Time to end prohibition?

Paul Raven @ 04-12-2008

marijuana traffic lightsDid you know that alcohol prohibition ended in the United States seventy-five years ago this month? Me neither; following on neatly from the Swiss legal heroin program story comes news of a US organisation called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, whose name should tell you exactly what they’re advocating: legalised regulation of all drugs. Here’s their pitch:

After nearly four decades of fueling the U.S. policy of a war on drugs with over a trillion tax dollars and 37 million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses, our confined population has quadrupled making building prisons the fastest growing industry in the United States. More than 2.2 million of our citizens are currently incarcerated and every year we arrest an additional 1.9 million more guaranteeing those prisons will be bursting at their seams. Every year we choose to continue this war will cost U.S. taxpayers another 69 billion dollars. Despite all the lives we have destroyed and all the money so ill spent, today illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and far easier to get than they were 35 years ago at the beginning of the war on drugs.

They’ve got a lot of facts and figures there, that’s for sure… and they’ve also just released a report that claims ending the war on drugs will boost the US economy by at least $76 billion a year, in addition to putting criminal cartels out of business.

LEAP are far from the first to make similar claims, of course, but their point about the economic effects is well timed and calculated to appeal to the status quo. Whether it will have any effect of the entrenched ideas of policy makers remains to be seen… over here in the UK, our government is trying to reclassify cannabis on the same level as methamphetamine, so I’m not exactly hopeful for a spontaneous outbreak of common sense in the halls of power. [image by aforero]

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4 Responses to “Time to end prohibition?”

  1. SMD says:

    I think the whole situation is a lot more complex than they would like us to think. You can’t just go “oh, well it’s all legal” and magically expect to be able to tax it. It’s not going to work that way considering how prohibition has been going the last 40 years. Illegal drug selling is so entrenched in its underground ways, that uprooting it into the legal sphere is not going to be like baking a cake. It’ll take time and money not only to get people to buy legally, but to get people to trust the government to act responsibly on it.

  2. Paul Raven says:

    I’m inclined to agree with you, SMD. I suspect their response would be “yes, but it would still be cheaper than carrying on as we are”.

  3. Sterling Camden says:

    I’ve been saying this since I was a teenager. I no longer use, but I still think that government involvement has only made everything about drugs ten times worse than it needs to be.

  4. dagonweb says:

    Bull, SMD. You legalize a product, put in place taxes, checks for product safety, new laws and sales licenses as well as lows on where to use and and when not. Then let the market sort it out. You can do this with cannabis, easy.

    Current harder narcotics can be brough under far greater control too, if you implement fenced free-zones where people can use. Cocain and heroin would be acceptable to banish to “restricted zones”. Disallow use for anyone with a responsible job – conduct regular blood tests. Then tax the stuff, and import it from abroad in american run licince pharmaceutical farms. Push out the illegal element.

    The only downturn is that a HUGE NUMBER of very hard career criminals will be looking for other employment, and that WILL cause major upheaval for years. Imagine all drug traders fighting to sustain the same inflated income levels – the same amounts now running like rivers into tax coffers? Police no longer busy with wasteful drug enforcement can now focus their attention of real crimes?

    The arguments are so clear they’ve become as invisible as air.