibition, these policies remained in effect because the percentage of the population abusing drugs other than alcohol remained very low.

Once upon a time, in our grandparents' day, a timber and publishing baron named Rudolph William Hearst and a number of his cronies had a problem. A device called a decoricator machine had just been invented. This device made it commercially lucrative, for the very first time, to process hemp into paper. It therefore threatened the demise of the timber-based paper industry and Mr. Hearst's personal fortune.

Knowing that some Mexican laborers smoked hemp, and conscious of the success of the racist propaganda that had succeeded in making cocaine and opiates illegal, Hearst launched a major media and legal campaign to prohibit hemp the same way that cocaine and heroin had been prohibited. Hemp was given a new name to make it scary: marijuana. And despite recognizing that hemp was not physically addictive, the government agencies enforcing cocaine and opiate prohibition went along.

So our grandparents let this come to pass, opened their wallets and forked over the tax dollars for enforcement year after year. Drug addiction was treated as a crime, not a disease. Demand was unaffected.

Once upon a time, in our parents' day, there was a cultural revolution. Young adults rebelled against an unpopular war, an involuntary draft and the stifling social conformity that had defined the previous decade. And suddenly, everything was open to reinterpretation -- including drug use. Alarmed, ignoring his own commission's recommendations, and still convinced that hard-line law enforcement was the answer, Richard Nixon launched what came to be known as the War on Drugs.

Despite -- or maybe fueled by -- this, cocaine made a comeback. A few sports figures and celebrities ODed, and the same old propaganda machine convinced America that more money, tougher laws and more enforcement were needed.

So our parents let this come to pass, opened their wallets and forked over the tax dollars for enforcement year after year. Drug addiction was treated as a crime, not a disease. Demand was unaffected.

From that time on, more and more money has been funneled into drug law enforcement every year. Federal government involvement has ballooned as well, leading to a massive, self-serving bureaucracy, the erosion of privacy rights, property seizure laws, the intrusion of law enforcement into pain management therapy, an arms race between the police and street gangs, and a prison incarceration rate that is the shame of the free world. Lured by steady demand and high profits, organized crime and terrorist groups have become the major suppliers of drugs throughout the world.

And so I ask you, how long are we going to continue to open our wallets and fork over our tax dollars? Until something changes, drug addiction will be treated as a crime, not a disease. And demand will be unaffected.

5 Old Comments:

I can think of no other "War on" that has caused a loss of liberty and freedom than this one. The state has decided it should direct man's personal choices. No matter how you feel about drug use, it is a personal choice one makes and should have the right to make.It is called taking responsibility for one's actions. It ain't a disease, unless you are a liberal who doesn't want to accept the "burden" of making choices they feel the state should make for them.

By Blogger NOTR, at 8:39 AM  

Very interesting article. I think that the anti-drug law enforcement in particular the DEA are an independent agency and rely heavily on the seizure of drug runners property and $$ to fund their activities. So in essense they are reliant on drug money to support itself. what a paradox eh? IF drugs were legal, think of the fiscal dent it would make on law enforcement. It's good business sense to keep drugs illegal.

It's like the old joke about the turn of the century street sweepers complaint to a horse for having the unpleasant job of picking up manure. The horse turns and reminds him that his shit is the mans bread and butter.

So folks, it's not personal, it's business.

Thanks, Pia, for sending the interesting link. Will be sure to drop by again.

By Anonymous Quill, at 8:08 AM  

Actually, the DEA's 2004 budget was somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.6 billion dollars. Apparently the property they steal from private citizens is an additional perk.

By Blogger Rambler Joe Snitty, at 5:14 PM  

enjoyed it. agree wholeheartedly.

By Blogger jenny, at 12:23 AM  

Awesome writeup. Get this thing published somewhere so the regular folks can read it as well.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:10 AM