Thursday, 1 May 2008

"What can we do to win the war against the drug P?"

With commendable honesty Minister Annette King confesses that the War on the Drug P is already lost.  The Herald follows up and asks, "What can we do to win the war against the drug P?"

Have they ever considered that this is a war than can't be won?  That the real damage is done by the War on Drugs itself? As Milton Friedman once told Bush Snr’s drugs tsar Bill Bennett, “You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favour are a major source of the evils you deplore.”

I won't bore you with another reiteration of the arguments why the War on Drugs can't win (you can read most of my previous posts here), but just consider these few pointers:

  • Since the government can't even keep drugs out of prisons, how can they keep them off the street?
  • Removing the legal market for recreational drugs (even relatively benign party pills) has created an illicit one, run by criminals.
  • Banning and arrests only reduces supply.  Since it does nothing to reduce demand, what do you think that does to price, and the profits of drug suppliers?
  • Since banning and arresting drug suppliers puts police in conflict with huge amounts of money, what do you think this does to police morals (hint: Clint Rickards was once an undercover cop).
  • Outlawing drugs leaves drugs in the hands of outlaws -- with huge profits driven by the reduced supply. (All praise the War on Drugs.)
  • Criminals have no interest in things like quality control, honesty about the composition of a substance, or refraining from selling to children. (All praise the War on Drugs.)
  • Outlawing drugs only increases the virulence of recreational drugs.  As Milton Friedman explained with his Iron Law of Prohibition, 'P' is precisely the sort of drug you get when you start a War on Drugs, since the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes.
  • If it is impossible to win the war on drugs, and no government anywhere ever has, then the question surely becomes: should we have a legal, transparent, accountable market for drugs, or an illegal, secretive, unaccountable one?

So what do you think? Could it be that what's too often overlooked in the link everyone sees between illegal drugs and crime is the 'illegal' rather than the drugs?  That's certainly the position of the cops and former cops  from an organisation called LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) who argue that, "We believe that to save lives and lower the rates of disease, crime and addiction, as well as to conserve tax dollars, we must end drug prohibition."

In the end, none of these practical arguments will convince a soul, not as long as good people are convinced the health of their soul depends on having drugs banned. In other words, not as long as the morality behind the war on drugs remains unchallenged.  In the end, here's the telling point: That consenting adults have the right to make our own choices for ourselves, and we do. As with alcohol use, so too with drug use: youngsters need to be able to see both responsible drug use, and people saying no because they want to say no, not because their free will has been lobotomised.

Perhaps if you won't listen to the cops or to people like Friedman, you'll listen instead to the criminals:'


  1. The war isn't against drugs, its against drug users.

    One must ask why any government wages war against its own people?

  2. I'm afraid you're preaching to the converted here.

    But precisely because there's so much money involved, we won't see a change.


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