I believe the Drug War Hurts America -- much more than it helps anyone (besides jail-builders). I've been an outspoken anti-prohibition activist since 1997, when I first visited the Coffeeshops of Amsterdam and had my eyes opened to the lies, hypocrisy, and civil rights abuses of our ruinous War on Drugs. I've written a lot about drug prohibition since then, but since the list below is a bit overwhelming, here are the top 10 articles on the subject which I'm most hoping you will read:
Why I'm Opposed to Marijuana Prohibition
The Future is in Amsterdam
Topical WWN Articles
Letters to Editors (& Others)
Other Assorted Writings
I am opposed to marijuana prohibition.
Being as I am a peace-loving hippie, I feel that war is seldom the best solution to a problem. In the specific case of the War on Drugs, I feel that the war itself has been far more damaging to our country than the enemy in this war.
As a nation, we have spent several generations and over $200 billion trying to destroy the illicit drug trade. Yet drugs are as widely available as ever. The war has clearly failed; it's time for a new approach.
I believe marijuana prohibition must end for all the same reasons that alcohol prohibition did: it does not solve the problems it seeks to address, and instead just creates black market profiteering, gangland violence, police corruption, and destruction of personal freedom.
Marijuana is the largest cash crop in the land, generating billions of dollars in secret transactions each year. I believe the people earning all this money should be paying taxes on it.
I believe that the dangers of marijuana have been greatly exaggerated. At least 70 million Americans have tried it; around 25 million use it regularly. Very few of these users have real-life difficulties as a result. Of those who do, most suffer because of prohibition (i.e., they're in jail) rather than ill-effects of the drug. Around 11 million Americans have been arrested since 1970, yet no one has ever died from an overdose of marijuana.
I believe one only needs to look at the example of Amsterdam, where marijuana has been decriminalized for over 20 years, to see that society will not collapse if marijuana laws are relaxed.
Cannabis has numerous proven medical and industrial uses, all of which are forbidden under our draconian drug policies. There are plenty of reasons to care about changing marijuana policy that have nothing to do with recreational use.
Defenders of marijuana prohibition usually focus on the need to protect our children from the dangers of drugs. I agree with this goal, but believe it would be better served by a drug policy that restricts use by minors while granting freedom to adults. Legalization does not mean an end to anti-drug education; it simply means we stop putting adults in jail when they choose not to heed that education. (I also believe we should ban alcohol advertising from television.)
One of the great bummers of my otherwise near-perfect life is the fact that my lovely wife Kristin gets frequent and nasty migraine headaches (usually brought on by encounters with perfume or cologne). And she's not alone in her agony... some statistics I've heard indicate that as many as 1 in 6 adult American women suffer from migraines. I think that if all those women - and the men in their lives - knew just how effective marijuana is for this debilitating condition, it would long ago have been legalized. (Hopefully Dr. Ethan Russo will soon receive the government approvals necessary for his research in this area...)
When Kristin is struck down by a migraine, I will do almost anything in my power to end that pain, and since our government won't allow her to use this particular medicinal herb, my only alternative is to campaign for a change to our laws. I believe that by fighting for legalization, I am working to reduce not only my own loved one's pain, but that of millions of migraine sufferers across the nation. (And while the legalization of marijuana, even for medical use, may seem like an impossible goal, it'll be a lot easier than eliminating the entire perfume industry...)
For all of these reasons, and others, I believe responsible use of marijuana by adults should not be illegal. Instead, it should be regulated and taxed, in exactly the same manner as alcohol and tobacco are today.
1.) If prohibition were a viable strategy, wouldn't it have worked by now? Our politicians have been promising us a drug free country for as long as I can remember, yet drug use is still widespread and drugs are as easy to get as ever. For how many more years must we wage this war on drug users before we will accept the fact that prohibition cannot and will not ever work?
2.) Where exactly in the constitution does the government have the power to outlaw drugs? When alcohol was outlawed, a constitutional amendment was required. Since that amendment was repealed in 1933 and no other relevant amendments have since been added, isn't the war on drugs unconstitutional?
3.) How many deaths were caused by marijuana last year? It's a number that's rarely reported. Why is that? The death tolls for heroin and cocaine overdoses combined are in the neighborhood of 6 thousand a year; those for tobacco are over 400,000, and alcohol-related deaths (not counting highway deaths and murders) add up to at least half of that... but there is no number reported for those dying from smoking marijuana. So, if marijuana is so dangerous, why doesn't it ever kill anyone? Where are the corpses? (Incidentally, have you ever noticed that life insurance advertisements always specifically exempt only the tobacco smokers? Listen to them, it's always "...and don't smoke cigarettes," or "... and is tobacco-free." It's never just "non-smokers." Why is that?)
4.) If marijuana is really a "gateway" or "stepping stone" drug, then why is it that out of every 104 people who've smoked pot, 103 have never tried heroin or cocaine?
5.) Who really is the worse threat to others: someone who's drunk, or someone who's stoned? For example, who's more likely to start a fight: a crowd of rambunctious, aggressive drinkers, or a group of mellow, relaxed stoners? Who's more likely to get into a car and cause an accident: the uninhibited drinker, who has an inflated sense of capability and is ready to take on the world, or the paranoid stoner, who just wants to lie on the couch watching TV and eating oreos? And who's more likely to beat his wife or child: the angry drunk, or the wasted stoner?
6.) We've all heard a million times how important it is to keep kids from using drugs, and having grown up drug-free myself, I don't dispute this. I doubt I'd be where I am now in life if I'd gotten involved with drugs as a kid. But what really is wrong with recreational drug use by the elderly? Don't you think the quality of life in our nation's retirement homes would go up if we allowed their residents free access to marijuana? Shouldn't you be allowed to do anything you want to when you retire? Even drugs? I fight for legalization now, so that I'll be able to use cannabis for my arthritis when I'm old.
7.) Who is the more credible witness: millions of ordinary Americans, who've smoked pot and say it's no big deal, or highly paid government officials, charged with upholding a 60 year old, $30 billion-dollar-a-year policy, who describe terrible dangers but assert they've never used any drugs themselves?
8.) Suppose that you are a conservative, conscientious, law-abiding, Christian parent, and your teenager is about to say to you something that you've hoped and prayed you'd never have to hear from your own child. If given the following choices, which would you find to be the LEAST painful confession: a.) I don't believe in God, b.) I'm a homosexual, or c.) I smoke marijuana?
9.) How can we call ourselves the land of the free when we've got more people in prison than any other nation in the world? Millions of Americans yearn for the simple freedom to smoke something other than tobacco, without being branded a criminal. For them, America is anything but a free country.
10.) How exactly does it benefit society to put a job-holding, tax-paying pot smoker in jail? Keep in mind that 87% of last year's 700,000 marijuana arrests were for simple possession.
11.) Housing an ever increasing population of non-violent drug law offenders is costing us, as tax payers, incredible sums of money. It also costs a lot to entrap, arrest, and prosecute these criminals. Is this really money well spent? We could have built a moonbase by now with the money we've spent on the War on Drugs, if we'd given it to NASA instead of the DEA.
12.) Shouldn't drug dealers pay taxes? Just think about how much money the country could be putting in the bank (or rather, applying to the national debt) if marijuana sales were taxed.
13.) How's it going to end? We've spent 200 billion dollars and ruined countless lives, yet marijuana use has not been eliminated, nor even meaningfully reduced. Each year the law-makers pass ever harsher penalties, yet, it's still not a drug-free country. We've fought the longest war in our nation's history, but the war shows no signs of ever being won. And how can it? The war on drugs is a war on our nation's own citizens. No free nation can win such a war and survive. Those that have come closest to winning such wars were the communists and the nazis.
14.) Suppose you are a struggling artist of some kind. Now suppose you somehow learn (through a crystal ball, the ghost of xmas yet to come, a memo from your future self, whatever) that if you decide to become a stoner, you'll achieve all the success you've ever dreamed of ... but that your work is doomed to mediocrity and obscurity if you don't. What would you do?
15.) What does "freedom" mean to you? Does it exclude the freedom for a responsible adult to smoke pot? If so, why? If not, why does that freedom extend to tobacco and alcohol? Do you agree that it should?
16.) Did you know that Carl Sagan was a stoner? He single-handedly wrecks the whole "demotivation" myth, doesn't he?
Have I convinced you? Even if you don't care about the rights of drug users, as a taxpayer, you should be concerned about the fact that we're shredding money (as well as the bill of rights) on a war that doesn't work and will never end. If you agree that we must stop this madness, please join in our fight!
Here are some ways you can help: