September 24, 2014 – Why should we end the War on Marijuana (WOM)? Here are 10 reasons, in no particular order. Share your position on marijuana prohibition in the comments below.
1: The WOM is unconstitutional. The Constitution does not authorize the federal government to prohibit marijuana.
2: The WOM is a failure. A 2013 ACLU study found that the WOM has not slowed marijuana use, nor has it reduced the supply or demand of marijuana. For these reasons and more, groups like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP–comprised of law enforcement personnel), call for decriminalization. LEAP states that “prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence.” Furthermore, The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) also notes that the wider War on Drugs is a failure. GCDP also recommends decriminalization.
3: The WOM presents an economically unsustainable burden on taxpayers and government budgets. The ACLU notes that in 2010 alone the states spent over $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws (the federal government has spent over $1 trillion on the War on Drugs in the last 4 decades, to no avail). The pro-legalization organization NORML puts the federal cost of marijuana prohibition at $7.6 billion annually. Complicating matters, the New York Times (NYT) finds that “police forces across the country are strapped for cash, and the more resources they devote to enforcing marijuana laws, the less they have to go after serious, violent crime.” Post-Great Recession, this is a vital consideration. Notes economist Mark Thornton: “The economic crisis is speeding up the realization that the war on drugs has failed and cannot be won.”
4: The WOM crushes civil liberties and destroys minority communities. The NYT notes that blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rate, yet blacks are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession, and at least 10 times more likely to go to prison for drug offenses. Look at the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. The WOM, and the wider War on Drugs, perpetuates the cycle of poverty seen in Ferguson. The WOM requires the growth of government, which requires the growth of law enforcement and the criminal justice system, which swells prison populations, which requires higher taxes and more fees and fines for funding. It fosters “policing for profit.” Citizens are harassed under “suspicion” and subject to illegal searches and seizures. Ferguson residents say they get pulled over and ticketed so the city can profit off of them. They claim they are incarcerated because they can’t pay the fines, and in turn, they lose their jobs and housing, and subsequently miss court dates, etc. In Ferguson there is an average of 3 warrants and 1.5 court cases per household. Decriminalization would break the cycle of poverty. There would be no WOM to wage in the first place.
5: The WOM empowers gangs (foreign and domestic) and spurs child immigrants on the dangerous journey to the U.S. border to escape extreme violence. Gangs smuggle and sell marijuana and other drugs because it’s lucrative. It’s lucrative because it’s prohibited. This is basic economic law – the law of black markets. Decriminalize, and gangs lose power. Violence and social decay both north and south of the border diminishes. Furthermore, The Economist notes: “It is American consumers who are financing the drug gangs and, to a large extent, American gun merchants who are arming them. So failing American policies help beget failed states in the neighborhood.”
6: The WOM is what I call a “gateway policy” for more intervention and centralized power. Similarly, economist Mark Thornton calls the War on Drugs the “Sword of the State”: “The war on drugs has led to the militarization of the police, a vast increase in police power, and a prison system with over 2 million prisoners, a significant number of which are imprisoned due to prohibition and smuggling. The war has also led to a significant decrease of our constitutional rights and a substantial increase in what the police, investigators, and the court system can do to limit or infringe on our rights.” The great Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises was prescient: “As soon as we surrender the principle that the state should not interfere in any questions touching on the individual’s mode of life we end by regulating and restricting the latter down to the smallest detail.”
7: There is an abundance of evidence proving marijuana’s medicinal and therapeutic benefits. NORML notes that the majority of states have passed laws recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic value. Marijuana also has many historical industrial and scientific uses, as is expertly documented in Martin A. Lee’s “Smoke Signals” and Laurence Vance’s “The War on Drugs is a War on Freedom.”
8: Portugal provides an excellent model of a decriminalization success story. Portugal’s War on Drugs was proving disastrously unsustainable. Portugal decriminalized and drug use, addiction, violence, and disease declined.
9: The WOM shatters any notion of America as “the land of the free.” Ask yourself: are we a free country or are we not? Also, the WOM represents an assault on states’ rights. Furthermore, the founding fathers extolled the virtues of cannabis. George Washington said: “Sow it everywhere.” And, after all, the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp.
10: Legalizing marijuana will not “make things worse.” I don’t know anyone who would use marijuana simply because it is legal, or any drug for that matter. Do you?