As I write this, the nation is opening a new front in the (long-since lost) War on Drugs™. The Federal Gummint, along with a few local and state jurisdictions, have apparently decided that we (the People) cannot be trusted with pseudoephedrine.
For those of you not familiar with this over-the-counter drug, pseudoephedrine (brand name Sudafed) is a decongestant- a non-addictive chemical which dramatically helps with sinus congestion. It has been issued over the counter for decades because of its efficacy and lack of side effects. For millions of people with allergies, colds, flu, or chronic sinus problems, this inexpensive drug is a boon beyond price.
Unfortunately for those sufferers, the Gummint (in typical mama knows best dearie form) wants to make pseudoephedrine in all its guises available by prescription only. Not because of some recently-discovered side effect wherein the user is transformed into radioactive iguanas or might be prone to wandering bladder syndrome followed by catastrophic explosions. No, the Gummint (we only have your best interests at heart) is doing this (for your own good, of course) because some people might use it to make meth.
Never mind that ordinary citizens already have to show identification before purchasing this dangerous product. Never mind that such laws have had no measurable effect (in Oregon, for example, where this is already state law) on the production of meth anywhere. Never mind that pseudoephedrine is no longer strictly required to make meth anymore (there is a fast, cheap, and dirty method of making the vile stuff in a 2-liter soda bottle which does not require any pseudoephedrine-containing products). In a classic case of padlocking the barn door long after the horses have escaped, the Gummint is bound and determined to “do something” about the “meth epidemic”. In a typical Gummint frenzy to appear to be accomplishing something, this inexpensive drug may soon be only available with a doctor’s prescription. I assume the Gummint’s next smooth move will be to outlaw common household chemicals (such as baking soda) to combat meth, and perhaps potting soil to combat the “scourge” of marijuana.
Let’s take a look at the probable consequences of this action: A drug that anyone can now pick up at any grocery store or drug store for about six dollars will now only be available after paying a doctor upwards of fifty dollars for an office visit. Because the common, inexpensive drug must now be carried in the security of a drug store safe and only dispensed by licensed pharmacists, the cost per unit will have to be raised (to pay for the additional paperwork, among other things). Law-abiding citizens stricken with sinus headaches, allergies, or sinusitis will now have to wait until they can be seen by a doctor before getting any relief at all. The best part of the whole plan, of course, is that this will have almost no measurable effect on the production and sale of meth. The only possible real effect on meth production this might have would be to reduce production by local meth-heads and increase production by Mexican drug lords. By all means, let us create a new revenue stream for the narcolords south of the border. After all, those stalwart, law-abiding hombres would never dream of violating US laws.
This asinine drug war has to stop. We (the People) need to be smart enough to recognize a lost cause when we get beaten over the head with it day after day. Criminalizing common items in a demonstrably vain attempt to prevent people from getting high (or low) is having the effect of militarizing our police forces, creating a crippling number of overcrowded prisons, and fueling the drug violence in Mexico with billions of our dollars. We’ve gone this route before with Prohibition, and look how well that turned out. Seriously. Look at how Prohibition turned out. The parallels are staring us in our collective face, but we (the People) are seemingly unable to accept the stark reality of this War on Drugs™. Legislating puritanism does not work in a free society.
One of the people at the Centers for Disease Control was interviewed about the so-called “Crack Epidemic” of the 80’s by P.J. O’Rourke for his book, Parliament of Whores (published in 1991). This worthy forecast that the “crack epidemic” would be mostly over in about ten years because most of the crack addicts would be dead by then. This was entirely accurate, if politically incorrect.
Let us stop criminalizing so-called “dangerous drugs” and start criminalizing dangerous behavior. This is similar to what we are doing with alcohol in the wake of the failed experiment in national puritanism called Prohibition. We criminalized the behavior, not the substance. All we (the People) need to do is extrapolate existing laws to cover dangerous behaviors which are already illegal- such as driving under the influence. Drive while stoned or drunk, spend a year in jail, mandatory. Cause damage to people or property while stoned or drunk, double that. Kill someone while stoned or drunk, life in prison without parole (or death, if your state allows this). Pretty soon, those without the self-discipline to enjoy their drug of choice at home will all be dead or in prison. This idea has the advantage of being far cheaper than the current War on Drugs™, but would also strangle the flow of cash to the drug lords in Mexico. Taxing the various recreational pharmaceuticals will be problematic for a considerable time, but the huge cost savings from not funding the attempts to win an unwinnable “War” should really be enough of an incentive to try this. Any tax revenue raised would be pure profit for the Gummint, compared to the hundreds of billions of dollars currently being poured down a rat-hole every year for no appreciable gain. It also has the enormous advantage of being far more friendly to liberties of the individual citizen.
Any one of these advantages ought to be enough to convince people to end this wasteful War on Drugs™. Sadly, I fear far too many of my fellow Americans- on both sides of the political spectrum- are uninterested in rational decision making or logical choices. Those on the left might claim to be appalled at the callous disregard for the lives of the addicts, while those on the right might claim to be outraged at the idea that someone might be enjoying himself outside of their idea of “proper behavior”, but they’re both just trying to disguise their desire to control others.
Here’s a lovely quote from Heinlein which seems appropriate:
Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
Current status: Surly, suspicious, and lacking in altruism
Current music: Uprising by Muse