When conservatives or libertarians point out that lowering tax rates increases revenue, liberals scoff. You can show them proof, and they won’t listen because they are too vested in their ideology to slow down and accept that sometimes things work a little different than they seem.
If the policy discussion shifts to the drug war, however, most people on the right develop a case of cognitive dissonance, and it develops quicker than you can trigger a social justice warrior at a Donald Trump rally. We must be very careful not to lower ourselves to the level of the Marxist left wing that murdered over 100 million people in the 20th century. Their goal was equality, but the methods used to achieve it had the opposite effect. Inability to admit they could be wrong about their approach resulted in mass murder across the globe.
I want to see drug use lower, but the current policy is a failure. The war on drugs has cost over a trillion dollars, with lackluster results. Use rates haven’t seen any significant changes, but the damage to our civil liberties has been catastrophic. Particularly troubling, is the number of gun rights supporters who are against decriminalizing marijuana, even for the sick and injured. Every single gun control act was in response to a post prohibition crime wave. There would be no need for the NRA or Florida Carry Inc. without drug prohibition. It is a bold statement, but I ask that you bear with me, and let the facts, rather than your emotions, determine your response. Below is an article and graphs showing the use of drugs has increased, despite our best efforts.
There is only one western country that has lowered drug use, not just significantly, but dramatically. If is the European nation of Portugal.
Hard drug use down by half.
The rate of overdoses is over 5 times lower than the EU average.
The drop in use rates among young people are even higher than adults.
“Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the E.U.: 10%. The most comparable figure in America is in people over 12: 39.8%. Proportionally, more Americans have used cocaine than Portuguese have used marijuana”.
“The Cato paper reports that between 2001 and 2006 in Portugal, rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1% to 10.6%; drug use in older teens also declined. Lifetime heroin use among 16-to-18-year-olds fell from 2.5% to 1.8% (although there was a slight increase in marijuana use in that age group). New HIV infections in drug users fell by 17% between 1999 and 2003, and deaths related to heroin and similar drugs were cut by more than half. In addition, the number of people on methadone and buprenorphine treatment for drug addiction rose to 14,877 from 6,040, after decriminalization, and money saved on enforcement allowed for increased funding of drug-free treatment as well.”
This is happening while people regularly overdose in American prisons! Think about that for a minute. What kind of police state would you need to eradicate drugs,if we can’t even keep them out of the prisons we send drug offenders to? Recent arrests of prison guards in Florida highlight the problem. Are we to believe that the solution to the drug problem is to incarcerate them, where they still use drugs?
The illegal immigration crisis is fueled by the rampant corruption, caused by the cartels, and their black market billions. The legalization in some states of medical and recreational marijuana has hurt the Mexican cartels, which the drug war was never able to do. The prices have fallen over half, which means less money for weapons and bribes. It has been a major blow, considering marijuana is about 40% of the cartel’s revenue stream.
Violence has been reduced by a very significant percentage. This is less counter intuitive than the fact that decriminalization lowers use. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Walgreens and CVS are frequently on opposite corners of the same intersection here in Florida, and sell more narcotics every day than any drug dealer in the city. The legal prescription drugs they dispense kill more people than all illicit narcotics combined.
Despite this, if Walgreens lowers their price on morphine, CVS employees don’t engage in drive by shootings against the rival drug dealers at Walgreens. If someone robs CVS, they can call law enforcement. If a drug dealer is robbed, they are forced to commit violent crimes to recover their stolen property. Nearly all of the violence centered around the drug trade is related to turf or theft.
Unfortunately, the US drug war has once again rescued the cartels. The hysteria over methamphetamine reached a boiling point and Sudafed, which can be used to make the drug, was restricted. You now have to sign for it at the pharmacy counter. After a short decline, use is now back up and rising. The difference is instead of some knucklehead making it in his garage, the cartels are bringing in a cheaper and 100% pure version known as “ice”, so we have empowered the cartels to regain the ground we took with marijuana decriminalization. Thanks, now the cartels are getting rich creating new waves of tweakers and I have to register my cold pills. Do you feel safer yet?
Recent attempts to curtail the prescription drug epidemic in Florida had a predictable result, as heroin deaths continue to rise. Rather than addicts in Florida using drugs originating in pharmacies, manufactured in regulated labs, the ignorant lawmakers decided it would be better to fund terrorists in the Afghanistan poppy fields. It invokes an ad on TV I remember seeing in the early days of the most recent Iraq war, about how drug users were funding terrorism. Maybe ISIS will give an award to the misguided prohibitionists in the state house. Heroin is a perfect example of the ineffective result of drug prohibition, as the graphs below detail.
Portugal, in contrast, was able to turn a never ending criminal problem of 100,000 people into a 40,000 person medical problem. Not only are drug use, overdose death, and HIV infection rates way down, but the treatment programs save the taxpayers a ton of money that can be used for better purposes. Now that people don’t fear the stigma, twice as many people are seeking treatment to overcome addiction. Curing addiction is a better way to reduce drug demand than locking people up in prisons full of drugs. When they get out, the criminal record often prevents them from retaining gainful employment, and this cycle of misery and addiction, born of hopelessness begins again, and their children suffer as a result. Often they end up back in prison, and these children become the new generation of addicts or the thugs keeping them supplied. The cycle will never end, as long as we keep doing the same thing while expecting a different result, something many use to define insanity.
The price we have paid in the loss of civil liberties is even more horrific. I founded Jacksonville Open Carry in 2010, and gun rights issues saw my first major political success. I was forced to reconsider my position on decriminalizing drugs when I realized prohibition is at the root of gun control. The facts forced me to realize that to support the drug war was to support gun control, and to continue giving the enemies of the Constitution ammunition (pun intended). If you oppose decriminalization, quit fooling yourself and pull the lever for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, or the next round of liberal nut jobs in the next election cycle. Go hand over everything in your safe to the next gun buyback.
Does that sting? Suspend your emotional distress, as we constantly demand the left do, and consider the facts.
-Prohibition of alcohol gave rise to the wave of mob violence that resulted in the Gun Control Act of 1936.
-Drug prohibition laws in the 1960’s gave rise to the street violence that resulted in the abomination known as the Gun Control Act of 1968.
-In the early 1980’s, the CIA started smuggling cocaine to a man named “Freeway” Ricky Ross, to fund proxy wars against Soviet funded guerrillas in Central America. They sent a US-backed Contra rebel to marketing school, and he taught Ricky Ross how to manufacture and distribute crack cocaine. His network reached into Chicago, Houston, and beyond. Others followed suit and the crack epidemic was born. Most people are familiar with the Iran/Contra affair, and a great documentary called “American Drug War” features many of the actual players from Ricky Ross, to law enforcement discussing it. “Dark Alliance” by Gary Webb is a great book on the subject. If you believe he shot himself twice in the head with a .38, I have a nice beachfront condo to sell you in Fallujah.
The end result was the Gun Control Act of 1986, and we lost our automatic weapons, and the first steps of registration scheme began. One day it may be used to confiscate our firearms.
The irony of those supporting the drug war while opposing gun control reaches epic proportions, when we consider they espouse, rightly so, that no law will stop criminals who want guns from getting their hands on them. We tell the world that the cat is out of the bag, and since we cannot stop them, we must be able to defend ourselves. How do they not understand the same concept applies to people seeking drugs? It is the same exact concept! Since we know there is a more effective strategy, not a theoretical one, but a proven one, aren’t we then supporting cartels and terrorists by a refusal to admit it? What sort of hypocrite do we become, if we demand everyone accept the facts in the masterpiece of John Lott, “More Guns, Less Crime”, while ignoring the facts surrounding the current drug war policy?
One day, if we fail, when they “pry your cold dead fingers from around your firearm”, as your grandchildren are loaded into boxcars, and sent to the camps, they will curse you for your ignorance. They will wonder how you sat there with a cold beer, condemning your neighbors to prison for what they put in their cigarettes. They will forever curse those who gave rise to the police state, and saw the Constitution set ablaze, because they refused to see the facts.
-The fact is that you cannot be a fiscal conservative while supporting drug prohibition. It is hypocritical to do so while opposing Obamacare. Prohibition is even less effective and still costs a trillion dollars. In many ways, it is far worse. Every dollar spent on the drug war is wasted, and has collateral damage on millions of families. At least people on Obamacare plans get treatment, albeit substandard. What kind of fiscally conservative policy spends more money to solve a problem than the problem costs, while making it worse?
-The fact is you cannot claim to support smaller government and support prohibition. It is the number one catalyst for the growth of the police state, and the source of the commerce clause perversions that grew to justify federal encroachment in every area of life. We have 25% of all people incarcerated on the planet, right here in the land of the free. Let it sink in that communist China and Russia have far lower incarceration rates per capita. Then tell me how you believe in limited government and personal freedom. Chug another beer and wave that flag, Mr. Freedom.
-The fact is undeniable: if you support prohibition, you support gun control. Shut your mouth about the Constitution, you damage it more than all of Barack Obama and Sarah Brady’s wildest dreams. I’ve had cocktails with many of you, while we had a cigar, shared coffee in Tallahassee with you before hearings and at open carry events. Those are all drugs. Alcohol and nicotine kill more people every year than all the illicit drugs combined. Marijuana has never killed a single person in recorded history. Do you realize you are making the same argument as the anti-gun crowd!! Well these guns are reasonable, but you shouldn’t be able to own that assault rifle! Assault rifles account for a fraction of the gun deaths. You say, well I want my coffee, beer, cigarettes, and prescriptions, but you have to ban that evil marijuana and other drugs, that kill at a tiny fraction of the rate of your preferred intoxicant. Intellectual honesty means something, especially when you promote something unpopular, despite evidence it lowers crime.
-The fact is undeniable, if you support prohibition you support drug use, because the only policy that has lowered drug use is to decriminalize and treat the addicts.
I support reducing the federal government, I support personal liberty, I support the right to keep and bear arms, I want to see less people on drugs. I refuse to sink to the level of the left wing, and cling to falsehood because I am so vested in a position.
Therefore, I support decriminalization. It is the only way to reduce drug use, especially among young people. It is the only policy that will protect our right to keep and bear arms. it is a free country, you can disagree. I hear the Democrat Party is looking for live voters, go register with the other folks who propagate lies despite evidence. You’re promoting drug abuse and the police state, and it’s embarrassing to the rest of us, who love the Constitution.
About the author:
Ryan Ramsey is a US Navy Veteran and lifelong political activist. He hosts “The Sounds of Rebellion” and “Liberty Tree Radio” on World Integrity News Network. He sits on the National Council of the SDL, is the Director of The Florida Liberty Project, founder of Jacksonville Open Carry, and Bradford County Chairman, for the Libertarian Party of Florida. He also is the singer and guitarist of the “Rock Against Communism” band “Lovecrime”.