In 2007, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) employed almost 11,000 people and had a budget of 2.3 billion dollars. For those of you playing at home, the US Government spent the equivalent of Colombia’s entire military budget on the DEA in 2007. The cost to the US taxpayer (in other words, you and me) over the last ten years has been nearly 20 billion dollars (source: DEA website).
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this agency, the DEA (part of the US Department of Justice) is the organization primarily responsible for fighting the “war on drugs”. By way of comparison, people in the US spent roughly $40 billion on illegal drugs in 1998 alone (source: PBS Frontline) .
As an engineer, I look at those figures and come to a conclusion that seems irrefutable: The US Government has lost the “war on drugs”. It’s over. All that money spent on interdiction and law enforcement has done nothing more than put millions of people behind bars and create an environment for criminal organizations to thrive on the manure of hundreds of billions of dollars in untaxed revenue. The “war on drugs” has created and funded international criminal organizations which rival the power of nations and completely destroyed any remaining shreds of faith in the US justice system.
All that said, I do not think we have to abandon any hope of controlling the flow of drugs into this country. I propose giving up on the “war on drugs” (because prohibition is doing far more harm than good) and changing the focus of the DEA from interdiction to control.
Since we know there is a huge demand for certain substances in this country, let’s find a way to make money from it. First, decriminalize the importation and sale of drugs. Classify such substances as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc as recreational pharmaceuticals. Apply a modest tax on the importation of these substances and mandate certain minimum levels of quality and purity (DEA, Customs, and FDA can work together on this), then let people purchase and use them to their heart’s content (generating sales tax revenue in the process).
In other words, let’s treat recreational pharmaceuticals the way we treat alcohol.
The immediate effect would be to cripple the money-making capabilities of the various criminal organizations which currently thrive on the illegal drug trade. If they want to sell their drugs in this country, they have to open up their accounting records to the IRS and Customs, and they’ll have to meet the purity and quality requirements of the FDA. Anyone legally permitted to buy alcohol could buy these substances openly, the Government would get tax money from the transaction, and the price should be much cheaper than any smuggler could hope to match.
Want to mellow out with a blunt? Knock yourself out. You won’t be hurting anyone else. Just don’t drive afterwards. Want to shoot up some Horse? Your business- provided you’re sober when you try to drive or operate heavy equipment. Feel like snorting some blow or dropping some tabs? None of my business, so long as you can afford it and don’t endanger anyone else while you’re boosted.
I believe this would be much better than the current failed policy of prohibition. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol, and it isn’t working for coke, grass, meth, heroin, or any other illegal drug. We could free up thousands of prison cells currently occupied by non-violent drug offenders and get the various law enforcement organizations in this country out of the morality business once and for all. We could make money by regulating the drug trade and spend less money fighting a hopeless battle on behalf of self-righteous Puritans.
That is, after all, what the “war on drugs” is all about. A bunch of people got their panties in a wad because someone, somewhere, might be enjoying himself. Oooh! Can’t have that! Anything not compulsory is forbidden.
Since I’m on the subject of Puritans, let’s take a look at prostitution.
The main reason police hate prostitution is the fact that most prostitutes are hooked on illegal drugs. When hookers move into a neighborhood, drug dealers are never far away (supply and demand). When drug dealers move in, more people get hooked on illegal drugs. People addicted to illegal drugs frequently turn to crime to pay for their addiction. Take away the illegal drugs (by making them legal- and therefore less expensive), and fewer people would be forced into prostitution (or other crimes) to pay for their habit.
Since we know that there’s a demand for convenient, on-demand sex, let’s make money from it. De-criminalize prostitution. Require hookers to pay social security and income taxes. Mandate regular health care for sex workers. The prices would probably stay high (fewer sex workers = lower supply = higher prices), so prostitutes could probably make a living wage. As a fringe benefit, sex workers would no longer be forced into the clutches of criminal organizations. If criminal organizations can’t make money off the sex trade, there will be much less demand for the fruits of the human smuggling business.
Most importantly, this can all be done with far less Gummint intrusion into the lives of the people. The Government has no legitimate business dictating morality. What consenting adults do to each other is no one else’s business- provided they hurt no one else. Pouring hundreds of billions of dollars down the drain in a vain attempt to enforce Puritan ethics is pure, unadulterated, Weapons-Grade stupid.
I have a low tolerance for stupidity in any form. If you don’t want to consort with harlots, doxies, courtesans, etc- that’s your business. If a senior State Government official wants to do so, that should be his business. If it isn’t illegal and isn’t hurting you, why should you care?
Current status: Disgusted
Current music: F-Stop Blues by Jack Johnson