Tag: drug war

Baptists and Pot-Growers

The L.A. Times reports that the city of Oakland has approved an ordinance paving the way for the industrial production of marijuana. There is more to this than simply a victory for liberty in the drug war.  As the story describes and Josh Blackman analyzes, the episode demonstrates “Baptists and Bootleggers”-style public choice economics in action: existing small-time growers are displeased at the competition, barriers to entry are high, the approved pot factories engaged in serious rent-seeking, and the city profits from a new stream of tax revenue.

And so, as liberty expands, government reserves the power to decide who gets to benefit most – after taking a slice for itself off the top.

Barack Obama’s War on ‘Chooming’

My Washington Examiner column this week begins with a look back at the Disco Era:

In his high school yearbook photo, President Barack Obama sports a white leisure suit and a Travolta-esque collar whose wingspan could put a bystander’s eye out. Hey, it was 1979.

Maybe that explains the rest of young Barry’s yearbook page, with its “still life” featuring a pack of rolling papers and a shout-out to the “Choom gang.” (“Chooming” is Hawaiian slang for smoking pot.)

Survey data suggest some 100 million Americans have tried pot, including political elites and drug war supporters Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. So the point here isn’t to play “gotcha” by calling the president out on some harmless fun three decades ago. It’s to ask why he isn’t doing more to change a policy that treats people engaged in such activities as criminals.

As I note in the column,

in his new National Drug Control Strategy [.pdf], Obama “firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug” and boasts of his administration’s aggressive approach to pot eradication. Watch your back, Choom Gang.

This may present Obama with a serious moral dilemma if and when California votes to legalize recreational use of marijuana this November. (More here in this podcast).

A Forceful Call For Change From El Paso

El Paso, TX is one of the safest cities in the country, but its residents are strongly identified with the human tragedy affecting their Mexican neighbors across the Rio Grande. El Paso shares a metropolitan area with Ciudad Juárez, México, arguably one of the most dangerous cities in the world, where over 4,000 people have been killed in the last couple of years.

This situation is something that the communities of El Paso and Las Cruces, NM want to change. On Monday, politicians, academics, civic and business leaders of both cities will hold an event calling for a “comprehensive revamping of the failed War on Drugs waged by the United States and other countries.” You can read the press release here.

Among other things, they

…advocate, as an important first step in drug reform, the repeal of the ineffective U.S. marijuana drug laws in favor of regulating, controlling and taxing the production, distribution, sale and consumption of marijuana by adults. The sale of marijuana in the U.S. black market contributes 50 to 70 percent of Mexico’s cartel revenues.

Last year the city council of El Paso passed a resolution calling for “an honest, open, national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.” Leading figures in the community have come to understand that the only way to tackle drug violence is by legalizing drugs, not by relying on conventional and unrealistic approaches, including tougher enforcement and sealing the border — alternatives that don’t resonate with a community so deeply intertwined with their Mexican neighbors.

As they meet at the White House on Monday, will President Obama and President Felipe Calderón of México hear the call for a change in drug policy coming from El Paso and Las Cruces?

Associated Press: Drug War Failing

From an Associated Press story:

After 40 years, the United States’ war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.  Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn’t worked. “In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” Kerlikowske told The Associated Press.”

Former Drug Czar John Walters complains, ”To say that all the things that have been done in the war on drugs haven’t made any difference is … saying all the people involved in law enforcment, treatment and prevention have been wasting their time. It’s saying all these people’s work is misguided.” 

Precisely.

Read the whole thing.  More here and here.

Behind Every Law Is Force

That’s one lesson that this video of a drug raid should drive home.

Warning: Graphic Language and Material

In America today, lawmaking is discussed much too casually.  The consequences are not seriously considered.  We allow agencies to issue regulations without having a formal vote in the legislature.  “Too cumbersome.”  Compliance is automatically assumed.  Few want to consider whether the use of brute force can be justified against someone who resists, or the danger that might be created for the innocent who get swept up in investigations.   We now have thousands of rules and regulations on the books.

We suffered through the painful lessons of liquor prohibition, but have been slow to see the parallels in the drug war.  A few years ago, Cato published a report on these paramilitary raids, called Overkill. The author of that study, Radley Balko, has been vigilant about highlighting these raids and dispelling the idea that they are just a few “isolated incidents.”

More on the drug war here.

‘Taking the Rest of His Life Away’

Upon sentencing a 24 year old to 27 years in federal prison on a drug charge, the Federal Judge Alan Bloch lamented, “I was basically taking the rest of his life away.”

Go here to read about that case, which is coming before the Supreme Court for review.  For related Cato scholarship on sentencing, go here and here (pdf).  For Cato work on the drug war, go here.

Drug Violence in Mexico

The apparent drug gang killings of U.S. consular employees this weekend in Juarez, Mexico are a bloody reminder that President Obama is getting the United States involved in yet another war it cannot win. Drug gang killings also occurred in Acapulco, with a total of 50 such fatalities nationwide over the weekend.

Unfortunately, Obama has responded to the latest incident by following the same failed strategy as his predecessors when confronted with drug war losses: a stronger fight against drugs.

Though the deaths are the first in which Mexican drug cartels appear to have so brazenly targeted and killed individuals linked to the U.S. government, illicit drug trade violence has killed some 18,000 people in Mexico since President Calderon came to power in December 2006—more than three times the number of American military personnel deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.

The carnage only shot up after Calderon declared an all-out war on drug trafficking upon taking office. After more than three years, the policy has failed to reduce drug trafficking or production, but it is weakening the institutions of Mexican democracy and civil society through corruption and bloodshed, which are the predictable products of prohibition.

The 29 people killed in drug-related violence this weekend in a 24 hour period in the state of Guerrero sets a dubious record for a Mexican state. And an increasing number of Mexicans, including former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda, are calling for a thorough rethinking of anti-drug policy in Mexico and the United States that includes legalization. Legalization would significantly reduce drug cartel revenue and put an end to an enormous black market and the social pathologies that it creates.