The Biggest War in the United States


Doing drugs is wrong.

Yep, I said it. Consuming any mind-altering substance fundamentally alters who you are, even for a short period of time. It compromises your judgment and makes you do things that you wouldn’t normally do. Drugs destroy families and people. Heroin is wrong. Crack/cocaine is wrong. Marijuana is wrong. Caffeine, alcohol, and anti-depressants are all morally and ethically unsound to consume.

However, on April 20th, 2011, I took time out of my day and skipped a class that I liked very  much to hold an event protesting the war on drugs.

Why did I do this? I did it because I believe that I have no business telling other people what they can and cannot put in their bodies. Neither does my government.

This is the essence of social liberalism, and a core principle of libertarian thought.

The War on Drugs

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the coercive policy we have come to know as the War on Drugs.  In 1971 President Nixon announced that drug abuse was the country’s #1 public enemy. He implemented a strategy that, according to Robert Dupont at today’s debate at Cato, was equal parts prevention, education, rehabilitation and police enforcement. Clearly I wasn’t alive in the 70s, so I will take his word on it that this actually happened.

However, prevention and education  is not a part of the war we see today. The war we see today is nothing but a war. Federal police and DEA agents kills thousands of people a year. Prohibition leads to the deaths of millions in the poorest countries in our hemisphere.  Drugs are not the casualty of this war; people are.

Like most wars of the United States, shows no signs of either being successful or relenting. It is America’s longest-running, most lethal, and most pointless conflict.

Reason Magazine does an excellent job of reporting the police abuses, corruption, and human losses related with the war. Prohibition has driven up the cost of drugs, making the black market highly lucrative. Drug lords overrun the countries from which these drugs emanate, and the states are either powerless to stop them or they simply don’t care. In this trade, a select few individuals swim in money that reeks with the blood of those they have killed to get it.

Meanwhile, in the United States, adults and children report that getting drugs is easier than ever. Some 22 million people have used an illegal substance in the past 30 days.  Not included in this statistic are those who can go to a doctor, claim that they are feeling sad, and get a prescription the drug that is illegal in another form.

Clearly the government has done a good job at eliminating “public enemy #1.”

Why [Certain] Drugs are Illegal

Most arguments to justify the war on drugs fail miserably. This is because such arguments all stumble when held up against drugs that are currently legal.  If a person supports prohibition because the government has a role in keeping people from substances which harm them, then certainly s/he must support the prohibition of other drugs: alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine. Right?

They usually don’t.

There is no solid criteria upon which a drug is made illegal.  Some drugs are highly addictive (caffeine and heroin), some are hallucinogenic (opiate pain killers and opium/LSD),  and others will most certainly shave years off your life (tobacco and crack/cocaine). Some create addicts who destroy others’ lives (alcohol and meth). Almost all of them are bad for you. Only marijuana has ever been shown to have beneficial effects (and no one has ever overdosed either).

For all those criteria by which people support prohibition, there is a legal drug that has the exact same negative effect. Those who support prohibition of the currently illegal drugs and do not support a ban of these others are dangerously hypocritical.

But rather than those inconsistencies being slightly annoying,  this mi-match is killing people. Those who promote prohibition support a murderous policy, and it’s time for it to stop. There is no good reason to support the war on drugs, and to do so leads to the death of millions of people.

End the War on Drugs.

~V.A. Luttrell