2 David Boaz, “Drug-Free America Or Free America?” Boaz’s ProjectBased on historical and current information, Boaz argues that it is the illegality of such drugs as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin that leads to the consequences that the “War on Drugs” is meant to eliminate.Moreover, Boaz argues, making drugs illegal directly conflicts with our legally-mandated freedoms.As such, Boaz calls for a repeal of legislation that makes drugs illegal, so as to make people responsible for their own decisions.
3 The Drug Problem“[A]lmost as long as humans have used drugs, governments have tried to stop them.” (140)Prohibition of alcohol was on the books in the US fromAlcohol consumption probably dropped slightly at the beginning of Prohibition, but it steadily rose throughout the period.Alcohol became more potent, and the reported number of “speakeasies” during Prohibition outnumbered the saloons when liquor was legal.As well, the per capita murder rate and assault-by-firearms rate rose throughout Prohibition.Similar phenomena are occurring in contemporary America, though the target of today’s prohibition is not alcohol, but such drugs as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.
4 The Drug Problem (cont’d) Although the use of illegal drugs has declined during the “War on Drugs” period, the same is true of legal drugs as well.In the first decade of the War on Drugs ( ), heroin users grew by 150%, and cocaine users by 10,000%.54% of high school seniors admit to having tried illicit drugs.At the same time, the War on Drugs has served to severely limit civil liberties, including seizure of property without evidence.The motive for the War on Drugs seems to be a soaring murder rate, the destruction of inner-city communities, the spread of criminal culture, and the fear of ordinary citizens.However, the solution to these problems is not the creation of laws, but their appeal.
5 The Futility of Prohibition The War on DrugsThe stated goals of the War on Drugs include:The prohibition of the cultivation or manufacture of drugs;The prohibition of the import of drugs; andThe prohibition of the use of drugs.Despite spending tens of billions of dollars on the effort, making millions of drugs arrests, and doubling of the prison population, the War has not achieved its goals.Drugs are more readily available than ever before.
6 The Futility of Prohibition Prohibition Creates Financial IncentivesThe mentality behind the War on Drugs ignores the fact that prohibition establishes tremendous financial incentives for drug dealers to supply the demand.“Those who are willing to accept the risk of arrest or murder will be handsomely—sometimes unbelievably—rewarded.” (142)(According to a 1998 study of an inner-city gang specializing in crack cocaine sales, the average street-corner dealer earned as little as $200/month, while the head of the gang earned $100,000/year. A street-level dealer had a 1-in-4 chance of being killed.)“Drug dealers […] are actually profit-seeking entrepreneurs.” (142)
7 The Futility of Prohibition (cont’d) The drug trade works to stay one step ahead of law-enforcement officials, moving grow-ops indoors, finding new smuggling methods, and so on.On a more global scale, as drug production is shut down in one country, it pops up in another, resulting is what has been called the “push-down/pop-up factor.”“The profit incentives [of the drug trade] show the futility of eradication, interdiction, and enforcement and make one question whether prohibition will ever be successful.” (142)
8 Individual Rights“Individuals have the right to live their lives in any way they choose so long as they do not violate the equal rights of others.” (143)Among the rights we can claim as fundamental is the right to decide what substances to put in one’s own body.On what principle should we exclude such substances as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin?Prohibitionist Position 1: Prohibitionists fail to recognize this fundamental freedom.Instead, they argue that prohibition is warranted by the consequences of widespread drug use.Nancy Reagan: “[I]f you’re a casual drug user, you are an accomplice to murder.” (143)
9 Individual Rights (cont’d) Reply: Drug use does not cause violence; prohibition of drugs does.Because drugs are illegal, disputes can only be handled through violence.The violence of the business draws in those with a propensity for violence.“When Congress repealed Prohibition, the violence went out of the liquor business. Similarly, when Congress repeals drug prohibition, the heroin and cocaine trade will cease to be violent.” (143)The government bans drugs.The supply of drugs is reduced.The price of drugs rises.Addicts commit crimes to afford drugs prices.
10 Individual Rights (cont’d) Prohibitionist Position 2: Drugs affect others, such as automobile accident victims and crack babies.Reply: Certainly it makes sense to punish those who drive under the influence of drugs, just as we do those who drive under the influence of alcohol. But it “hardly seems appropriate” to thus penalize those who use drugs safely.Similarly, “it seems unnecessary and unfair to ban a recreational drug just because it should not be used during pregnancy.” (143) We don’t put a wholesale ban on alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine for this reason—why do so for other drugs?“The question of an individual right to use drugs comes down to this: If the government can tell us what we can put into our own bodies, what can it not tell us?”
11 Individual Responsibility There exists in contemporary America a movement toward excusing people from acting on their compulsions.In the 1930s, alcoholism started to be seen as a disease.The same principle has given rise to addiction-theory applied to tobacco, cocaine, heroin, marijuana…In each case, it is claimed, the addicted simply cannot control their use.There is little-to-no clinical evidence to support the classic disease concept of alcoholism.“Many scientists, though, believe it is appropriate to mislead the public about the nature of alcoholism in order to induce what they see as the right behavior with regard to alcohol.” (144)
12 Individual Responsibility (cont’d) Both prohibitionists and legalizers base arguments for their sides on the disease theory:Prohibitionists argue that because addicts cannot help themselves, society must introduce legal sanctions “to protect them from their own failings.”Legalizers argue that drug use should be treated as a disease, and not a crime.The view that addiction is uncontrollable tends to alleviate addicts of a sense of responsibility for their actions.However, being addicted to some activity does not mean that such behavior is uncontrollable—only that it is difficult to control.Rather than outlawing drugs, we should focus on building a society in which people take responsibility for their actions.
13 Individual Responsibility (cont’d) We “should begin to stress the moral value of individual responsibility, the self-respect such responsibility brings, and the utilitarian benefits of living in a society in which all persons are held responsible for the consequences of their actions.” (144)“We cannot win the War on Drugs. We cannot even keep drugs out of our prisons. Thus, we could turn the United States into a police state, and we still would not win the War on Drugs.” (145)It seems the only way to win the War on Drugs is to pull out completely.