The Imaginary War on Drugs: Is There One?

What, when you get down to it, do we do about drugs? For decades we have been grinding away at the dope trade, spending hugely, putting appalling numbers of users and dealers in prison, increasing the powers of the federal police. What have we gotten for it?

Not much. Your daughters, at age fifteen, unless they are in iron lungs, can score in a day or two any drug you have ever heard of, and lots you haven’t, unless you misspent your youth extravagantly. Because of the drug laws, horrendous amounts of money go to drug lords in Columbia who otherwise couldn’t make a living. What to do?

The following is a letter from a friend of mine, a former military guy with lots of combat time in Asia, who lives in a large city among the literati, of which he is one, when he feels like it. Think about it.

“Fred: My take on the WOD [War On Drugs] is that it’s actually a major cause of the drug epidemic. It keeps the price up, provides tons of free advertising, and provides an incentive to engage in the business and get rich or, on a smaller scale, to make a living, or on a still smaller scale, to pay for your own [drugs]. When the WOD started, the drug problem in this country consisted of some jazz bands and Eugene O’Neill’s mother.

“It’s not the drugs that are the problem. If every skell in America were zoned out, looking at his shoes, or even just OD’d in the morgue, because the stuff was readily available at cost, they might be worthless, or even a welfare drag on the society, but they would not be (a) burgling your apartment, (b) mugging you on the street, or (c) selling the stuff on the street about two blocks from a Middle School. One thing junkies are not is enterprising, about anything except scoring some more junk.

“I will bet anybody, journalist, policeman, drug czar, world’s foremost authority, that I can take anyone who is addicted, or psychologically addicted (that means they like the stuff), to any drug in wide distribution today and drop him in any populated location anywhere in this country and he can score before nightfall.

“So, other than as a means to enlarge their budgets and personnel, what do these policemen propose to do that does not involve the wholesale abandonment of the Bill of Rights?

“It is my belief that it is everybody’s business if somebody poses a hazard on the highway or in the workplace, but what they do for fun in the privacy of their own homes is nobody’s business unless it poses a hazard to the lives of minor children. My point is that if drugs cause you to perform crimes against persons or property, you are responsible. If you are all [drugged] up at the time, that is no excuse, and may be an aggravating factor.

“But if you get all [drugged] up at home, and spend a pleasant evening examining the wallpaper while you listen to punk rock or rap, then that should be punishment enough. If your life is so bad that your only remedy is to turn yourself into a drooling fool, what punishment will stay you? But in any case it’s nobody else’s business.

“I think kids are interested in drugs because a crime makes them cool. I’ve had friends who were teachers report that kids in Middle School sit around reading DARE pamphlets, figuring out which drugs they wanted to try when they got old enough to score. [My own daughters say exactly this. They had barely heard of drugs, when this nice cop came and told them about all the varieties out there, and what they looked like, and what the effects were — whereupon, who would have thought it, kids became interested. Fred]

“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You gotta be careful with this stuff. Your memory is a bit askew. I’m a social toker, but my total expenditure on cocaine for my entire lifetime is $10.00. [My] First Law of Economics is Never Buy Cocaine. I am quite willing to snort up all the free coke anybody wants to give me, although that has not happened for fifteen years. That’s because all my cokehead friends have cleaned up and become respectable. All it takes is having your life fall apart five or six times and people sort of go…hmmmm, maybe this isn’t such a good idea.”

Worth thinking about.

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