We as a society are not very rational. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Not really. We are fractured along so many lines that the best image of us might be Frankenstein’s monster. It has always been thus from our very founding. I have explained to people before that if you want to understand America think about this: our founding fathers and mothers were made up primarily of three groups – Religious zealots that were so sanctimonious their own society kicked them out, Adventurous types either interested in exploring or getting away from the rest of society, and criminals sent to those penal colonies.
It was this mixture that has made up our cultural DNA. To that, through the years has been added regular and consistent injections of immigrants. Immigrants tend to, as a rule, not exactly be timid or lacking in adventurousness. After all, if they did, they would have stayed at home.
Is it any wonder then, that we are not exactly a rational society? That we say we want one thing, and then take steps to achieve precisely the opposite? We say, for example, that we want freedom and democracy not only at home but around the world, and then we subvert it at home and support brutal dictators around the world, today and in the past.
This manifests in many ways, of course. Our drug policy is just one of these. For most of the last century, we have been attempting a policy of prohibition. We know from our experience with alcohol prohibition that this approach does not work. Even some of the farthest right, most repressive groups in America know that this policy doesn’t work. In theory, we as a society want to reduce drug abuse and the associated societal ills – violence and theft, for example. In practice, the policies that we have in place create or exacerbate these very problems.
Who is it that wants to continue the prohibition policy? Primarily it is three groups. It is the inertia group, the police-industrial complex, and the drug cartels. One at a time. The inertia group is made up of a variety of people. It is those who haven’t taken the time to actually think for themselves or have simply not been educated beyond the propaganda that has been spewed out. They are also those who are of the, “Well, it’s always been this way” variety. They are those who may have seen people in their lives who have been abusers of drugs and have expanded this out to a belief that the specific drugs the government has labeled as illegal can only be abused. They are generally unaware that prior to the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act 1914, there was no legal control on narcotics, and they were used openly. They were, of course, subject to abuse, and that was frowned on, but they were also used in the same way that alcohol was, responsibly by respected members of the community without disdain or other social sanction. Certainly abuse was not approved of, but that was true whether the substance was alcohol or any other drug.
There is a lot of money to be made from illegal drugs. Any item that is sold on the black market raises the prices. The risk involved, and the lack of regulation or tax drives the profit through the roof! Take as an analogy, if you will, the situation after a disaster such as a major hurricane or tornado. Those who are lacking in ethics may well raise the prices on the most basic of commodities because they can. Food, gas, ice, and more may see their prices triple or quadruple. We have laws in place to prevent this type of price gouging. However, this is simply “supply and demand” according to the right wing, and it is what happens in the “free market”. It is what happens in the black market where there are no controls to prevent it, because the black market is the only true free market.-1- Where is there any incentive for the drug cartels to want drugs to be legalized? Why would they want to give up their profits? There is no more incentive for them to do this, than there is for major legal companies to give up their profits through tax breaks and shelters without a fight.
There is also a great deal of money to be made for the police-industrial complex. Between 2001 and 2010, we arrested over 8 million people in the US for marijuana alone, and 88% of those were for simple possession. We spend $3.6 billion a year enforcing marijuana laws. That’s billion with a b, and that is, again, only marijuana. It does not take into account any of the other drugs. We spend between $20 and $25 billion a year on the “War on Drugs”. That should worry you. The private prison industry is a billion dollar a year business, and the vast majority of those prisoners are in for drug related crimes. We spend huge amounts of money on equipment to outfit the police who are now often as armed and armored, if not more so, than many of the military personnel we have in war zones. All of that equipment also costs billions of dollars every year.
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