Left: Elvis, the original drug warrior
I entered a debate recently on a local bulletin board about a news story documenting the fact that eight states want to enact drug-testing laws for welfare recipients, and this essay is an outgrowth of that conversation. The proposal seems ill-advised on a number of levels, and I view such schemes as nefarious efforts by governments and corporations to further encroach upon the private lives of individuals.
I am concerned first about the children of drug abusers. Should kids get penalized because their parents might smoke weed? I am all for reasonable limits on public assistance, especially direct cash aid, but to deny WIC or housing subsidies because a parent also has substance abuse issues is short-sighted.
Besides, the intrusion of drug-testing in so many facets of our lives should be disturbing to people who purport to uphold freedom. If a person chooses to imbibe, and harms no one (i.e., intoxicated driving or drugged out domestic violence), why should the government or employers be able to have this much power over the private lives of individuals?
The so-called War on Drugs has been an utter failure, and this is just an extension of these wrong-headed policies. Decriminalize drugs, tax them, and use the tax proceeds for education and addiction treatment. Five percent or more of the population is going to choose self-destructive drug-abusing behavior at some point, and no laws will stop people from frying their brains. There are more ways to get high - legal and illegal - than the government could possibly outlaw, though they sure love to try to do so.
We should instead follow the model of the Dutch or the Portuguese: cordon off "safe zones" where users can get inexpensive fixes, while putting the emphasis on addiction treatment instead of punishment. The focus for prosecution thus returns to organized crime rather than nickel-and-dime addicts, freeing up jail spaces and lowering incarceration costs. The major benefit to non-users is that there are lower crime rates, since addicts no longer have to steal the possessions of everyone else to feed their artificially expensive habits. Add to this lower health care costs, since users have access to clean paraphernalia (fewer cases of AIDS or hepatitis), and the knowledge that standardized drug purity reduces overdoses.
I grow tired of reading about more Neanderthalian lawmakers who think the solutions to our drug problems are more laws and greater police powers. This sort of sneaky fascism actually reduces personal freedoms in the guise of crime prevention. Of course, most folks have been programmed to never question the received wisdom of the government, so my ruminations here will likely fall on plugged ears, but it is time to rethink the many failed drug policies that provide the foundation for the War on Drugs.
Which drug will be next, by the way? Nicotine is already heading in that direction, and I now have to answer to the government every time I pick up a package of Sudafed. Will they chase down caffeine in the expanding War on Drugs? How about alcohol, the number one drug associated with human death?
At some point we have to recognize that this mania over drugs is more trouble than it is worth, and this statement does not even take into consideration the many billions of dollars spread out by drug kingpins into the palms of corrupt government officials around the globe (and yes, even in the good ol' U.S.A.)
But go ahead, folks: stay focused on the WELFARE CHEATS and CRAZY DRUG ADDICTS who are STEALING YOUR TAX DOLLARS and LIVING LARGE LIKE LEECHES. It is much easier to sleep at night when you have such simple headlines featuring cartoon-like villains to blame. Thinking about government corruption and bankers laundering tens of billions of dollars in drug money is hard work, and will give you headaches like the one I am getting right about now.
Yes, nothing to see here. Go back to your happy lives and keep nodding your head when Joe or Jane Politico thumps the legislative podium and denounces DIRTY DRUG ABUSING SCUM. Oh, and practice that Deutscher Gruß - you might be needing it in a few years.