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Baby Steps In The War On Drugs

19 October 2009

While we wait patiently for all the talk of freedom and personal liberty to come to fruition in this country, authoritarianism remains the standard for a range of topics, from FISA to the War On Drugs.

That second topic has become a running theme here at, made all the more gobsmacking by other countries’ moves to decriminalize recreational drug use. Portugal is the best example of a country that was beset by drug-related social problems that greatly benefited from subsequent legalization. Upon legalizing, drug-related crimes plummeted and the government suddenly found much needed time and financial resources available to be deployed elsewhere.

Watching the bodies stack up as an all-out drug bloodbath erupted in Mexico, that country decriminalized personal use in August, figuring the best way to fight the drug lords was not to fight them at all. While it remains to be seen how this policy will play out in Mexico, anecdotally, it seems, the tales of brutal drug-related slayings south of the border seem to have slowed (granted, there could be any number of reasons for this, from media focusing their attention elsewhere to seasonal fluctuation to random chance…which is why it’s too early to tell).

Today Salon’s Glenn Greenwald (a favorite of the blog for his ability to make the case for Libertarian causes without coming off like a nut job) applauds the White House’s decision to respect state medical marijuana laws and not prosecute related cases on a federal level. In this case the applause owes more to respecting states’ rights, personal liberty, and respecting the scientific data which show the benefits of medical marijuana than any grand gesture in ending the pointless, even counterproductive War On Drugs that reached a fever pitch under Nancy Reagan and never abated under the Bush dynasty, or Clinton. Still, it’s a nice first step in that direction too.

As Greenwald notes, it’s more than a little ironic that under George Bush Jr., champion of freedom and personal liberty, the government routinely spat in the face of states’ rights and prosecuted medical marijuana users who were approved where they live, while the administration of Barack Obama, the raging Socialist, is taking a hands-off approach.

Money Quote:

The War on Drugs is the pernicious precursor to the War on Terror in so many ways, beginning with the relentless erosion of civil liberties; endless expansions of federal powers of detention, surveillance and militarized involvement in other countries; and a general pretext for remaining in an endless “war” posture. Anything that moves even a little bit towards abandoning the orthodoxies which sustain it should be applauded. And whatever else is true, being free of gun-wielding DEA agents is a real benefit for people with serious illnesses and those who provide them with medical treatments prescribed by their physicians.

UPDATE: This post got promoted at (first time ever for a entry) and is currently leading the page on the WordPress Web site. Thanks for the support!

Wordpress Front Page 10-19-09

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Steven Harris permalink
    19 October 2009 2:48 pm

    SO long as politicians and their followers continue to use tired rhetoric and believe that drugs need a war against them, their efforts to eradicate the problems of drug abuse within society will fail. Drugs are not an enemy to be vanquished, they are addictive substances which people need help to end their dependence on. It should not be a battlefield but a dialogue. Only then can those who have become addicted gain enough education to understand why they may have fallen into their situation in the first place. And, while we’re at it, acknowledging that to ban some addictive substances (heroin, cocaine, etc) and yet positively promote others – such as alcohol and tobacco – is a level of social hypocrisy which does nothing to help those addicted to illegal substances.

    • Jonah permalink*
      19 October 2009 3:05 pm

      Spot on, Steven. Thanks for dropping by, really sharp commentary.

  2. Steven Harris permalink
    19 October 2009 3:07 pm

    Hi Jonah. I wish I could say that here in the United Kingdom there is a more enlightened policy towards helping those with addictions. Sadly this is not the case.

    • Jonah permalink*
      19 October 2009 3:08 pm

      My home country of Canada is more enlightened, at least. And there’s a glimmer of hope in my adopted home country if incremental steps like these keep getting taken.

  3. Steven Harris permalink
    19 October 2009 3:14 pm

    I do wonder sometimes whether governments ever consult former addicts. For people who are trying to beat addictions, talking with those who have already been through what they are experiencing and succeeding can be of great benefit. Those who got themselves clean can see things from both sides of the tracks, as it were. Maybe I’m wrong but I get the impression that most government backed campaigns do not seek the advise of those who know what it is like to overcome such problems.

  4. givenchance permalink
    20 October 2009 3:54 am

    problem with drugs is one of the most important ones. so many young people suffer from it now and nobody can help them if only they do not do it by themselves. even if they understand that drugs are killers they will continue to use them. the policy is to help them to understand they should leave it!

    • Jonah permalink*
      20 October 2009 8:19 am

      I agree that the government’s intent might be sound. But does that mean we should be spending piles of money, law enforcement hours and lives fighting drug lords in Mexico? Should the gvt encourage anti-drug campaigns, when the data show they have the opposite (negative) effect? There are lots of ways to help kids make the right decisions without a capital letters War On Drugs.


  1. Baby Steps In The War On Drugs « | Global Security Blog

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