"The so-called drug war has been with us for perhaps 75 years. The 'war' targets drug growers, sellers, buyers and users. Its chief weapon is the criminal law, vigorously enforced by vast numbers of state and federal agents, police and prosecutors. It has been a very successful war - gradually destroying our courts, our cities, our budgets, our morals, and other countries. It has failed in one respect only: it has had no inhibiting effect upon the traffic in drugs. Indeed, that traffic, as a direct result of our criminal laws, has increased. It is time to consider some form of legalization."

"Alcohol didn't cause the high crime rates of the 1920s and 1930s, Prohibition did. And drugs do not cause today's alarming crime rates, but drug prohibition does. ...Trying to wage war on 23 million Americans who are obviously very committed to certain recreational activities is not going to be any more successful than Prohibition was." - US District Judge James C. Paine, 1991 . The core point of the conclusion is that people engage in illicit trade not because they are fundamentally immoral or wicked, but because there is profit in doing so. Stopping them from doing so must thus involve making the activity less profitable — in many cases by removing the restrictions that create the profits in the first place. A useful message to policymakers: you may ignore economics but economics isn't going to ignore you.

        - Tim Worstall, reviewing "Illicit" by Moisés Naím in "The Telegraph"

Bad as drugs are - and many of them are deadly - it is not the drugs themselves but the illegality of drugs that is corrupting individuals and whole communities. It is Prohibition writ large.

"Had drugs been decriminalized, crack would never have been invented and there would today be fewer addicts... The ghettos would not be drug-and-crime-infested no-man's lands... Colombia, Bolivia and Peru would not be suffering from narco-terror, and we would not be distorting our foreign policy because of it."

        - Milton Friedman

We won't dispassionately investigate or rationally debate which drugs do what damage and whether or how much of that damage is the result of criminalization. We'd rather work ourselves into a screaming fit of puritanism and then go home and take a pill.

- Pj O'Rourke, "Parliament of Whores" Now what I contend is that my body is my own, at least I have always so regarded it. If I do harm through my experimenting with it, it is I who suffers, not the state. - Mark Twain "If the government is to try and ban private consumption of alcohol and tobacco, it must surely ban such activities as hang-gliding, skiing, rock-climbing and so on. Where should it stop? Rugby? American Football? Ice Hockey? Insofar as the government has information not generally available about the merits or demerits of the items we ingest or the activities we engage in, let it give us the information. But let it leave us free to choose what chances we want to take with our own lives." - Milton Friedman "Every dollar spent to punish a drug user or seller is a dollar that cannot be spent collecting restitution from a robber. Every hour spent investigating a drug user or seller is an hour that could have been used to find a missing child. Every trial held to prosecute a drug user or seller is court time that could be used to prosecute a rapist in a case that might otherwise have been plea bargained." - Randy E. Barnett, "Curing the Drug-Law Addiction" "I'm in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my value system, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal." So I asked him which part of the reality of ending drug prohibition is it that worries him - is it the end of the drive-by shootings, the end of the gang warfare, or will he miss having schoolchildren terrorized out on the playground? In this country, we tend to believe that law can cure anything. But, of course, it can't.

        - Gene Roddenberry, on America's war on drugs

Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.

Think about it. Would you work for a company that couldn't tell the difference in quality between its employees' normal work product and the work product of someone on drugs without performing a test? The question George Bush, along with Clinton, Gingrich, Gore and all the other boomer politicians who have admitted to a walk on the wild side but saw the error of their ways and support the drug laws now more than ever should be required to answer is simple. "At what point in your drug-using career would it have been a good thing for you to get arrested and go to prison?" All in all, another triumphant few days for our drugs policies: three young women jailed, five children left motherless, a young man dead, and another in a coma. And we can only speculate as to how many other women slipped over the precipice during that same period, from being casual drugs-users to being addicts, and are now on the road to prostitution. I do not know which is more perplexing: this insistence on trying to impose insane and unworkable drugs laws; or the almost total silence which shrouds the catastrophic consequences which result from them. Yet we all know the truth. Our drugs laws have created an entire underground monopoly for the criminal classes. At least 60pc of the male prisoners and almost 100pc of female prisoners in Mountjoy Jail are there because of drugs-related offences, and 90pc of planned murders share a similar background.
It is insanity. Utter insanity. This is a land-war in Asia, a kindergarten battle against a tsunami, an argument with an intergalactic comet. We cannot win. We know this. Victory is impossible, and the longer the war goes on, the deeper its defeats reach into our society, spreading corruption, misery, murder and accidental death; meanwhile criminalising entire groups of people who might otherwise never come into conflict with the law.
..And this is before we get to poor Kevin Doyle, the young lad who died the other day from a cocaine overdose. The drug which killed him is so popular that its supply simply cannot be prevented by law. So the criminalisation of cocaine usage simply means that there can be no regulation over its manufacture, distribution or content. And this is one of the key points of our absurd laws on drugs. The grass -- marijuana -- of my youth grew naturally in a warm climate and was lovely stuff: mild, intoxicating, happy-making.
The cannabis on the market now is force-grown in greenhouses, and is far richer in toxic, dementia-inducing TCBs than the natural stuff. Instead of policing this range of related drugs, as it does paracetamols and aspirins, the State has stepped back and handed the entire affair over to the criminal gangs of Moyross and Coolock, with entirely predictable consequences.
        - Kevin Myers, "The Irish Independent" (Dec'07)

Ireland has a drug prohibition policy that isn’t working. The latest report on Irish crime statistics from the CSO shows crime levels in every category falling with one obvious exception: controlled drug offences. Indeed, many of the worst crimes in other categories — gangland killings, for example — are a consequence of our failing prohibition policy... By legalising drugs we can apply the same controls to their production, distribution and consumption as we apply to alcohol and tobacco. And there’s a triple bonus to society: spending on crime prevention will plunge, not just on drug-related policing but on all the criminality arising from the activities of drug-financed gangs; crime levels overall will plunge; and the government becomes a net recipient of monies from drug consumption rather than a net spender via law enforcement. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that the United States spends $44 billion (€32.76 billion) a year fighting the war on drugs. If they were legal, the US government would realise about $33 billion a year in tax revenue — a net swing of $77 billion... As for worried parents (like me) the message is simple: your children are already living in a society with ubiquitous access to these drugs. Their decision to use them is as much subject to what you advise them to do as is their consumption of alcohol and cigarettes. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it something you have to approve of. I discourage my children from smoking. One hundred years ago, our newspapers carried front page advertisements for opium and cannabis. Ecstasy was legal up to the 1960s. Magic mushrooms to the 2000s. The point is that society’s attitudes to drugs changes all the time. We’ve tried prohibition and it has failed. So my advice is this: legalise it, control it, tax it.
        - Gerard O'Neill, in Ireland's "Sunday Times"

"If you can't win the war on drugs in a prison, where the hell you gonna win it? I ask you."
        - Prison Warden, in "The Wire"

The Wire is a sort of a visual novel. We knew exactly what we wanted to say about the bureaucratic aspects of the drug war. It is about what happens in this land of ours when product ceases to matter, when the institutions themselves become predominant over their purpose... We bought in to a war metaphor that justifies anything. Once you're at war, you have an enemy. Once you have an enemy, you can do what you want. I don't think that the government will ever find a meaningful way to police desire and human frailty. I'm not supportive of the idea of drugs, but what drugs have not destroyed, the war on them has managed to pry apart. The government created war zones where the only economic engine is the self-perpetuating drug trade. It survives no matter what, and they expect people to walk away from it. The naiveté is just incredible. They've spent 34 years taking these neighborhoods and basically divesting them from the rest of America. We've embraced a permanent war of attrition against the underclass and it can't work.
        - David Simon, creator of The Wire, interviewed on Salon.Com

"In California, it is illegal to smoke marijuana unless you have your hair cut at least once a month."
        - One observer's view of haphazard enforcement in the 1970s

Lest anyone think I actually support the *use* of drugs, here's an excerpt from a "Sports Night" episode when Dan, one of the main characters, is threatened with the sack unless he retracts comments in favour of legalising drugs...
"Any law that makes criminals out of 15 million Americans is probably not such a good idea. The point was that drug abuse isn't a criminal issue, it's a healthcare issue. And the money and manpower we spend prosecuting a surfer in San Diego might better be used fighting things that genuinely threaten our national health and safety. That was the point."
        - Dan, defending his opinions, "Sports Night"

"This network, the Continental Sports Channel, has asked me to clarify some remarks I made in a publication that hit your newsstands this morning. It is possible that one could come away from this article with the impression that I don't believe that drugs are not a destructive and deadly force in our culture, our economy and on the lives of our children.
I have a younger brother named Sam. Sam's a genius. I mean, literally. As a kid, he tested off the charts. The first computer I ever had, he built from a kit he bought with money he earned tutoring other kids in math. He's energetic and articulate, curious and funny. A great source of pride to our parents. And there's no doubt that he'd be living a great life right now, except for that he's dead. Because when you're fourteen years old, all you ever really want to be is your sixteen year old brother. And in my case, that meant smoking a lot of dope. The day I went off to college was the day Sam got his driver's license. And he celebrated by going for a drive with some of his friends. Drunk and high as a paper kite. He never saw the red light that he ran. And he probably never saw the eighteen-wheel truck that put him into the side of a brick bank, either. That was eleven years ago tonight. And I just wanted to say... I'm sorry, Sam. You deserved better in my hands. And I apologize."
        - Dan, explaining his position, "Sports Night"

I like to think of drugs as part of the defiant, ongoing and really rather miraculous spiritual life of Hollywood. After  all, we know that drugs are bad - they destroy brain cells, warp the individual's sense of order, reason and  responsibility, undermine the family and unravel the social fabric, not to mention what happened to River Phoenix.  Plus, drugs put you in the company of lowlifes in deals in which you have no protection, and they're humiliating and  they never last long enough. In the end, they are not even photogenic, so if they boost a career for a while, they  end up cutting it short. On the other hand, just between vous et nous, drugs are to-die-for sublime, which the  drug czars never mention. Why in the world do we have to lose our sense of humour and ignore that, bottom line,  drugs make you feel good now? And now is nice, as well as near, and now can keep happening. Drugs are easily the  best way to handle the paranoia God invented, and sooner or later in Hollywood everyone ends up doing paranoia in  a serious way. I mean, suppose the Bomb is 16 minutes away - are you going to read the new Joan Didion novel, or  do the smack you've been hoarding? What is Joan going to do? I don't ask.
        - David Thomson, "Beneath Mulholland"


The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.

- Albert Einstein "Prohibition... goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes... A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded." - Abraham Lincoln "'The reign of tears is over. The slums will be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses and corncribs. Men will walk upright now, women will smile, and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever for rent.'
That is how Billy Sunday, noted evangelist and leading crusader aginst Demon Rum, greeted the onset of Prohibition in 1920, enacted in a burst of moral righteousness at the end of the First World War. That episode is a stark reminder of where drives to protect us from ourselves can lead.
Prohibition was imposed for our own good. Alcohol is a dangerous substance. More lives are lost each year from alcohol than from all the dangerous substances the FDA controls put together. But where did Prohibtion lead?
New prisons and jails had to be built to house the criminals spawned by converting the drinking of spirits into a crime against the state. Al Capone, Bugs Moran became notorious for their exploits - murder, extortion, hijacking, bootlegging.
Who were their customers? Respectable citizens who would never themselves have approved or engaged in, the activites that Al Capone and his fellow gangsters made infamous. They simply wanted a drink. In order to have a drink, they had to break the law. Prohbition didnt stop drinkin. It did convert a lot of otherwise law-obedient citizens into lawbreakers. It did suppress many of the disciplinary forces of the market that ordinarily protect the consumer from shoddy, adulterated, and dangerous products. It did corrupt the minions of the law and create a decadent moral climate. It did not stop the consumption of alcohol." - Milton Friedman, "Free To Choose" "Drug misuse is not a disease, it is a decision, like the decision to step out in front of a moving car. You would call that not a disease but an error of judgment."

        - Philip K. Dick

"We don't seem to be able to check crime, so why not legalize it and then tax it out of business?"

        - Will Rogers

"All I ever did was supply a demand that was pretty popular."

        - Al Capone

The British Government believes, or affects to believe, that the connection between crime and heroin addiction is a simple one: namely, that addicts rob, steal and burgle in order to pay for the heroin without which they will suffer the most terrible withdrawal symptoms. This is nonsense. Actually, addiction to opiates is not incompatible with work. The great anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce took a tincture of opium every day of his very productive life. In the United States in the 1930s, it was found that the majority of injecting morphine addicts still worked, despite their problems with supply. The criminal records of most addicts who end up in prison are extensive before they ever took up heroin — indeed, a few of them claim to have first taken heroin in prison.
In so far as there is a causative connection between addiction and criminality, it is that criminality — or whatever predisposes people to it — causes addiction and not addiction that causes criminality.
Nor is it true that addicts can give up if, but only if, they receive the “help” they claim they want. Huge numbers of American servicemen addicted themselves to heroin during the Vietnam war. Almost all of them gave up spontaneously soon after their return to the US, and two years later their rate of addiction was no higher than that among drafted conscripts who never made it to Vietnam because the war ended. Moreover, Mao Zedong managed to “cure” 20 million opium addicts by his usual rather uncompromising methods. It wouldn’t have made sense for Mao to have threatened retribution for people who contracted, say, appendicitis or cancer of the bowel, in the hope of reducing the incidence of those conditions: this suggests that addiction to opiates is a pretend illness and treatment is pretend treatment.
        - Theodore Dalrymple, "The Times"

As a prison doctor, Dalymrple tells us, he’s seen a rise in the use of heroin in the last few years, and, quite rightly, he doesn’t find this surprising... Drug use grows as the cultural landscape becomes blander and more depressing. Poverty is a factor. But, as Dalrymple points out, feeling poor is what counts. And these days, the culture of the poor — and not just the poor — consists primarily of looking at pictures of people who have suddenly been dragged into a world of extreme luxury. These days, almost everybody feels poor, even if they’re not... At the prison, Dalrymple was able to understand how heroin addicts operated. When they arrived, he says, they were in a terrible state — thin from malnutrition, with purple vitamin-deficient tongues, their skin cracked and ‘pocked with sores.’ In prison, though, most of them ‘stopped taking opiates’. Soon, they were healthier. ‘The addicts,’ says Dalrymple, ‘came into the prison starving and miserable, and went out healthy and happy.’ Freedom, as he puts it, had been their concentration camp. Captivity gave them structure. With structure, heroin was easier to give up.
There’s a famous example of a similar thing happening on a large scale. During the Vietnam war, large numbers of American soldiers unsurprisingly became heroin users — their lives were stressful, and there was a plentiful supply of heroin. Many would have considered themselves addicts. And yet when they went back home, very few of the heroin-using soldiers continued to use heroin. They tried to slot back into their old lives. They did not experience appalling physical withdrawal.
Heroin users, says Dalrymple, like to portray themselves as passive victims of a predatory drug. When asked why they began to take heroin, they tend to say ‘I fell in with the wrong crowd,’ or ‘heroin’s everywhere’. They see their heroin use as the result of an accident, or as an inevitability. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? Actually, says Dalrymple, heroin is something you must seek out, and it’s not easy to get addicted to... If you’re spiritually and culturally bereft, an addiction gives you a shadow-life — something to get up for in the morning, a network of acquaintances, highs and lows; it’s almost a job. And that’s what people are addicted to — the heroin life, not just the heroin.
        - William Leith, reviewing "Junk Medicine" by Theodore Dalrymple, "The Spectator"


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