The Drug War Has Failed

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

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The Drug War Has Failed

by Ari Armstrong, December 19, 2001

A recent poll finds that "83% of Colorado voters believe that we are losing the war on drugs." Unfortunately, most politicians today won't even discuss the policy that has cost so much money, so many innocent lives, and so many of our rights.

A Colorado Springs Gazette article from December 10 discusses the views of Sheriff Bill Masters of San Miguel County, who argues the drug war has failed.

Strangely, three of Masters' critics point out how bad drugs are today. But Masters' point is precisely that the drug war has created the mess we're in.

For example, Gov. Bill Owens told the Gazette, "Our society cannot afford to trivialize or ignore the serious problem of drugs or that children are at risk every day." By Owens' own admission, then, our current drug war tactics have failed. Why does he continue to support the failed policy of prohibition that puts our children at risk every day?

The prohibition of drugs creates a violent black market that substantially increases America's crime rate. Often innocent people are caught in the cross-fire of this government-created gang violence. The prohibition of drugs creates a financial incentive for criminal drug pushers to hook our children on drugs. Prohibition also leads to drugs which are impure and more potent, and it leads to new kinds of drugs more dangerous than what existed before drug prohibition.

The vain attempt to prohibit drugs has created a bigger drug problem than ever before. This is the system that Gov. Owens supports. Libertarians want to change tactics and treat drug addiction as a health problem and a spiritual problem, rather than as a crime. We repealed alcohol prohibition because it was a massive failure, and drug prohibition has fared no better.

Because Gov. Owens is so concerned about the welfare of children, he might turn his attention to the children killed by the drug war, such as Charity Bowers, the infant daughter of Baptist missionaries who was shot down over Peru with the help of U.S. drug warriors. Or Esequiel Hernandez, a teenage goat herder from Texas who was shot and killed by Marines who mistook him for a drug runner.

U.S. Attorney John Suthers also supports a policy he acknowledges has failed. He said, "But if you look in the eye of a mother whose daughter has died of an Ecstasy overdose, it is a whole different perspective."

The system in which children die of drug overdoses is the system we live in today. It's the system of impure, dangerous drugs and criminal dealers who have no compunctions about selling drugs to children. It's the system Suthers supports.

Suthers would spend law enforcement resources arresting upwards of a million non-violent, adult marijuana smokers every year, rather than spend those resources protecting our children.

At least Sheriff Masters puts his money where his mouth is. He tells the children in his community about the dangers of drug use, including alcohol use. He tells people about the ambulance runs he's been on to take alcoholics and drug addicts to the hospital. He addresses drug abuse as a moral problem, and that's why he will accomplish more real change than Suthers ever will.

Suthers said, "(Masters) took an oath of office to enforce the laws of the U.S. and Colorado. If you don't like it, become a critic, not a law enforcement officer."

Masters does enforce the law, but that doesn't mean he can't criticize bad laws. Indeed, law enforcers are in a good position to be able to tell which laws really work.

Suthers also took an oath to enforce the laws of the U.S. The supreme law of the land is the Constitution. Unfortunately, Suthers has violated his oath to uphold the Constitution. By his own standards, he should resign.

The Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution clearly states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Nowhere does the Constitution authorize Congress to fight the war on drugs. At most, the individual states may legally conduct such a war. Suthers enforces Unconstitutional laws, and he explicitly endorses the Unconstitutional war on drugs.

Drug prohibition is a massive failure, and, what's more, it's illegal (at least on the federal level). It has cost innocent people their lives and it has abused the Bill of Rights. It's time to repeal that failed system. I for one am thankful that some policy leaders, such as Sheriff Masters, Judges John Kane and James Gray, Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, Governor Gary Johnson, and others, have finally declared publicly that the drug war emperor wears no clothes.


Sheriff Bill Masters' book Drug War Addiction may be purchased from Accurate Press at 1.800.374.4049.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com