Thursday, July 2, 2009

LEAP to the 4th of July!

While LEAP still does not have a plan to replace prohibition with they are having a benefit run on the 4th. Get out there and get some exercise and support the end of prohibition. Once we all decide we need to end prohibition we can talk about what to replace it with.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The problem, Prohibition

There are great groups out there trying to end the war on drugs. People like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and These organizations have the right idea, but no plan to replace prohibition. The just say legalize, with out ever saying how. Now there is a plan, Plain White Box.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Alternative to Prohibition

A plain white box!

In the wake of the recent presidential election and massive stimulus bill, perhaps it is time to look at a part of the complicated web of interaction that has played a role in getting the USA to where it is—and how a plain white cardboard box could be part of the solution to getting us out of this mess.

January 16th 1919 was the fateful day when our country started a Noble Experiment called Prohibition—a great plunge into government control of the personal lives of millions. It lasted 13 years. In that time, organized crime flourished, corruption flourished, and the country fell into its worst depression ever. Many factors played into the great depression, but Prohibition preceded it, and its effect has been largely overlooked. Could there be a connection? Today we stand at the brink of another depression—this time at the end of a long stretch of drug prohibition. Billions of dollars have been spent on enforcement, imprisonment and purchase of the drugs themselves, to say nothing of the costs of care and rehabilitation of addicts and their children, and the crimes associated with the drug trade. All this adds up to a significant drain on our economy.

Drug prohibition has created many of the same problems that alcohol prohibition did in the 1920s. Drug smugglers have evolved to near corporate status. They leave a trail of destruction across the world, in pursuit of the mighty American dollar. Why is there so much money to motivate this business? For one simple reason: it is illegal. In this “free” country, a well-meaning government has seen fit to try to tell citizens how to live their lives. When this was tried with alcohol in the 1920s, it failed miserably. Prohibition pits the government against human nature. Little motivates people so much as telling people they cannot do something. There is no question that drug use, especially in excess, is detrimental to peoples health, but we have now tried this approach for many years and it has not succeeded. Drugs are still available, just as alcohol was during prohibition—only the black market thrives as people illicitly provide drugs.

The same pattern of rebellious behavior is seen in a myriad of different situations. Why is it fun to drive too fast? Why do your kids want to stay up late? Why is there a thrill in the forbidden? Why do people under 21 years of age go to such lengths to get alcohol? Just go to any high school or college campus. The preoccupation with getting alcohol is staggering. The amazing part is to watch it drop away from most people when they turn 21. Yes, a few continue to abuse alcohol after 21, but it is a fraction of those who do while it is forbidden. I vividly remember the same people who spent their evenings and weekends trying to sneak into bars, or buy beer from the store, when they were under 21, barely ever going after turning 21. It’s just human nature! People must be free to make their own choices and live with the consequences as long as they do not directly affect other people.

Today an estimated 80% of crimes are committed by 1% of the population1. That 1% is largely gang members, whose primary motivation is drug sales. If drugs are legal, there will be no profit for the gangs, so the gang’s motivation to commit crimes will be gone. Theft to pay for drug habits and many other crimes will decrease radically.

Drug traffic is also a major source of funds for terrorists. They are already breaking many laws and have no regard for the civil order they wish to destroy, so it makes sense to fund their cause with illegal drugs, with the huge profit potential simply because of their illegality. Legalization of drugs would deprive such people of a major funding source.

All these costs of fighting the war on drugs, and what do we have to show for it? Nothing! The drugs are still here! The whole purpose of the laws has failed, for the simple reason that laws can’t change human nature. People will do what people want. The more you try to tell them they can’t, the more people want to do what people are told they can’t.

There are many sides to this problem. Very few people wake up one morning and look in the mirror and say “I think I’ll become a drug addict today”. People fall into that type of situation through a series of events. Those events are exacerbated by the fact drugs are both illegal and addictive. Because they are illegal, their price is artificially high. In effect the government has granted a monopoly to the people willing to take the risks of production and distribution. Because the price is so high, there is a huge motivation to sell the illegal drugs. So the very law that seeks to protect people from themselves forms a circle of motivation and reward. We must break this circle. Since there is no feasible way to make money stop motivating people, the only option is to remove the government-granted monopoly.

How can we make drugs legal without having everybody become a drug addict? Part of the answer can be found by looking at the alcohol business. The government has been successful at regulating alcohol. Similar regulation can work with drugs, with some slight changes. Drugs should be sold with non-profit sources or the government itself acting as a middleman. Producers sell the drug to the non-profit or government middleman for cost of production plus a reasonable profit, and the middleman sells the drugs to stores where the price and markup are controlled. The key to this is the presentation to the consumer. The drugs would be packaged in plain white cardboard boxes or paper bags2. No advertisement, no glamour. A big sign over the shelves saying, “If you need help with a drug problem call,” giving an 800 number to a help line. This would remove the motivation for anybody to “push” drugs and “hook” new users. Much-reduced prices would lower the financial strain on addicts, who would be less likely to commit crimes to support their habits. Tax on the sales would fund a compassionate system to help people who are addicted get off the drugs.

On other side, the law must be clear that if a person does something wrong under the influence of drugs it is no excuse. They are fully responsible for those actions, just like DUI is dealt with currently. Home production for botanical substances would be permitted in small amounts, like homebrew beer, but home production of refined products would be illegal, as distilled spirits are currently. All penalties for breaking the law regarding production, advertisement, and sale of drugs would be punished only with monetary penalties. Breaking the laws regarding the regulated drugs would be rare because it would no longer be profitable.

On July 4th 1776 it was declared “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. The truth of this declaration can not be overstated. It walks hand in hand with a guarantee of innocence until proven guilty by a jury of peers. This basic set of rights and freedoms has been usurped by well-intentioned laws over the years. The legislature has decided we are all guilty of abusing drugs and has sentanced us to be thrown in jail if we exercise the liberty of making our own choice if we want to use them or not. “We the people” is every individual, and these rights remain to each of us until, by our own individual action, we forfeit those rights. It is wrong and futile to try to curtail these very rights. There is no doubt that part of the freedom these rights grant is the freedom to fail or to make mistakes, but no law short of locking every person up in a padded cell will stop people from making mistakes. With that in mind we must curtail our fervor and good intentions and accept the fact that each person must learn many things for themself. For in it’s hubris, the government has simply shelterd people from the true costs of their mistakes.

The prohibition of drugs has been as much a failure as was the prohibition of alcohol. It has cost trillions of dollars and many lives, to no end, as drugs are still common. Crime and corruption have increased, and our own people fund those that wish to kill us and end our way of life. Our own government has even gone as far as to violate our sacred individual rights in the name of our protection. It is time to end this prohibition. It’s time to use a plain white box to help get our country back on the right path.

1: USA TODAY 1/29/09,Justice Department's National Gang Intelligence Center, which has not been publicly released, conclude gangs are the "primary retail-level distributors of most illicit drugs", Kevin Johnson

2: Plain White Box, Detailed plan for narcotics regulation.