Tag: war on drugs

Santos: ‘Proposition 19 Could Change Colombia’s Drug Policy’

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has stated that if Proposition 19 passes next week in California and marijuana is legalized in the state, it could force his country to rethink its drug policy.

“Tell me if there is a way to explain to a Colombian peasant that if he produces marijuana we are going to put him in jail… [while] the same product is legal [in California]. That’s going to produce a comprehensive discussion on the approach we have taken on the fight against drug trafficking,” said Santos, who, a couple of months earlier, endorsed the call for a debate on drug legalization made by Mexican president Felipe Calderón. However, Santos has also said that he believes that legalization will increase drug consumption, a presumption that has been rebutted by evidence in countries with liberal drug policies such as Portugal.

Today, in his opening remarks at a Latin American presidential summit held in the Colombian city of Cartagena, Santos brought up [in Spanish] the subject again  “If we don’t act in a consistent way on this issue, if all we are doing is to send our fellow citizens to jail while in other latitudes the market is being legalized, then we have to ask ourselves: isn’t it time to review the global strategy against drugs?”

Santos’ statements have been backed by his Minister of Foreign Relations, who even said in an interview with El Tiempo, Colombia’s leading newspaper, that the country’s new seat on the UN Security Council could be “a good place” to start a “worldwide discussion” on the way that the war on drugs is being conducted.

It’s ironic–and gratifying–that the president of Washington’s closest ally in Latin America is the leading voice in the region questioning the wisdom of the war on drugs. It shouldn’t be a surprise, though. Back in 1998 Juan Manuel Santos signed a public letter to then Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan denouncing the war on drugs as a “failed and futile” experiment, and calling for drug policies to be based on “common sense, science, public health and human rights.”

Even though the impact of Proposition 19 in California and the United States could be limited, Juan Manuel Santos’ statements show that its reverberations in Latin America could be significant.

That Conway Ad and Social Liberalism

The infamous Conway attack on Rand Paul may be found here. Most people have focused on religion and politics in talking about the ad. I want to examine a part that has been overlooked.

We often hear that contemporary liberalism comprises a big state role in economic regulation combined with a small state regarding social and civil liberties. Maybe not.

Look at the disclaimer at the beginning of the ad. Who is standing behind Jack Conway? Those two gentlemen would police officers, probably Kentucky state police. Why are they there? After all, Conway could have put his loving wife and dear children in the background. But he choose police officers. Conway is saying: “I stand with the forces of order.” Not a very socially liberal message.

Why are the police willing to be in Conway’s ad? After all, the forces of order usually endorse the Republican candidate. Not this time. The Fraternal Order of Police in Kentucky endorsed Jack Conway. Why? Rand Paul suggested the drug war in Kentucky might be paid for in Kentucky. This had two effects. First, it cast doubt on the holiness of the anti-drug crusade. By putting the police officers behind him, Jack Conway is saying: “I will fight the drug war no matter what.” Not good for social liberalism or civil liberties.

Of course, the police have a material interest in the drug war in Kentucky. They believed that Dr. Paul’s call for federalism would mean lower salaries and less resources for the drug war in Kentucky. Conway is saying here: no budget cuts for my friends, the forces of order.  Thus does the drug war bring the Kentucky State Police and the Daily Kos into a political alliance.

Like most politicians, Jack Conway is doing whatever is necessary to win a senate seat. He could end up as the pivotal vote for a Democratic Senate majority, at least in partisan matters.

If he votes as he ran, Conway will be a reliable vote for the policy status quo on the drug war, against civil and social liberties, and for a politics that always and everywhere covets victory “by any means necessary.” He should fit in well in Washington, especially with the more authoritarian parts of the GOP.

How to Profit by Expanding Freedom

That’s the title of this week’s column by Steve Chapman:

Here’s an excerpt:

Spending huge sums of money and getting no results to justify the expense: That’s the relentless, and accurate, Republican critique of President Barack Obama’s efforts to revive the U.S. economy. But it also describes a policy staunchly supported by Republicans as well as Democrats decade after decade: the war on drugs …

None of the [data is] new, but it has fresh relevance because of budgetary pressures that have forced citizens to ask what on earth the drug war is accomplishing. Californians, whose state government is in a bottomless fiscal hole, will vote next month on an initiative to legalize cannabis. One big selling point is that it could yield a $1.4 billion windfall to state coffers.

What is true for the Golden State is true for the other 49. In a new study for the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron and research associate Katherine Waldock estimate that, nationally, legalizing and taxing marijuana would save $8.7 billion in enforcement costs and harvest $8.7 billion in revenue.

Read the whole thing.  The Cato study can be found here.

“This cries out for a Jim Harper rant.”

… says a colleague. Or maybe it speaks for itself.

Sheriffs want lists of patients using painkillers

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the War on Drugs is meant to help people: The helping hand of government strips away privacy before it goes to work.

My 2004 Cato Policy analysis on point is: “Understanding Privacy – and the Real Threats to It.”

Stossel v. Hannity on Drugs

Thursday night at 8 and midnight, John Stossel debates the war on drugs with Sean Hannity. Check it out on the Fox Business Network.

John’s other guests will include Jeffrey Miron of Harvard and Cato and Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal.

And for more Stossel, don’t miss last week’s classic episode on Milton Friedman and Free to Choose with Tom Palmer, Johan Norberg … and me.

The Insane Drug War

“Thousands of police and soldiers swarmed into slums in Jamaica’s capital Tuesday in search of an alleged drug kingpin wanted by the United States, trading gunfire with masked supporters of the fugitive,” the Washington Post reports. “At least 30 people, mostly civilians, have been reported killed since the battle erupted Sunday.” Later reports put the number of deaths at 44. And for what?

[Christopher] Coke, who allegedly assumed leadership of the “Shadow Posse” from his father, was accused in a U.S. indictment in August of heading an international trafficking ring that sells marijuana and crack cocaine in the New York area and elsewhere.

So he’s accused of selling pot and coke to willing buyers. I’m sure he and his colleagues have engaged in violence along the way, but that’s an inevitable part of illegal businesses. And to capture a drug dealer, we’ve spent nine months pressuring a friendly government, and “thousands of police and soldiers” have been dispatched, with 44 deaths and counting. This policy is insane.

And it seems to confirm the point of this Newsweek column by Conor Friedersdorf, which I read a few hours earlier:

Forced to name the “craziest” policy favored by American politicians, I’d say the multibillion-dollar war on drugs, which no one thinks is winnable. Asked about the most “extreme,” I’d cite the invasion of Iraq, a war of choice that has cost many billions of dollars and countless innocent lives. The “kookiest” policy is arguably farm subsidies for corn, sugar, and tobacco—products that people ought to consume less, not more.

These are contentious judgments. I hardly expect the news media to denigrate the policies I’ve named, nor do I expect their Republican and Democratic supporters to be labeled crazy, kooky, or extreme. These disparaging descriptors are never applied to America’s policy establishment, even when it is proved ruinously wrong, whereas politicians who don’t fit the mainstream Democratic or Republican mode, such as libertarians, are mocked almost reflexively in these terms, if they are covered at all.

Friedersdorf goes on to declare that Rand Paul’s views on the gold standard and his doubts about the Civil Rights Act are “wacky.” (Without refighting the civil rights argument, I’ll note that some economists would disagree with Friedersdorf about the gold standard.) But, he concludes, “crazy, kooky, extreme actions are perpetrated by establishment centrists far more often than by marginalized libertarians.” Look no further than Jamaica.