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Why are drugs illegal? Is it because they are more dangerous than other legal substances? We can’t be sure, because it is illegal to study the effects of drugs on people. Is it because drug users are portrayed to be thieves then therefore, all drug users will always steal? If you can name three reasons that drugs are illegal besides “They are bad,” I advise you stop reading this immediately, because not even the D.E.A.’s (Drug Enforcement Agency) website can come up with 3 reasons (they don’t have a single reason WHY drugs are illegal, just “information” about how meth dealers like to burn puppies1.) I ask that you use your logic and reasoning, not your previous judgments when thinking about considering this outlandish possibility. Let’s start out by thinking about how legalizing drugs would save the American people their money, but bear with me because it will take a little bit. We can look at California, because they have the most data available to the public. In the most recent year that info is available (2005), there were 113,000 people arrested for drug “abuse.”2 In the same year, 24.6 billion (with a B) dollars were spent on policing the Californians.3 Some of the money was used well, with some crimes, like rape and hate crimes decreasing. But homicides, crimes against senior citizens, and burglary increased. 4 The spending increased almost parallel to the rise in violent crimes. However, the police continue keep trying to stop people to smoking marijuana, using cocaine and shooting up heroin. They spend time trying to bust those rascally high schoolers tokin’ up while the murderers and thieves run the streets. You could think “If all those junkies weren’t high on their drugs, then they wouldn’t be killin’ and robbin’ from good people.” I’ll cover the robbing and its causes later, but the Californian Department of Justice doesn’t think that there are enough murders committed while under the influence of drugs to even keep track of them, forcing people to rely on the stereotypical image of strung-out junkie killing someone to get their fix (the reason for the murder will be covered also.) When the police are weighed down with getting the kids who are trying to make a buck in the drug business, they are hindered from policing the crimes with a 23% yearly increase (murder.) From 2004-2005 the Californian government increased funding for Law Enforcement by 3 billion (again, with a b) dollars. It is impossible to know how much money of this goes to administering drug enforcement, but one could conservatively imagine that it is about 15% of the budget. We cut out the 15% of the yearly budget to compensate and instantly, this accounts for $194.21 that every man, woman and child in California would have.5 For a family of five, this is almost $1000 dollars. One thousand dollars is more than enough to feed this five-person family for two months. Needless to say, food for two months is more important to the American family than putting the youngest son in jail for smoking.
http://www.justthinktwice.com/hot/puppies.cfm#puppies (not on the D.E.A. homepage, but a satellite organization made and supported by your tax dollars.) 2 www.dea.gov
3 4 5
http://ag.ca.gov/cjsc/publications/candd/cd05/tabs/2005Table48.pdf http://ag.ca.gov/cjsc/statisticsdatatabs/dtabscrims.php - hate
(24.3 Billion X 0.15)/19 Million = $194.21
To get a different view, we should examine the tragic story of Kathryn Johnston.6 The name might not sound familiar, but the story should. In 2006, on a crisp November night, three people in street clothes kicked in the door of a 92 year old (yes 92, 8 years under 100). The men knocked down the door, screaming and pointing guns at the woman. Ms. Johnson had a revolver that she bought to protect herself; she lived in a bad neighborhood and just wanted some safety. She shot at the 3 intruders a single time, and they shot back, 39 times, killing her instantly. Two of them plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges on April 19th and are serving 12 years. They were officers of the Narcotics unit of the Atlanta’s Police Department.7 The other charges they plead guilty to were violation of oath (lying about the warrant they got to have a no-knock raid cleared), and making false statements (falsifying the claims of the informant). Well what in the world would cause 3 plain-clothes officers to knock down the door of a 92-year-old woman? Untrue hearsay from an informant. The police falsified the claims that this woman was selling cocaine. The informant came forward saying explicitly that he never testified or even mentioned they had cocaine. If there were no illegal substances, this woman would be sitting at her house, probably reading the paper or making herself a meal. She is the most recent of the deaths from the war on drugs. This death alone should make you think. Is it the drugs that are causing the problems, or the fact that they are illegal? Now let’s examine the idea, “All junkies have to steal to make enough money to get their cocaine (marijuana, meth, ecstasy, whatever).” Well why is that? The answer is so obvious it seems untrue. Basic economics states that as the supply of a product increases, if the demand stays the same, then the price will have to drop. Conversely, if the supply of a product decreases, but the demand stays the same, the price goes up. The people who want to do drugs already are, so the demand wouldn’t increase substantially, but the supply definitely would. If beef, for example, became illegal, its price would increase exponentially because it would be hard to secretly have cattle and therefore the supply would decrease, causing the price to go up. When something is illegal, the price will go up, allowing for enormous profit to be made (think about Prohibition in the 1920’s and the Mafia.) Imagine how much maple syrup would cost if maple trees were illegal. Marijuana, opium and coca are exactly the same. It is difficult to grow marijuana outside safely, because of it’s distinct leaves, and it can only be in one spot (remember, it’s a plant.) Every time a plant is found, it is destroyed, with the owner being arrested. It doesn’t cost the price of marijuana to grow it; it’s just a plant. But because of the huge risk of growing it, the price is artificially increased. If it were made to be legal, companies could have 1500 acres of marijuana grown without being raided. The supply would increase, the market would be flooded with a surplus, and the price would plummet. Your dollar would purchase 100, probably 1000 times as much as it would have previously. Suddenly working a minimum wage job not only can provide for all of the weed you want, but you can save for a family, house, etc. You don’t have to break into that schoolteacher’s car to get the $60 bucks for your high. You can use pocket change to buy the same amount, letting you save more money. When the price is so artificially high,
there’s no way you can work at minimum wage and get weed. You are forced to steal, but now the market place, instead of some bum decide the price; you could save the poor woman walking down the street from being robbed at knifepoint. The DEA estimates that drug addicts are responsible for 1/3 of all robberies, burglaries and larceny. If the market were given control of price, it would have no choice but to drop the price to 1/1000 of what it is. It would be naïve to think that legalizing drugs would eliminate those robberies totally, but it would be safe to assume that it would decrease the drug related robberies by 3/4. Using that quantity and market value (price which everyone agrees affordable) for the controlled substance, there isn’t as much motivation to steal and suddenly 250,000 people didn’t have their property taken.8 Who would confidently say no thanks to that? Nobel Prize-winning Economist, Milton Friedman has calculated that about one-half of murders, or ten THOUSND, are people who are killed because back alley deals gone wrong, and the profit that can be made. Over three times the amount of people killed in 9/11 are killed because of the War on Drugs; people still continue to think that drugs kill, but it turns out it’s the drug laws. You’re reading this thinking, who cares about some druggies? Why should I even care what they do? It’s my family who is attacked by these vicious thugs and criminals! Unfortunately it might be, and if it is, those brutal gangsters should be punished to the fullest extent of the law for their violence. However there is a cause of this violence, you could call it a disease. Instead of stopping the symptoms (by locking up gangsters,) let’s address the sickness. Gangs exist because there is a huge profit to be made providing a product, or service. As previously mentioned, in the 1920’s it was alcohol, in the 70’s and 80’s it was cocaine, and in the 90’s it was crack. Now there is ecstasy, heroin, and a myriad of other drugs out there. Because there is money to be made, there are people willing to fight, even kill, for a piece of the profit. With the aforementioned correction (read: enormous price drop) of the market value in these substances, the margins (possible profit) of selling these substances are almost gone. With so much less money to be made, it just wouldn’t make sense to have a gang working long hours when they could make much more money at a part-time job. Think of corn, barley, oats or any other agricultural product. If you grow 12 ears of corn in your closet, you can’t possibly make any substantial money. But if you grow hundreds of acres, the profitability would increase making it a viable solution. Now back that to marijuana, you could grow it in your closet, or on a giant farm. But let’s get back to the topic at hand, gangs. They don’t have anywhere to make money, because their sole source of cash (the selling of illegal drugs) was just taken over by an extremely efficient corporation. A Board of Directors would make gangsters obsolete. The gang would disband because there is no reason to waste their time. Suddenly no one thinks, “That kid is on MY block” or “what is that punk doing around HERE!” If there are no gangs, there can’t be any places the gangs’ control, and no other gangs competing for the same former selling corners. Why in the world would a person shoot someone they don’t know in a drive-by? They wouldn’t, not only because the idea is ludicrous, but also because they would be tired from working, taking care of their family and maybe mowing the lawn of the new house they could buy
(Robbery + Larceny + Burglary)=(63,000+688,000+249,000) X .25 = 250,000
(from the decrease in price.) It might seem tough, but I think we can let organized crime and drug lords take a pay cut.9 How does 80 billion dollars sound? I know this is quite a lot to handle, but I’m glad you’re still hanging around. We’ve covered pricing, and the reduction in violence and robbery. But what about the burden that all these possible new drug users would put on our current social and financial infrastructure? Hospitals would be overflowing; insurance agencies would be going bankrupt with all the overdoses and teens and adults would be dieing by the thousands! First, let’s look at the legal drugs. Alcohol’s effects kill 150,000 per year, and tobacco kills 390,000 people. These people use the drugs knowing the consequences and are allowed this freedom. However, heroin kills 400 (medically, not through violence); cocaine kills 200, and marijuana kills no one. There has never been a recorded marijuana death or overdose. Not once. The amount of marijuana needed for you to die is 40,000 times the amount needed to feel high. Alcohol is only 4 to 1. It is easy to see how 5000 people (every year!) die from alcohol poisoning.10 I am not qualified to make assumptions on how dangerous marijuana is, but I think Lester Grinspoon, M.D. is more than qualified. As the Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Grinspoon says “I suspect that a day's breathing in any city with poor air quality poses more of a threat than inhaling a day's dose -- which for many ailments is just a portion of a joint -of marijuana.” When a professor at Harvard Medical School says that it is more dangerous to breath city air than marijuana, you have to consider how much of true heath hazard it really is. If drugs were legal, then there could be research done by pharmaceutical companies to determine their quality, side effects and ultimately, lethality. Instead of users taking “More and more” until they get their high, there could be safe measures to prevent overdose. There could be pills that would counter-act the effects of these substances (which would further stimulate growth of research.) We assume that marijuana causes people to become less mentally alert, we could know for sure instead of just guessing. With the clinical tests available for these drugs, doctors could be more knowledgeable to fight the problems that drugs cause, making them safer for use. But what about the insurance companies, Allstate, Blue Cross and the rest! They all would go out of business! Think about legal drugs, like tobacco. If you use tobacco, you pay a higher premium, and therefore compensate for the extra medical care you will need. You could check a box for heroin use and your premium might double. They might not cover you, which is their prerogative; it’s their business and you would go to the next company which might. If you purchase drugs today, you are literally taking a gamble with your life. Who knows exactly what is in the marijuana you bought? Is it clean or is there PCP? Can you really know for sure? If drugs were legal, the Food and DRUG Administration would. The FDA has been monitoring drugs for over 80 years.11 The FDA was made to keep the public safe from dangerous food, and they could possibly help keep the people who
http://www.theadvocates.org/library/casualties-of-war.html http://www.drugtext.org/sub/marmyt1.html “Milestones in U.S. Food and Drug Law History” at FDA.gov
choose to use these substances. It would let there be a controlling factor in an unregulated industry. The overdose deaths that were talked about above would not only be decreased by the research and pharmaceutical drugs, but by the increased safety of the drugs. To me, the biggest problem with drug prohibition is the essential idea behind it. It is trying to protect us from ourselves. Why should some bureaucrat in Washington tell me what is right for my body? But what will happen next? Will we be told what to eat, (in NYC, they have already got that covered)12? Will they tell us what to say? Will they wipe our butts in the morning and tuck us in at night? I can proudly say no thank you; I am an adult and I will make my own decisions. Don’t try and force your beliefs on me using S.W.A.T. teams and the legal system. But if we think it’s good to use violence to kill drug “offenders,” why stop there? Let’s get rid of thought different than the majority through “Hate” (read: thought) crime! It sure would save problems down the road to force everyone to think the same. We used to own our bodies, consuming what we thought was appropriate to consume. But in 1920 the public thought that the Government should decide what is good for you. They didn’t trust themselves to not consume harmful substances. Because the public realized how much crime this Prohibition caused, they made alcohol legal again in 1933.13 Five other countries tried this, to repeal it less than 13 years later. They no doubt realized how harmful this crime that was created, was. Morphine, codeine and cocaine were all available over the counter in the 18th and 19th century yet America still managed to survive. Today we are going through a similar experience, however this one is exponentially more expensive. The fourth most common cause for arrest is possession of marijuana,14 with 225,000 people arrested annually. What used to be a beacon of freedom and liberty is now the flagship for prisons. America has the highest percent of its citizens in prisons. 2.3 million Americans are in prison, with 56% of them being incarcerated for drug possession or drug related charges.15 With one of the largest federal deficits in history, want to save $6,186,127,675 per year? Let these non-violent citizens have their lives back.16 The United States represents 4.6% of the world’s population, but has 25.0% of the prisoner population!17 The people in U.S. prisons for victim-less crimes is bigger than all of Wyoming and Alaska combined. Our Founding Fathers would be ashamed of what liberties have been taken away from us, to “protect us” from ourselves. So, what do you think? Do you think that burning tax dollars is better than burning marijuana? A wise woman once put it best: “I did not elect a permanent parent
12 13 14 15 16
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/11/nyregion/11fat.html?ex=1281412800&en=48292bdab493d5e2&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition Federal Bureau of Investigation. Crime in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1991.
Harrison, Paige M. & Allen J. Beck, PhD, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2005 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, November 2006), p. 10, Table 14. American Correctional Association, 2006 Directory of Adult and Juvenile Correctional Departments, Institutions, Agencies and Probation and Parole Authorities, 67th Edition (Alexandria, VA: ACA, 2006), p. 16; Harrison, Paige M. & Allen J. Beck, PhD, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Prisoners in 2005 (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, November 2006), p. 9.
Walmsley, Roy, "World Prison Population List (Seventh Edition)" (London, England: International Centre for Prison Studies, 2007), p. 1; US Census Bureau, Population Division, from the web at http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html accessed July 8, 2003.
figure who planned to spend my tax dollars wagging his finger at me and dubbing certain actions ‘bad.” Should we stop freedom for the sake of…well… nothing? We could save lives; decrease robberies, reduce random and planned gang violence. Think about this the next time you see someone getting arrested for smoking marijuana and think “Lock him up!” Thanks for bearing with me, send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked this article, send it to your friends. If you didn’t, send it to your friends and make fun of it.
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