December 15, 2005

Disengaging From the Drug War

Earlier this month the King Count Bar Assocation (WA) held a drug policy conference titled Exit Strategy for the War on Drugs: Toward A New Legal Framework. In a followup opinion piece Seattle Times editorial columnist Bruce Ramsey wrote that although the conference attendees seemed to agree that the prohibition should end they had some problems with the next step:

Prohibition had failed. Drug laws had not stopped Americans from getting drugs; it simply made them get drugs from criminals. But if not from criminals, then from whom? On marijuana, they could not agree.
Some of the attendees wanted to make sure that the same government that has demonstrated such dramatic failure in the war on drugs was rewarded by having a monopoly on the distribution of marijuana:
The idea of any corporate control is troubling to me," said Deborah Small, a New York activist who proposed to give marijuana distribution to the government.
Might a government monoply reap monopolistic windfall profits? Well, sure:
Much of the crowd was tolerant of intoxication but not of profit. They would replace police and jailers with doctors and social workers. The Dutch scene, with private-branded marijuana in private-sector cafes, was too commercial for them. Too fun. They would give marijuana oversight to the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Merrit Long, chairman of that august monopoly, told the conference the state's profit was $200 million on $600 million of sales.

Heck, even Microsoft doesn't make that kind of margin. Unless they propose to continue the prohibition on growing marijuana, which doesn't quite seem like an end of the drug war, then folks will just plant those seeds of BC bud in their gardens and bypass the government monopoly.

Initially the best way to keep corporations out of the business is this: only allow individuals or partnerships to produce, distribute and sell the goods. Over a longer period corporations can be kept out by eliminating the laws that facilitate the existience of the modern corporate structure.

Ramsey closes with this:

But I, too, fall into the trap of looking for a system that would align the rules with what Americans actually do. Americans don't want that. Drug prohibition reflects our ideal of a sober America, and it is politically impossible to abandon that.

Yet life continues. We legislate nationally and ignore locally. We have our own version of Holland, really, except that ours is harsher than theirs, and does not attract tourists.

Excuse me but whose idea of a sober America? All those folks with their 6-packs and liquor cabinets? Bruce, you'll have a better chance of convincing us that we have an ideal of sober America when no congress critter drinks, when liquor sales have dropped to nil. Nope, drug prohibition reflects a misuse of government power and the disproportionate power of those who make their livings off the drug war.

Let's retire all the drug terrorists warriors now!

NB: Well known blogger Mark Kleiman was a participant at the conference.

Posted by Steve on December 15, 2005
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