It’s April 20th today. Four twenty. In the cannabis community, April 20th is a national holiday. Kind of like New Year’s for cannabis enthusiasts. As a result, you’ll see many blogs and articles discussing cannabis legalization issues and statistics regarding drug use in America, but you will also see a lot of “Reefer Madness” type scare tactics attempting to trick people into believing that cannabis use is the great scourge and downfall of society. Let’s look at a few of the important issues and players in the fight for, and against, cannabis legalization.
1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The former Alabama senator has been leading the charge against legal cannabis, even in the face of polls showing that 60% of Americans believe cannabis should be legal. Sessions is an avowed drug warriors, to the point of saying such things as, “good people don’t smoke marijuana” and that he though the KKK was “okay until I found out they smoked pot.” I wonder if Sessions would say that to the thousands of people whose seizures have been stopped due to cannabis? Sessions is a cantankerous old man stuck in a bygone era, yelling at kids to get off his lawn.
2. Cannabis legalization is sweeping the nation. As Sessions tries to stick his finger in the dyke of progress, cannabis legalization is sweeping the nation-state by state. There are already 29 states where cannabis is legal either medicinally with a doctor’s prescription, or recreationally. In addition the these legalization laws, many other states are reducing the criminal charges related to possession and use of cannabis. To sum, almost 60% of states already have legal or medicinal cannabis and the remainder are not far behind. Even where ballot initiatives to legalize cannabis have failed, such as my home state of Arizona, the defeat was in large part to pro-legalization groups campaigning against the measure for creating a cartel as opposed to a free market.
3. Legalization has not caused the sky to fall. Take Colorado, for example. Colorado legalized recreational cannabis in 2012 and many of the usual suspects predicted doom and gloom. None of those things happened. In fact, quite the opposite. Even Governor John Hickenlooper, who did not support legalization in 2012, calling it “reckless”, now admits that the “worst nightmares” of legalization opponents “haven’t materialized.” He went on the say, “We didn’t see a spike in teenage use. If anything, it’s come down in the last year. And we’re getting anecdotal reports of less drug dealers.” Imagine that, eliminating the cannabis black market reduces drug use and makes those who do choose to use safer by taking them out of the shadows and into the light. Not to mention the financial benefits. Colorado has taken in over $100 million dollars in tax revenue, which largely goes to schools. Also, cannabis in Colorado has become a $1 billion dollar industry that’s creating new small businesses and employment opportunities across the state.
4. The drug war’s despicable consequences. There are many disgusting outcomes from the escalation of the war on drugs. The first is racial. For the record, I am not one who finds oppression behind every blade of grass, I leave that to the social justice warriors. That said, the statistics are staggering. Between blacks, whites, and hispanics, the percentage of those over 12 years old who use illicit drugs are all statistically close at 10.5%, 9.5%, and 8.8%, respectively. But when arrest statistics are analyzed, the differences are clear: blacks are three to four times more likely to be arrested for drugs than whites.
The second dangerous outcome of the drug war is the continuing militarization of police forces across the country. Per the ACLU,
“Federal programs providing surplus military equipment, along with departments’ own purchases, have outfitted officers with firepower that is often far beyond what is necessary for their jobs as protectors of their communities. Sending a heavily armed team of officers to perform “normal” police work can dangerously escalate situations that need never have involved violence”
When local police forces have tanks, body armor, and AR-15’s, they send entirely the wrong message to the public. Instead of protecting and serving, the image is adversarial and threatening.
The last consequence of the drug war is the degradation of the individual and the increasing encroachment of civil and human rights. There are many examples of this, but the most recent and disgusting is the trend of performing forced catheterizations in order to obtain urine for drug tests. Take this case from Pierre, South Dakota. One night police responded to Dirk Spark’s home for a domestic disturbance call. “When officers observed him acting “fidgety,” they asked for a urine sample. When Sparks refused, police sought a warrant from a Hughes County judge to obtain a urine sample by “medically accepted means.” Apparently in North Dakota acceptable means five police officers put a bag over your head, hold you down on a table, and take the urine by force.
Read the last sentence again. Based on suspicion alone, police kidnapped Sparks, held him hostage, and tortured him by pushing a plastic tube up his urethra to remove bodily fluids without his consent. I can’t imagine a more disturbing, painful, and humiliating situation for a human being to suffer.
If that wasn’t bad enough, in February the Pierre police department did the exact same procedure to a three-year-old boy as part of a child welfare investigation. Imagine being the parents of the small child screaming in agony as police held the boy down and committed what would rightly be considered sexual assault if anyone else did it.
The war on drugs is a colossally expensive, massively immoral failure. As has been outlined here before, the foundation of libertarianism is private property rights, of which self-ownership is paramount. Kidnapping nonviolent drug offenders and locking them in cages is immoral and only leads to the kind of abuses outlined above. It is time to end the failed drug war.