The War on the Drug War

I caught a little of the Mark Levin show tonight, and he had a Ron Paul supporter on his show.  He gave the gentleman a good deal of time – two segments in fact – and was actually gracious to the caller.  The Paul supporter spent most of his time talking about the seminal issue of our day, the one issue that is truly on the mind of every American voter: the drug war.

There are legitimate reasons to oppose the prohibition on drugs.  I don’t particularly agree with this philosophy, but it’s not outside the bounds of reasonable discourse.  What baffles me is the attention that libertarians pay to what is a fairly minor issue.  We are still suffering economically, with an unemployment rate that is hovering at about 8.5 percent, and a real unemployment rate that is significantly higher.  Our national debt is out of control.  Soon Obamacare will be fully implemented, thus making the debt problem and our health care even worse.  Meanwhile, President Obama shrugs off the Constitution like it is some dusty old piece of parchment in making “recess” appointments, and has an Attorney General who continues to obfuscate about a horribly botched gun operation in Mexico.  And yet this guy wanted to talk about the drug war.

Sometime ago I once watched a Libertarian convention, and watched speaker after speaker rail about the criminalization of marijuana.  I had the same reaction then as I did this evening: this is really the hill you want to die on?  Sure, if you want to make this a part of your platform, knock your socks off.  But to make this one of the focal points of your outrage against the government?  Really?

We all have issues that we care about more deeply than do other people.  It just strikes me that libertarians would be better off focusing their attention on matters that are a tad more relevant to people living in the real world.


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Dante alighieri


  1. “But to make this one of the focal points of your outrage against the government? Really?”

    Love of cannabis explains quite a bit about the Libertarian political philosophy which is basically the rest of the world can go to hell as I long as I can do whatever the hell I want.

    I am always amused when drug use is claimed to be a victimless crime. I have been a court appointed attorney in many juvenile cases. Invariably the parents have been druggies who I wouldn’t trust to “parent” a slug, let alone a human child. Illegal drug use also goes hand in hand with criminal activity. I have rarely represented a criminal defendant in non drug cases who was not an illegal drug user. Then we have the divorces where one party decides that he prefers heroin or cocaine to to his or her mate or kids. Victimless crime, yeah, right.

  2. Donald-
    thank you.
    I was debating if I wanted to touch that electrified rail again. Made the mistake of sharing a story the association between cannabis use and mental illness requiring treatment a year or two back– otherwise perfectly rational people went utterly unhinged, making flatly counter-factual claims about the article linked, let alone the study it cited. (and linked– this looks like the same subject, but I don’t have the link itself)

    I know of one good outcome of drug use: the drug ring that was also stealing car radios (and swiping all papers in the car for ID theft) ended up being broken because one of their dealers thought they’d cheated him of his fair share, so he called the cops to complain about it. I may have told this story before, they got a suspended sentence of community service, even caught red-handed with thousands of dollars worth of stolen goods.

    I’ve got a post brewing somewhere working on a link between the spoiled rich kid type demonstration phenomina and pot, but I’ll probably never finish it because it’s worse than speaking ill of Ron Paul.

  3. I do not wish to argue about priorities in the 2012 election over there. I do however know something about the drug epidemic as one who rented his upstairs to crack addicts, unknowingly, and had “friendly” neighbours while in the USA, I am also fully aware of the huge corruption, inflated prices, cost of policing and the officials being bought off, in the drug trade from South America and Mexico and the stories from Afghanistan. The drug trade has destroyed a huge section of the fabric of the society and culture. Vulnerable people are being robbed, murdered, injured, prisons are filled with the lower level people in the business and the high cost because of the danger of drugs is destroying lives . Some better strategy must be developed. What would be so wrong with admitting defeat in trying to eradicate them and working out a system to control the growth and market and care for the addicts by changing the current failed tactics. The Enemy is powerful and very wealthy and very ruthless, the Opponent is basically powerless to a large extent.

  4. Sometimes I think libertarians are as bad as liberals.

    I agree with everyone.

    One thing: what drug war? They are not fighting a war. Read them their “Miranda rights.”

    I have seen what drugs do. Would you shoot a rabid wolf if it were about to kill your kid?

  5. The use of illegal drugs is a sin in Catholic teaching. I was a drug prosecutor for 17 years. I KNOW that usiung pot does not necessarily mean that a person will use powder coke, meth, prescription pills, glue or crack. BUT the huge, huge majority of the informants we used, and I talked to them all, used pot before they used other drugs, and THEY said it was a gateway drug to them !! To make pot legal is saying to kids, we were wrong, it’s not that bad. You want “Joe’s Pot Shop” next to the Burger King or the Best Buy? There is an illegal sanction now, and my opinion is that it would be worse than it is now, in every respect, to lega ize any illegal drug. Obama has done zero in stopping drugs from Mexico. We could do more. Drug treatment programs in prison could be increased. And God forbid that the President of the United States should “lead” and talk about this issue in an address to kids and the public in general. Don’t hold your breath. When Reagan and Bush the First made it a priority, drug use went down. This nation cannot tell kids…”.We were wrong…its now legal if you are over 21…but dont take them if you are under 21!!”…Hows that theory involving booze working for us???
    Read this about drugs http://www.teen-drug-abuse.org/?referrer=http://www.teen-alcohol-addiction.com/teen_addiction/teen-marijuana-and-alcohol-abuse-can-lead-to-brain-damage.php&__utma=1.2008933314.1326895354.1326895354.1326895354.1&__utmb=|utmccn=(direct)|utmcmd=(none)&__utmv=-&__utmk=15501622

  6. What baffles me is the attention that libertarians pay to what is a fairly minor issue.

    A number of them have a fanciful idea of the share of public expenditure which is allocated to enforcing drug laws (the correct answer is ~2%). Others retain an essentially juvenile world view and set of tastes.

  7. As I noted, i rented to crack heads, without knowing it, had a weekly TV programme on topical issues and had highway patrol on as guests- including one ex-60s hippie! undercover officer- and taught College where a former undercover DEA officer became a good friend. I also volunteered as a counselor for religious programmes in prisons for women and men. That whole experience and seeing the failures or local, state and federal efforts to save lives and win people off drugs led me to see that something else or more needs to be done. The sticking point for me is the crime and ruin caused by addicts to get the cash for the drugs, the excessive price of the drugs since they are illegal and thus much more expensive. I am neither a liberal nor conservative as far as labels go socially. But I do think and my experience shows me that is looks broke, can we fix it without making it more broken. Seeing the destruction drugs caused was so depressing and it seemed nothing worked since there was no real alternative and of course not too many saw they had a problem.

  8. You mention concern with Obama shredding the constitution while expressing wonderment at why libertarians are concerned with the War on Drugs. The WOD is a trashing of the constitution that has been going on long before Obama brought his own particular zeal to the game. Those of you who believe that marijuana use should remain illegal completely miss the point. The WOD is illegal itself! There is no constitutional warrant for federal involvement here. If you aren’t willing to abide by the constitution why should anyone pay any heed to your insistence on legalization. f you think marijuana is bad then by all means do as was done with alcohol and abide by our laws and amend the constitution to give the feds legal authority to outlaw marijuana.

  9. You mention concern with Obama shredding the constitution while expressing wonderment at why libertarians are concerned with the War on Drugs

    Actually, I expressed wonder at why libertarians stress this particular issue to the extent that they do. I don’t happen to think that it is outside the realm of polite discourse to suggest that it should be decriminalized or even outright legalized, but it seems to me that there are more pressing matters of concern.

    The WOD is illegal itself! There is no constitutional warrant for federal involvement here.

    Hogwash. This is one of those rare matters where the commerce clause is a justification for federal action.

    This sentiment is a good distillation of libertarian thought, and why so many are really as bad as progressives. Not everything that you disagree with is unconstitutional. You can argue against the drug war on policy grounds, but there’s nothing unconstitutional about it.

  10. The commerce clause is ample constitutional warrant for the WOD. The languange is itself quite expansive and in my view gives Congress considerable latitute to effectuate national policy as long as there is some reasonable nexus to national commerce. While libertarians are uncomfortable with this, and I am too frankly, I tend to think that the words must be respected even when I think they yield Congressional actions that I think are imprudent and certainly unanticipated by the Framers. The Framers agreed to what was written — not to what they hypothetically might have thought they agreed to.

    Whether the WOD is a prudent exercise of the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce is a matter of opinion. Certainly, abuse of drugs is a violation of natural law and therefore it is hardly unreasonable for citizens, including Catholic citizens, to desire that positive law be in alignment. But such alignment is a matter of prudence, and one can certainly reasonably argue that the enforcement of such laws creates more social problems than it solves. I favor the WOD, but concede reasonable people can disagree.

  11. There is no constitutional warrant for federal involvement here.

    I think you might argue there is no warrant to render mere possession, home production, or street-level sales a federal crime. Please keep in mind that the drug trade involves often transporting merchandise accross state lines and possession while on Interstate Highways and U.S. Routes. Keep in mind also that 70% of those in the clink on drug charges are in county jails and state prisons.

  12. Paul is right. In 2005, the Supreme Court decided the case of Gonzales v Raich. The case raised the issue of whether federal drug laws prohibiting the private possession of marijuana preempt state laws that authorize possession and consumption for medical pruposes with a doctor’s prescription. After the DEA seized doctor-prescribed marijuana from the home of a patient, Angel Raich and other patients sued. The United States contended that laws authorizing medical marijuana in California and 10 other states interfere with federal drug enforcement. Raich and fellow medical marijuana user Diane Monson argued that medical marijuana grown and consumed entirely on private property, or provided by a local medical caregiver, is not “an article of commerce” within the power of Congress to regulate.
    BY a 6 to 3 vote Writing for the Court, Justice Stevens found that the power of Congress to regulate local activities as part of a “class of activities” that substantially affect interstate commerce was “well established.” The Court concluded that the doctor-prescribed marijuana has a significant impact on both the supply and demand for black market marijuana, which was clearly within the power of the federal government to regulate. Joining the liberals in the majority were conservatives Scalia and Kennedy, who have been skeptical of strained exercises of the Commerce Clause power in other contexts. Justices O’Connor, Rehnquist, and Thomas dissented.
    There is no more argument folks. What the USSC says the Constitution means…it means!
    The Federal Drug law—21 US Code 801 states “(1) Many of the drugs included within this subchapter have a useful and legitimate medical purpose and are necessary to maintain the health and general welfare of the American people.

    “(2) The illegal importation, manufacture, distribution, and possession and improper use of controlled substances have a substantial and detrimental effect on the health and general welfare of the American people.

    “(3) A major portion of the traffic in controlled substances flows through interstate and foreign commerce. Incidents of the traffic which are not an integral part of the interstate or foreign flow, such as manufacture, local distribution, and possession, nonetheless have a substantial and direct effect upon interstate commerce because–

    “(A) after manufacture, many controlled substances are transported in interstate commerce,

    “(B) controlled substances distributed locally usually have been transported in interstate commerce immediately before their distribution, and

    “(C) controlled substances possessed commonly flow through interstate commerce immediately prior to such possession.

    “(4) Local distribution and possession of controlled substances contribute to swelling the interstate traffic in such substances.

    “(5) Controlled substances manufactured and distributed intrastate cannot be differentiated from controlled substances manufactured and distributed interstate. Thus, it is not feasible to distinguish, in terms of controls, between controlled substances manufactured and distributed interstate and controlled substances manufactured and distributed intrastate.

    “(6) Federal control of the intrastate incidents of the traffic in controlled substances is essential to the effective control of the interstate incidents of such traffic.” 21 U. S. C. §§801(1)-(6).
    Those are just some of the notes that justified the USS Ct to uphold the Fed Drug Laws. So….you may call it unconstitutionsl.BUT those that have the duty and authority to call it un constitutional—-disagree with you

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