Tokers & Terrorists: How Many Wars Can We Afford?

  Tokers & Terrorists: How Many Wars Can We Afford?

Posted by CN Staff on March 28, 2003 at 07:53:45 PT
By Jacob Sullum 
Source: Reason Magazine 

When President Bush sent the first bill for the war with Iraq to Congress, he warned that "business as usual on Capitol Hill can't go on." He said legislators should not treat the supplemental appropriation "as an opportunity to add spending that is unrelated, unwise, and unnecessary."Yet when it comes to the disastrous boondoggle that is the war on drugs, business as usual continues. It entails spending that is not only unwise and unnecessary but demonstrably harmful.
The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that enforcing state and federal drug laws costs something like $40 billion a year. That figure does not include myriad other costs associated with prohibition—such as property crime, black market violence, police corruption, and deaths from overdoses and tainted drugs—that never show up in anyone's budget. Added together, they would make the tab for invading Iraqi, $75 billion so far, look modest by comparison.With escalating budget deficits as far as the eye can see, Americans should seriously consider whether we can afford a war on drugs in addition to a war with Iraq and a war on terrorism. Given the dangers we face, it's inexcusable to blithely continue the futile crusade against politically incorrect plants, powders, and pills.Consider one example of how the war on drugs squanders your tax dollars and diverts law enforcement resources from real threats to your safety. On Monday three officers of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center plan to plead guilty to federal charges of "knowingly opening and maintaining a place where marijuana was manufactured, distributed or used." Scott Imler, Jeff Yablan, and Jeffrey Farrington decided against going to trial because they knew they would not be allowed to explain the purpose of their organization: providing marijuana to patients who use it as a medicine, as permitted under California law.Without a plea, the three would have faced additional charges, carrying mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years or more. They still could face prison terms.Questions of justice aside, can anyone seriously contend that locking up Imler and his friends is a wise use of scarce prison space? Think of it this way: Every nonviolent drug offender behind bars represents a predatory criminal on the streets.Imler's organization was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration in October 2001, a month and a half after Al Qaeda's attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. It speaks volumes about the twisted priorities dictated by the war on drugs that the federal government, having failed so spectacularly in its central function of protecting Americans from aggression, could so quickly turn its attention to punishing Americans for trying to alleviate the suffering of sick people.Measured by arrests (about 700,000 a year), marijuana is the main target of the war on drugs, which is why federal officials have shown no mercy toward patients who use it to relieve pain, nausea, or muscle spasms. Admitting that marijuana could be good for anything would be an embarrassing retreat from the aptly named policy of "zero tolerance." In addition to hurting innocent people, this policy costs a lot of money, going well beyond the resources allocated to police, prosecutors, and prisons. The government estimates, for instance, that Americans spend between $50 billion and $100 billion a year on illegal drugs. Almost all of that spending is a cost of prohibition, since it represents the "risk premium" that criminals earn by supplying contraband.This gift from the government enriches and empowers murderous thugs, subsidizes terrorism, and contributes to property crime by heavy users trying to support their habits. Since stolen goods typically are sold at a steep discount, their value far exceeds the already inflated cost of drugs.A less quantifiable cost of prohibition is the erosion of civil liberties. In recent decades, the war on drugs has been the biggest factor undermining the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against "unreasonable searches and seizures." It also has threatened property rights through asset forfeiture and religious freedom through prohibition of drug rituals.The Office of Management and Budget has suggested that the civil liberties implications of anti-terrorism measures should routinely be considered along with their dollar cost. No such caution applies to anti-drug measures, which do not even have the justification of preventing violence.Former DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson has shown us the direction the government ought to be taking. He recently left the anti-drug agency for a job in the Department of Homeland Security.Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and the author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use -- -- Tarcher/Putnam, May 2003.Copyright: 2003 by Creators Syndicate Inc.Source: Reason Magazine (US)Author: Jacob SullumPublished: March 28, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Reason FoundationContact: letters reason.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Site:Drug Policy Alliance Rigging - Jabob Sullum Road: Marijuana as a Gateway Drug Things - Jacob Sullum Against the Drug Czar

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Comment #14 posted by FoM on March 31, 2003 at 13:26:49 PT
I love that scripture. It does say how important peace is doesn't it? Bob Marley was much like Cat Stevens I believe. Different style of music but the same in their message.
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Comment #13 posted by afterburner on March 31, 2003 at 13:16:47 PT:
Amen, FoM. "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Matthew 5:9Bob Marley picture Love Is Shining destruction or ego transcendence, that is the question.
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Comment #12 posted by FoM on March 31, 2003 at 12:30:05 PT
I am deeply moved by this war. I am beyond angry. I'm very sad. I listen to Peace Train and it gave me hope. Unfortunately I see this as a war on religion. Oil too but religion is as much a part of it as oil I believe. I pray for peace and cry for those who are hurt and losing their life. I love my country but I love all the people that share this earth with us. 
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Comment #11 posted by afterburner on March 31, 2003 at 12:05:11 PT:
Peace Train Download
The file is a .wma file, but it will play in RealOne Player if you have a recent version. I haven't been able to get it to play with Annabelle yet, though.I remember hearing the original "Peace Train" in a shop on Yonge Street in Toronto during the final days of the Viet Nam tragedy. Cat Stevens gave a big beam of hope for better days. I missed his music when he decided that dedication to Islam and Allah was more important than popular music. It speaks volumes about his dedication to peace that he has released this new version of the classic song in these troubled times under his Islamic name, Yusaf Islam. More and more the voices of true Islam are speaking out to counter the extremist corruption of their religion by Osama bin Laden and militant Islamic terrorists worldwide.Ride on the peace train.ego destruction or ego transcendence, that is the question.
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on March 31, 2003 at 11:07:17 PT
All I Can Say is it is Awesome
I finally got the song downloaded and keep playing it over and over again. I hope you that remember Peace Train and thought it was wonderful will listen to the new Peace Train. The money from his new album will go to help the children of Iraq. It is Cat Steven's first english recording since 1978!
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on March 31, 2003 at 09:02:46 PT

Cat Stevens is Back and Singing PEACE TRAIN
Check it out! Go Cat Stevens!Cat Stevens Back in Studio: Version of Peace Train: Stevens:

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Comment #7 posted by freedom fighter on March 31, 2003 at 02:42:08 PT

I like the article but let's be honest
"Think of it this way: Every nonviolent drug offender behind bars represents a predatory criminal on the streets."Let's be honest... More like two predatory criminals.. on the streets.. One is a very dangerous person, a common criminal who steals, rapes and kills. The other one is just a common witchhunter who steals, rapes and kills.Any cop who gets involve with Cannabis trade is a predatory criminalizer. I cannot tell the difference between a criminal and a criminalizer!Can you?PAZff

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Comment #6 posted by FoM on March 30, 2003 at 21:53:11 PT

Just a Comment
Hi Everyone,I had time because the news is slow so I put a few different articles about Iraq on this page. The top article is new and interesting and I thought some of you might want to check it out. Here it is if you're interested.
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Comment #5 posted by Truth on March 29, 2003 at 13:57:51 PT

It does
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on March 29, 2003 at 09:00:51 PT

Maybe I need to explain why I don't want Bush issues in here. My opinion of Bush is really bad. I won't even say how I feel about him because I'd need to delete my own post. We have an issue called Cannabis that we are trying hard to bring change to the laws. We have people who are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Greens too. History will put George Bush right where he should be. I see on other forums how easily talking about Bush can set people off and I just want us to get a long. It has to do with keeping fighting with each other to a minimum. We aren't each others enemy but we can easily become each others enemy if we start bashing Bush. I hope this makes sense.
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Comment #3 posted by Truth on March 29, 2003 at 08:50:08 PT

I know FoM doesn't like bush talk in here but darn it, that family leads us Americans to evil. Trim the bush, trim evil.
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Comment #2 posted by ekim on March 28, 2003 at 11:49:14 PT

yes it is his fathers war
his father stopped the IND Investagative New Drug program which left only 8 people reciving Fed cannabis. While leaving countless thousands out in the cold when the program was shut down.
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Comment #1 posted by paulpeterson on March 28, 2003 at 08:54:40 PT

I contacted Scott a few years ago to lend emotional support. This guy is a Methodist, and was working within his church organization to help the needy people get needed medication. All of you Methodists out there should contact another well-known Methodist, either George Bush or Lon Cheney, to get those war mongering Methodists to at least give Imler a break in his mission to fellow Methodists.Does this man deserve prison for reducing pain and suffering? Of course, think of his supreme commander right now, bombing Iraqi's merely because he is trying to finish something his dad started. IS THIS YOUR FATHER'S WAR?Let my people go (I think some Bible dude said something like that a few eons ago). At least, Bush, let your own churchmen go, OK? PAUL PETERSON
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