Archive for the ‘Drugs’ Category

DRAFT: The Conservative Case For Ending Drug Prohibition

July 7, 2014

A conservative seeks to be grounded in reality… the drug laws aren’t working and more damage net is being done by their continuation on the books than would be done by withdrawing them from the books”.  – William F. Buckley

With yesterday’s news that Australia is leading the world in illicit drug consumption, every conservative should heed these words of conservative icon William F. Buckely and admit the stark fact that the war on drugs is over, and drugs won. Despite a bipartisan consensus costing billions of taxpayer dollars a year, illicit drugs remain easily available, cheap, and potent. Meanwhile, 100,000 people are arrested each year and 40% of Australians are de facto criminals.

Conservatives frequently attack the left for not taking into account the opportunity cost of their actions –  for not “thinking beyond stage one” – yet the drug war is a prime example of this. Even those unswayed  by classical-liberal arguments for individual choice must come to accept that prohibition has not only failed, but has leveled a terrible toll not just on the economy but on society.

It was estimated that in 2008 Australian governments spent a staggering $4.7 billion on the war on drugs , which this week’s figures show has resulted in little more than clogging up courts and prisons. At a time of both Federal and State budget emergencies, this is a vanity we just can’t afford. With 87% of Cannabis arrest targeting mere consumers , and with over 10% of sentenced prisoners incarcerated for drug related offences, prohibition redirects limited police resources away from real crime.

Law enforcement and incarceration are just a fraction of the complete economic costs of prohibition, with productivity costs to the economy estimated by James Ostrowski at over seven times the enforcement cost.

The social effects of prohibition, however, are far broader and far more debilitating to society than purely economic ones, and should trouble conservatives even more than the budgetary impacts.

Conservatives who stress the importance of the family unit should be horrified at the effects of tearing otherwise law-abiding (predominantly young male) parents from their families, leading to broken homes and a broken society.

Worse still, incarceration serves in these cases as a “Criminal University.” Upon release, with low job prospects as a result of a criminal record, many “graduates” of this university enter a cycle of welfare dependency supplemented by a life of crime. Is this the lifestyle to which we wish to condemn the next generation of Australians?

And who can deny the boon to criminals that prohibition entails—just look at the gun-slinging wild west that parts of Western Sydney have become. Drug prohibition is bad for law and order. Is it any wonder Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Palmer has begged for drug law reform, as has the former NSW Director of Public Prosecution Nicholas Cowdery.

Let us be clear: Australia’s high drug use is not a result of lax policies in Australia. To the contrary, Australia’s use is considerably higher than in countries where drugs are legal. Even in countries where drug use attracts the death penalty, use is still high!

This increase in Australia’s drug use has coincided with a 27.2% increase in drug-related arrests in the last decade, with a 66.4 per cent increase in drug seizures.

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the evidence shows that prohibition may actually create more users: Making something illegal gives it a “forbidden fruit” factor it would not otherwise have.  Australia has a cannabis use rate 50% greater than that of the Netherlands, with its famous “coffee shops”. Portugal, which has decriminalised all drugs and replaced the war on drugs with a system of treatment, found that within a decade of those reforms drug use halved.

In the United States, the tide is rapidly turning against prohibition. Republican Governors like Chris Christie have branded the War on Drugs “a failure”, with conservative icon Rick Perry of Texas urging moves towards decriminalisation. States are rapidly legalising Cannabis: the most recent of these, Colorado, has witnessed a jobs boom, garnered more than $10 million in taxes , saved up to $40 million in law enforcement, and witnessed plummeting crime rates, with murders down by a staggering 52.9% since legalisation.

Conservatives are right to stigmitise and condemn drug use, and to point out its damaging effects. However, using big government to enact social policies is always doomed to fail. As Milton Friedman noted: “Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike.

A shift is gradually occurring in Australia: Quadrant’s own Paddy McGuinness was long a lone voice arguing for legalisation, but more recently Michael Wooldridge , Federal Minister for Health in the Howard Government, has admitted we have 40 years of experience of a law and order approach to drugs, and it has failed”. Current Federal Liberal Backbenchers are starting to urge reform.

With the modern Australian left obsessed with enacting more and more paternalist nanny state policies, any positive movement in this field shall be left to conservatives. This is turf that is rightfully ours. As such, it is time we accept reality, and publicly demand an end to the failed war on drugs.

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A Letter I’d Like to Read (but won’t)

February 2, 2009

A extract from a great letter that will never be written:

Dear America,

I take it back. I don’t apologize.

Because you know what? It’s none of your goddamned business. I work my ass off 10 months per year. It’s that hard work that gave you all those gooey feelings of patriotism last summer. If during my brief window of down time I want to relax, enjoy myself, and partake of a substance that’s a hell of a lot less bad for me than alcohol, tobacco, or, frankly, most of the prescription drugs most of you are taking, well, you can spare me the lecture.

I’m not going to bother extracting more as the whole thing is worth reading.  So just read the whole damn thing. Do it! Now!

Update: Tom Palmer notes on this farce:

“Of course, the US and A has now had three presidents in a row who have admitted that they took illegal drugs (one “didn’t inhale”), but not one of them has had the decency to propose ending the unjust, counter-productive laws under which they would have been prosecuted, had they been unlucky enough to have been caught, and under which, had they been convicted, they would have been ineligible to run for office and might even still be in prison. That very fact suggests one way in which the “war on drugs” undermines the rule of law. But let’s be sure to crucify a professional swimmer for … being photographed doing what a lot of people do.”

Update 2: Jake Zanoni in his new blog (which I encourage you all to read) notes the case of Andrew Carroll who deliberatly possessed a small amount of marijuana (despite not using the stuff)  to “demonstrate the absurdity of putting a human being in jail for a crime with no victim”

Update 3: Okay, I can see that about half of you are not clicking through to read the letter.  Not good enough – READ IT!!!!!