Remember the war on drugs?

So, let’s have a look at the NY Times headlines today.  Here are my favorites:

I always recommend reading the articles of course, but look at what we can get from just the headlines:  The financial crisis dominates, which isn’t suprising.   Our pres. wants to dump a lot of money into kickstarting the economy, which is probably not a bad idea.  On the other hand our fiscal deficit is getting absolutely terrifying.  So we need some creative ideas for cutting spending.  Well, as usual we find we are cutting funding for humanities studies.  No big surprises there.  One that did however catch my eye, and inspired this post, its the   fact that some states are apprently considering halting the death penalty in order to save money.

Well, I think cutting humanities education is a bad idea.  The american populace is already sorely lacking in critical-thinking skills and cultural. social, and historical awareness.  Good democracies require a thinking voting population, and vocational training doesn’t teach critical thinking.  But cutting the death penalty is pretty interesting, since it’s such a debateable practice.   That one caught me by surprise.

What would surprise and delight me however, would be for major policy makers to start talking about ending the war on drugs, and switching to a harm-reduction policy regarding drugs.  The only discussion I’ve seen in the major media here is the article “Latin Americans Decry U.S. Drug War”.  The headline certainly doesn’t say anything new to anyone who has been paying attention.

I have to do some research, and provide some good citations to back up the following claims, but that will have to wait for another post.  The evidence all pretty much points to the same conclusion though:  We can do a better job of preventing and treating drug-dependancies and drug-abuse by spending money on treatment and education, rather than dumping the money into a racist “war on drugs”, which vilifies and destroys other nations, subjegates huge chunks of our population, and creates criminals where there need be none.  Harmless drugs which offer positive social and medical benefits need to be decriminalized entirely, and marketed through legal and controlled channels

To start with, let’s decriminalize marijunna, and restrict its sale to people above the age of 18.  As people grow a little more enlightened we can extend this to magic mushrooms, and later perhaps even lsd, ecstasy, and ketamine.  If we, as a society, want to exercise a little more control over drug abuse, why not the following proposition:  In order to enjoy recreational drugs, you have to get a licence to purchase them, just like you need a licence to drive.  If you engage in antisocial behavior while one drugs (like a drunken and disorderly conduct, or driving while intoxicate for examples), you can have your license suspended.    When you purchase drugs you consumption can be tracked, and if your consumption exceeds certain limiits, you can be sent for evaluation and counseling.  A particularly innovative approach would be to make the legal status of a drug actually depend on the danger levels of the drugs (toxicity, danger of addiction, social harm), and its benefits (medical, psychotherapeutic, recreational and social).   Under such a system, tobacco and alcohol would be more tighly regulated than marijuanna.

Suddenly we’ll have a lot less people in jail, which will reduce our (huge) budget for the “correctional system”.  People who just want to smoke a joint, won’t be labelled criminals.  People will have more respect for the law, since there will be fewer useless, unfair, restrictive, pointless and patently harmful laws on the books.  We can tax the drug consumption, and increase government revenues.  Police budgets can be reduced, or rechannelled into useful activities:  i.e. fighting crimes that are actually harmful.  You know, things like rape, homicide, white collar crime…

On the positive side, at least some mainstream media are reporting on this issue, without the usual bias. On the other hand, Obama’s comments thus far regarding the drug war have not been promising.  Whether this is due to actual indoctrination on Obama’s part, or a sense of pragmatism is unclear, but I suspect it is more the latter.  The guy has a lot of things he has to change, and campaigning against the drug war can be a real political liability.  So let’s try to change that situation!