David Borden, Executive
Director, [email protected]
Amidst the continuing furor of anti-drug
polemics and hysterics, it's easy to make the casual observer forget one
of the basic realities of this issue: Most people who use drugs are
okay. For most of the people who use drugs, it's okay that they are
using drugs. We may legitimately worry about those who truly have
problems with their drug use, and the people they may affect; we legitimately
worry about the consequences of the illicit trade in drugs -- which is
to say, the consequences of prohibition. And we would like to see
the drug trade made less accessible to children.
David Borden's usual Thursday night editing session
But when one faces facts
straight on, they say a simple thing: Most people who use drugs are
okay. If results are what count, in most cases it's okay that people
are using drugs. Not in all cases, to be sure. But in most
Certain types of civil disobedience
can illustrate the pointlessness of criminalization of drug use in a vivid
enough way to be both noticed and understood. Members of the European
Parliament Marco Cappato of Italy and Chris Davies of Great Britain accomplished
this three years ago when they presented
themselves to police in the London suburb of Manchester with minute
quantities of marijuana attached to the back of a couple of postage stamps,
getting arrested in the process. Cappato and Davies weren't even
using the marijuana, it wasn't even enough to be used, they clearly were
not menacing society in any way, they are highly respectable citizens.
Yet it was enough to get them sent to jail in handcuffs. That is
an effective demonstration of the pointlessness of criminalization.
Drug reformers in the formerly-Communist
nation of Hungary are doing something similar right now. Roughly
30 of them have turned themselves in as drug users to Budapest and other
city police headquarters since the beginning of April. Among them
was a famous novelist who is also grandmother -- clearly not a threat to
society. Police are being forced to arrest these people and make
the law look ridiculous in the process. It is fueling discussion,
not only about casual use of marijuana but also how society deals with
the truly problematic drug users. It is raising the issue of the
unlucky ones who get caught and might not get a lenient sentence.
It may well help to change the country's drug laws.
The criminalization of responsible
drug users is only one of the many pointless aspects of drug prohibition.
Criminalization of the trade in drugs itself is also pointless, though
for more complex reasons that involve economics, public health and many
other factors. But criminalization of users is pointless on its face.
People may miss that obvious point a lot of the time. But they are
capable of grasping it, without a lot of effort, if it is pointed out in
a clear and compelling manner.
I believe they can understand
the rest of it too. As New Mexico's former governor, Gary Johnson,
has put it, support for the drug war is a mile wide but an inch deep.
Our drug policies are so far off-base, with such serious consequences,
it isn't that hard to get a lot of people, perhaps most, to understand
at a minimum that some things are wrong. Prohibition is pointless,
but our efforts to end it need not be.
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