• Arne Mortensen

Losing yet another "war"

The general fund of county government has an annual budget of approximately $50 million. Of that about 75% is spent on “law and justice,” the courts, the jails, and the Sheriff. That budget does not include the special funds such as the mental health tax and the document recording fees, and it does not include the myriad of welfare programs; all of these add up to millions of dollars. These are the direct costs, which means they are directly traceable to line item entries in accounting spreadsheets. Not included are the various forms of costs to the individual or to society. Let me list a few of these, in no order:

  • Various levels of crime on the innocent public in which the victim is harmed in the pursuit of money for drugs

  • Destruction of individuals who suffer from chronic pain and no longer can get legal drugs

  • Shifting of resources away from positive, constructive, and beneficial social activities

  • Destruction of nations such as Colombia and Bolivia

  • Violations of personal liberties and the trampling of the US Constitution; 4th amendment, asset forfeiture; etc.

  • Creation of lawless and brutal gangs

  • Destruction of families

Undoubtedly, I have missed some items.

Below are links to two articles about the war on drugs that give an objective view of this “war.” This link reminds those who are firmly against drugs and who think legalization of drugs is a left-wing conspiracy, that even William F Buckley came to the conclusion that drug prohibition, as it was with alcohol prohibition, is dismal failure. Legal does not mean recommended or beneficial!

The second article is a relatively comprehensive study of the war of drugs. Well worth the read.

While anecdotes prove nothing, they can provide perspective if there is substance behind it. Here are two personal observations.

  • Several years ago, I met a person who was having car trouble.We talked a little bit, and I found out that this person was a DEA agent that had been stationed in South America.I asked that person for their opinion on the war of drugs.The reply was that the war will continue because no entity involved wants it to stop … because there is too much profit for everyone, including government agencies on both sides.

  • In various other conversations with retired law enforcement officers, the response was 100%, that the war on drugs was ineffective and frustrating … frustrating because it took away resources from the pursuit of other consequential crimes.

Some (many?) will remain unswayed no matter what. But for some, the following perspective might help. Consider that of the many who drink alcoholic beverages, only a few are a problem for society. It is similarly the same with drugs. Only a few users are the problem. Laws have failed to stop these problem people. One might even argue that the welfare industrial complex has made that problem worse. Here is a link with some presumably real numbers. Do we have an epidemic? Here are some alcohol numbers. What does the relative disparity tell us?

The case for prohibition is negative; the case for legalization is strong, but the path toward legalization is complex. Sudden changes in laws with no commensurate education and transition programs can lead to undesirable outcomes in the short run.

A start has been made with the legalization of marihuana.


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