Saturday, November 9, 2019

How to win the drug war

Newt Gingrich recently opined that Mexico is effectively in a state of war with the drug cartels -- and losing badly. President Trump has committed to helping the Mexican government wipe out the cartels completely. However, if he plans to use the same methods and strategies he used to defeat ISIS, he will fail badly.

We have been fighting the "war on drugs" -- with weapons, propaganda, and incarceration -- for nearly 50 years, and nothing tried so far has worked. The drug traffickers have only been emboldened and made stronger, wealthier and more brutal. More Americans are dying now from drugs and more Mexicans are dying from drug-related violence than ever before!

So what to do? Newt Gingrich urges controlling our borders, eliminating sanctuary cities, and more harshly punishing those who profit from dealing illegal drugs here in our own country. All good strategies.

But then he undercuts his whole argument and effort by making this one very stupid assertion:

"Reforming our criminal justice system, which I strongly support, does not mean we have to accept the legalization of heroin, cocaine, fentanyl and other deadly drugs."

Oh, yes, it does!

As long as drugs are highly illegal and highly desirable, there will ALWAYS be a strong market for them. The more difficult drugs are to get, the more expensive they will be to obtain and the more profitable they will be to sell.

Alcohol and cigarettes kill far more people each year in the United States than do illegal drugs. Yet alcohol and cigarettes are legal. We don't have "alcohol lords" and "cigarette lords." Nobody is killing anybody to get a cigarette or to control the alcohol market. Even with high tariffs and taxes, you can buy a week of "good times in a bottle" for the price of a juicy steak in practically any grocery store -- even though a bottle of Jack Daniels, if consumed all at once, would most likely kill an adult and most definitely kill a child.

And, yet, almost any child can walk into any grocery store in California and pull a "killer" $20 bottle of Jack Daniels off the shelf and put it in their mother's grocery cart, or conceal it in their pants...and simply walk out of the store.

It's still illegal for children to buy or use alcohol or cigarettes, or for adults to sell or give them to children. But children end up using these products nonetheless, despite the illegality.

Our laws don't make sense! We punish the wrong things!

Clearly, making something illegal, or even discouraging it with threats of lifetime incarceration or addiction, or death by overdose or execution, is NOT ENOUGH to stop those people who desperately want to do something.

Murder is highly illegal, too, yet highly-motivated people still find a way to murder!

There are two ways to stop the drug trade. One involves a tremendous amount of freedom. The other involves a tremendous loss of freedom. Only one works very well.

Even in federal prisons surrounded by high walls and barbed wire, manned by armed guards with standing orders to "shoot to kill," illegal drugs still get in. They are made, marketed, and consumed -- sometimes by the prisoners themselves, and sometimes even by the jail keepers! On any given day, you can find illegal cell phones, knives, and illicit guns, too, inside prison walls. Clearly, walls and guards are NOT a perfect solution...or even the best one.

What IS necessary and effective is making the manufacturing, marketing and consuming of recreational drugs UNDESIRABLE. People don't need to be forced NOT to do what they DON'T want to do. People DON'T naturally do undesirable things.

Besides, keeping people (and things) behind prison walls is not only ineffective and counterproductive, it is inimical to freedom. A "free" people are not free if they must be locked up behind walls and enchained.

So what's the alternative to tyranny, oppressive regulation, Draconian punishments, and imprisonment? (All these have been tried in the "drug war" without success.)

Quite simply, freedom.

Make ALL drugs legal, but lightly regulated. Do NOT punish the user. (If they have suffered at all, perhaps they have suffered enough already! If they haven't suffered from their drug use, why would YOU make them suffer?) To each his own!

But DO strongly condemn and punish those who harm -- or practically threaten to harm -- others. This can be done quite efficiently and effectively.

First, employ the powers of the Food and Drug Administration to designate FDA-approved and non-approved substances and products. Both would always be legal. But those deemed potentially most harmful would be regulated (much as prescription drugs are regulated now).

So where's the catch? How would people be dissuaded from making, marketing, or using (currently illegal) drugs if they would be legal to make, market and use?

Easy! Hold the manufacturers, marketers, and users of these dangerous substances and products responsible for the damage they do to others. Sic the trial lawyers on them! That will dry up the market and use of these products almost as fast as lawn darts and thalidomide disappeared from American backyards and medicine cabinets.

Barrring negligence and misrepresentation, the law would hold blameless any manufacturer, marketer, or user of FDA-approved products deemed "safe and effective" when used as intended. But non-FDA-approved products and substances would be subject to the full force of the law. You knowingly make, market, or use a substance that is non-FDA-approved (because of its potential to harm or kill someone else)? Then you will be held responsible.

While it would be LEGAL for 7-Eleven to sell heroin on every street corner, no corporation would do it! The legal and financial liabilities would be too great! (Plus they'd kill off their customers.)

Still, there will be some dummies who try. They will soon be tracked down and caught up by the private investigators and profit-seeking litigators, hungry to find "justice" for their clients. Those who traffic in evil -- whether or not it is profitable for them to do so -- will financially and personally be ruined!

But drugs will still be legal. Adults will still be allowed to use them. You will still be able to buy your (FDA-approved) opioids at the local pharmacy (for dirt cheap) or (non-FDA-approved) drugs from the local street vendor (for even cheaper)! You'll even be allowed to make and market them yourself, and share them with your friends and family, even with complete strangers! No one will stop you!

Until you hurt or endanger somebody.

Beware! You will be held accountable for any damage you do to others. The non-FDA-approved manufacturer who makes these products that end up hurting others will be punished. The dad who becomes addicted -- and neglects his children -- will be punished. The woman who runs off the road -- and wipes out a family, or nearly does so, under the influence -- will be punished. The babysitter who offers these substances (illegally) to children will be punished. (It will still be illegal for children to have and use thse products and substances, just as it is now.)

Education is key. Just show the people the consequences of their choices! SHOW THEM the consequences of using these products and substances!

This will not deter everyone. There will ALWAYS be dummies who do stupid and evil things. But making these substances legal will DRIVE DOWN THEIR COST and thus eliminate the profit motive for most people. People will not be willing to kill and steal for what they can make themselves, or get down the road for a few pennies or bucks from some dummy.

There will be lots of fools who will need lots of help whenever freedom is involved. But freedom is a lot cheaper than tyranny, more conducive to happiness, and much easier to manage.