Just say "No" to honest, open debate

Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, where bags of drugs are simply thrown over the border from Juarez to be retrieved from back yards on the US side, things almost took a turn for the worst.  The City Council decided that the terrible violence of Juarez and its creep across the border needs to stop.  But they didn’t call for helicopter gunships or paramilitary intervention; the failure of those sorts have tactics has become all to apparent.  According to a recent Reuters report, the Mexican cartels have even infiltrated the DEA.  They have the money and the arms to fight, and the profits are high enough to make it worthwhile.  The violence in Juarez has reached epic proportions, so in a show of solidarity with their sister city, the El Paso City Council voted in favor of a resolution that included “an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition of narcotics.”

Never mind that the resolution also called for clamping down on gun running and money laundering.  It was the desire to debate, and perhaps focus less on incarceration for drug offenses that made the resolution go over like a lead Zeppelin.  The Mayor vetoed it, and the council members started getting pressure from as high as the US Congress to shut the fuck up.

The standard means of the federal government to squash an open, honest debate about drugs and the laws which apply to them is to threaten state and local governments with withholding federal funds.  El Paso was told, in no uncertain terms, that continuing with their call for debate jeopardized their slice of the bailout pie.  The city council buckled and did not overturn the mayor’s veto of the resolution, though several members are furious about the intimidation tactics.  As well they should be.  It’s not as if they were voting to make narcotics legal in El Paso, they were only voting to discuss the issue.

It is apparent to anyone with half of a brain (which excludes the majority of federal politicians) that the War on Drugs is an utter failure.

Civil liberty arguments go unheeded.  Economic arguments from syndicated, conservative columnists go unheeded.  Common sense goes unheeded.

Even electoral arguments go completely unheeded.  Mr. Obama is lucky that he was running against a grumpy old white man and not the evil dope, because in multiple states Marijuana initiatives surpassed his margin of victory.  In Michigan, Obama won 57-41; proposition one (medical marijuana) passed 63-37.

Mr. Obama has, however, filled his cabinet with unrepentant drug warriors.  From his Vice President, who is quite proud of foisting the office of Drug Tsar on his nation, to his pick for Attorney General who was Clinton’s point man in the escalation of the war on marijuana.

Some will argue that we have far bigger issues to tackle than drugs; i contend that when you’re faced with a long list of problems, solve the easiest ones first.  Furthermore, to have an admitted user of illegal drugs hold the highest office in the land (proving once and for all that one can smoke pot and still grow up to be president) and prosecute others for the same behavior is beyond even standard, American hypocrisy.

But over and above all that, squelching debate is the most un-American activity that i can imagine.

20 replies »

  1. Lex,
    You opened this article with “Out in the west Texas town of El Paso”….were you thinking of Marty Robbins?


  2. I was, i was. El Paso is one of my all-time favorite songs.

    And for the record, i think that the best solution to the illicit drug issue is a free market solution with a governmental emphasis on reducing demand rather than focusing on the supply side.

  3. Lex, El Paso is one of my all time favorite songs also. However, Marty Robbins “White Sportcoat and a Pink Carnation” runs a close second or third.

    I like the your idea of a free market solution. Although I’m rather conservative, I believe in the legalization of all drugs, with controls and age limits similar to liquor and tobacco.


  4. Damn, Lex. I was thinking about a post on this. After all, the end of Prohibition was great for the economy, wasn’t it? Legalize cannabis, opium and cocaine products and imagine the industries that will spring up to support that industry. The jobs, from growing to marketing to accounting. The reclaimed factories and farmland. Genetic labs developing bigger, better strains… entirely new branches of government on every level to handle regulation and taxation… no more outsourcing.

    I’m not kidding, either. Think of the financial support this would suck right out from under, say, the Taliban. Plus, I don’t really see your average twenty-something leaping at one of Obama’s new infrastructure-building (as in sweating) jobs, but fieldwork in a haze of opium dust… it could work.

  5. @3: And the bitter truth lives on…

    What i find strange is that the best arguments i hear for the ending of prohibition come from conservatives. The hippie angle always falls apart when someone starts talking about how hemp will save the world. Or you get a guy like Woody Harrelson propounding on the benefits of hemp so bezooted that it’s impossible to take him seriously.

    Ann: ending prohibition would (just like the last time around) sure boost the economy. Just for the record, there is no such thing as opium dust…it’s a latex harvested from the maturing seed heads of the poppy flower. And while some of Mr. Obama’s young supporters might like the idea, something tells me that they’d last all of one day slitting poppy heads.

  6. Poetic license… I have to admit, I know how opium is manufactured. I was thinking along Wizard of Oz lines.

  7. Fair enough. There’s just a whole lot of misinformation and lack of understanding of the underlying issues in this debate.

    But i like the idea of Mr. Obama’s supporters maybe moving to Afghanistan to help with the harvest and teach those Pashtun tribesmen…you know the ones without much economic opportunity so they get bitter and cling to their guns and religion…about hope and change.

  8. “El Paso was told, in no uncertain terms, that continuing with their call for debate jeopardized their slice of the bailout pie.”

    When I was watching “John Adams” on HBO a while back, I was quite angered that some in the founding of this country wanted to make sure the States were beholden to the Fed. Others, like Jefferson if I recall correctly, were opposed saying that making States beholden to the Fed undermines the entire premise of a free society.. and this is how it manifests itself some 200+ years later.. The Fed bullying States into compliance after the Fed allowed various unscrupulous villains to undermine the entire economy.

    As for prohibitions.. Some drugs make sense to remove from the rolls.. like pot, and probably heroin (though, given its addictive and destructive nature, I’m not sure the masses in America could handle very well), but some drugs like Meth and Crack and Coke.. those cause violent outbursts on many occasions, and any drug that tends to cause violent behavior might still want to be kept on a prohibition list.

    but, without an “honest and open” debate, we’ll never get to fully air the laundry around these issues, and the Fed will maintain their means of abusing the public.. the people they don’t like while ignoring the same crimes amongst their own ranks (coke head cowboy Bush comes to mind).

  9. Keeping drugs illegal is another assult on our freedom. While I’m no fan of drugs, I have no problem with all drugs, cocaine, crack, LSD, heroin, whatever, being legalized. Why should the government have the power to keep you from doing whatever to your body. As long as you do the drugs in the privacy of your house and harm nobody in the public, then why not. As for addictive nature, that shouldn’t be a concern…after all tobacco is ther most asddictive form of drug there is, Anyways, legalize the stuff, control it, and spend money oin education to keep people from doing them in excess. The benefits will be immediate……end of the drug war, attendant violence, increased go0vernment revenue and restoration of personal freedom.



  10. “Why should the government have the power to keep you from doing whatever to your body.”

    Because the job of the Government Of The People, By The People, For The People is to pass laws that protect individuals from those that would chose to do them harm. That is, the purpose of government is to put in writing the things you can NOT do because YOU doing them infringes on someone else’s rights.

    In that vein, if you know shooting a gun in a city drastically increases the likelihood of an innocent bystander being hurt (their rights to be secure in their homes, or on the street of a civilized country), then a law is made to protect the innocent from the ignorant. The same applies to things like Crack and Meth where “starting in your home” is no guarantee that you’ll stay in your home. You get tweaked on Meth then go out front to see what that noise was (even though it was just in your head), see someone on the sidewalk, and bash their skull in.. Then say “but I was on legal drugs”?

    If the drug doesn’t have a known or provable propensity for causing general violent behavior, I’m all for it being legal (pot, for example). The premise of “it’s your body, do what you want” comes to bear with some validity. …. But we also have to consider what cost to society letting dumb people do what they want to their bodies might have. And, they are dumb, after all.. If they can’t make “sound decisions” for themselves, someone should make those decisions for them.. much like parents do for children.

    At some point there is a line that no one wants crossed, but the purpose of laws is clear. Just where that line should be drawn seems to be the main point of debate.. and I know a lot of people that are simply too dumb to make serious choices (like using an insanely addictive, and immediately and wide spreadly destructive drug, like heroin), so in the interest of minimizing suffering while not really impeding on rights you can’t just walk up to Joe Blow on the street and get heroin.. again, fuzzy lines.

    If every human was “smart” and used reason to make their choices.. .OR, if every individual choice had no chance of impact on the rest of society, it might be more sound in my mind to say “keep government out of every aspect of private lives”.. but that’s not reality. People beat kids, that causes suffering and people that grow up to be “bad”.. as an evolved people, we should be able to say “we won’t permit beating of children in our society”. There are a lot of people that don’t beat their kids, but we have no reason to allow those abuses to be perpetrated by those that do. .. and if you drink to excess and are destroying your body, you’re probably effecting your children as well, so “doing to your body” isn’t as simple as it sounds, in reality. So we make laws that allow us as a society to protect people from their family, and sometimes even from themselves. Ultimately, that’s telling someone what they can and can’t do in their own home.

    Again, fuzzy lines.. I think.

    Some drugs don’t cause long term or immediate problems like others. Some drugs we could “accommodate” in our society (lock yourself in a padded room at a Meth-Bar if you want to do meth, for example).. but just being alive doesn’t mean you have a right to do “anything you want”… you can only do what you want if it doesn’t infringe on other people’s rights, and we’ve expanded that to include not putting undo costs on society as a whole. You guys don’t want to pay taxes that support people with no job (something unavoidable in reality), how would you feel about your tax dollars going to free Methadone clinics to help people get off heavy drugs? I’m thinking the answer would be something like “they did the drugs, let them figure out how to get off of them”.. which means more crime and overall suffering in an advanced society and we’ve come full circle.

    I guess, for me, giving total freedom has to be tempered by reason and logic. Someone has to be our collective parent. In America, we “chose” our parent by voting for them in elections. If that process hadn’t been broken by the moneyed interests in America, we’d be in much better shape I think.

  11. If the drug doesn’t have a known or provable propensity for causing general violent behavior, I’m all for it being legal.

    So you should, by this logic, be advocating the prohibition of alcohol, based on at the very least the stats linking child abuse and alcohol use. Talk about undue costs… and did you know that in most states, being drunk while in charge of your kids isn’t sufficient grounds for removal of those kids from the home? Fuzzy, indeed.

    But not everyone who drinks does so to excess, and therefore I don’t think your analogy to beating a child makes a bit of sense. Hitting a child is always damaging. Having a drink is not always damaging. Not equivalent.

    And as far as costs to society or a causal relationship to violence goes, it’s funny you should pick meth as a somewhat defensible drug. Heard of meth mouth? Prisons can’t afford enough dentists to deal with the issue. Know anything about meth production? Those labs are toxic sinkholes, and don’t even think about the waste products. Violence? Crime rates in communities with meth problems explode.

    I don’t have a problem paying taxes to support some people with no jobs – the disabled, the mentally ill, the people a civilized society takes care of. But if people disable themselves by abusing chemical substances, why not have a taxation system in place to pay for their upkeep? And doesn’t it make sense that those funds should come from the substances they voluntarily acquire and use?

    Apart from all the other issues (such as why pot is illegal and booze isn’t), controlling and regulating substances with the potential for harm just plain works better than banning them. The collateral damage and costs of an illegal drug trade versus the possible alternatives… worth exploring.

  12. “it’s funny you should pick meth as a somewhat defensible drug. ”

    No no no.. I’m saying Meth and Crack (just 2 of those I know off the top of my head, I must admit I’m not all that drug-knowledgeable) should _remain_ illegal, even if we legalize other drugs. I’m saying Heroin is (from what I know, which isn’t lots and lots) one of those marginally defensible, yet I know that once you’re addicted/abusing, you’ll likely have serious health problems. I’m not sure I’m on board with legalizing Heroin, I need more input.

    Re: alcohol.. again, it’s a matter of excess… and beating kids was generic, not drug related (plenty of people abuse their kids while perfectly sober).. in that we don’t let people abuse children in their own home because of the tangential effects. If we have laws to protect people while in their own home, from their house mates.. then surely we accept that government is “in our private lives”..

    I guess, for me, the only drug in the “drug war” that makes sense to legalize (without a lot of debate or controversy) is pot. While alcohol is a problem in our society, many many many people are NOT abusing it, so infringing on their rights because some people can’t control themselves doesn’t make sense (no point in prohibiting it). Same with pot… only, pot has a lot more [potentially] beneficial impacts on society/people than alcohol. When you go up the scale to narcotics and opiates, you’re dealing with a totally different class of drugs, and the dangers to the individual go up drastically as well. Worth exploring, in deed.. but it seems unquestionable that pot should not be listed as a controlled substance in the same breath with Meth and Crack..

    Our society accepts that intoxication is not unreasonable, therefore it makes no sense to keep pot illegal..

    Some of the issues I’ve heard tossed around as to why to keep it illegal are all linked to the authorities being able “test for intoxication level”.. something you can’t do for pot, but can with alcohol. That is, the tests for pot show it in your system for weeks or months, even when you’re not under the influence (impaired, anyway).. but alcohol either is or isn’t in you, and when it is it effects your functioning. Can you imagine the check stops trying to find out if that non-drunk guy is just dumb and tired or stoned? … that’s the only thing I can think of that makes sense at this point, impairment testing.. Though, we didn’t always have a breathalizer, either.

  13. Oh, I see.

    I believe there are political and historical reasons for the criminalization of marijuana, but other people here could probably tell you more.

  14. This is an adjunct to the debate per se — or maybe it isn’t — but I would recommend two films that force an engagement with the high costs of illegal drug running. One is of course Traffic, and the other, which I saw for the first time this week and it’s still haunting me, is Maria Full of Grace. Each vividly and brutally portrays the social and economic costs of the illegal drug trade — yet as several of the posts above have conveyed, there are other potential costs that would come with legalization, no matter how tightly substances were controlled. Abuse is always going to happen, as with alcohol, and the question becomes, I guess, which set of problems is worse, those that come with legalization, or the ones we are currently battling.

  15. Historically speaking, cannabis was made illegal originally in the states so that the state of CA could kick the Mexicans out. That was in 1913. By 1917, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and a few others did the same thing and for the same reason. By the time it came to the federal level in 1937, the testimony against it said that it was an absolute necessity so that we could “protect the white women” from sleeping with black men. The head of the bureeau of narcotics, Harry J Anslinger, went before congress and manufactured stats on the spot talking about how many marijuana “addicts” we had in the country. Which is kind of funny, as there were NO surveys or studies to back up any of the lies he was telling.

    Since the 60’s, the right wing has been adamant about keeping it illegal, with a few notable exceptions, because they see the 60’s as being brought about by cannabis and it’s use.

    Any way you look at it, the real reason is fear. I have a recording of a 78 from the 30’s, with the lines “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of, it’s the stuff white folks are afraid of…”, which pretty much says it all.

    The real thing about the shutting off of debate is that the feds KNOW that there is NO defensible reason to keep this foolishness going. It’s a huge source of money and power for trhem, and a way for them to keep removing our rights from us, and they don’t want to give up any of that. It doesn’t matter that it’s helping to ruin the country and that far more people are aware of the idiocy of continuing it. And so they will do everything they can to keep it going.

    Don’t be surprised if am awful lot of those same officials are making a few $$ on the side as well. But it’s really the power and ability to take more power than they deserve that they will not give up easily. It’s going to be up to us to take that power back, and keep it in our hands instead of theirs.

    And don’t forget the for profit prison system that lots of those in congress are making money off of, either.

    So in the end, it’s racism (which also explains the huge number of minorities in our prisons, as well – the WOD is doing exactly what it’s supposed to), it’s power and it’s money. What more do you need? Learn your history and you are far better able to fight your present day problems.

  16. legalize medical marijuana, Doctors and nurses have seen that for many patients, cannabis is more useful, less toxic, and less expensive than the conventional medicines prescribed for diverse syndromes and symptoms, including multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, migraine headaches, severe nausea and vomiting, convulsive disorders, the AIDS wasting syndrome, chronic pain, and many others.”