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End Insanity Of The War on Drugs—Start With Decriminalizing Marijuana at The Federal Level

Tuesday, 20 Apr 2010 | 12:00 AM ET


In light of the recent drug-related violence in Mexico, it is appropriate to reflect on how our current prohibition laws affect crime, law enforcement and the economy.
Many will have the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to see more of a crackdown on illegal drugs. But I have to ask: Haven't we been cracking down on drugs for several decades only to see the black market flourish and the violence escalate? Could there be a more effective approach?

The illegality of drugs is, in fact, the Number One factor that keeps profits up for dealers and cartels, and ensures that organized crime dominates the market.

Cocaine, for example, has about a 17,000-percent markup and sells for more than gold in some areas. This is nothing new or unique to drugs, but a predictable outcome of prohibition.

During alcohol prohibition, Al Capone and others involved in organized crime made fortunes taking advantage of the dangerous and lucrative underground market the laws had created. Every time law enforcement makes another bust, profits rise for the remaining suppliers. These types of economic forces are insurmountable for law enforcement, but make for very good business for dealers and cartels.

For the rest of us, however, it is a disaster. The war on drugs keeps our prisons full to bursting at great expense to taxpayers, but also at great danger to the public at large when the real criminals, the murderers, the rapists, the child molesters, are let out to make room for non-violent drug offenders.

We imprison more of our population per capita than Russia or China ever have, and yet criminals like Philip Garrido (Jaycee Lee Dugard's kidnapper) are out there able to rape and kidnap again and again. (It is interesting that in his case, a little marijuana caught the attention of law enforcement more than repeated reports from neighbors of children in his backyard).

The War on Drugs skews the priorities of law enforcement to the detriment of the public.

Repeal of alcohol prohibition certainly did organized crime no favors. So too today, if we wanted to pull the rug out from under violent drug cartels, create legitimate job opportunities in place of the black market, realign the priorities of law enforcement, and make room in prison for the people that ought to be there, we need to end the insanity of the War on Drugs.

Decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level would be a start.