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A Comically Dishonest Defense of the Drug War
There's a fun little debate series over at U.S. News & World Report featuring some of the usual suspects squaring off over whether the drug war is the best or worst thing in the world (well, it can't be both). My favorite part is Kevin Sabet's attempt to make the drug war sound about as wholesome as a hug from a nun, which he accomplishes by pretending no one ever gets arrested for doing drugs.

Seriously, just take for example this one item from Sabet's list of things he likes about the drug war:

Intervention: If individuals do start to use drugs, we know that brief interventions (by doctors, coaches, parents, faith leaders, or others) do a pretty good job at stopping the progression of use from non-dependence to addiction.

Others!? Really, Kevin? By "others" did you by any chance mean "cops with machine guns, battering rams, drug sniffing dogs, and flash bang grenades? Cause if you wanna talk about intervention…well that's who's been intervening. When the government hears you might have MARIJUANA in your basement, they don't send a "faith leader" to talk to you about it.

You can try to paint over prohibition, but you'll need a whole hell of a lot of spackle to stuff the bullet holes. The drug war isn't just a big counseling program, it's a bloody f#%king mess and everybody knows that's what it is because we get our news from watching the damn news, not from reading Kevin Sabet for breakfast.

Pretending our drug policy is all about treatment and prevention might feel good to the professional spokespeople who get paid to say so, but it doesn't work in a world that's watching as a war unfolds before us. All that happy crap about helping people is great and good, but we're also watching every day as the drug war destroys lives right in front of our faces and we want to know what's being done about that. Talking about treatment isn’t an acceptable answer to our questions about the continuing destruction that's being done with the billions of dollars that aren't spent on treatment.

After all, if you can't acknowledge the very worst about the drug war when defending it, you aren't really defending it at all. If responsible adults don't get roughed up and arrested for taking drugs in Kevin Sabet's essays and speeches, then it stands to reason that responsible adults shouldn’t have to get roughed up and arrested for taking drugs in real life either.

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right on scott

damn dude that was good. im glad you put this up here. man do i hate that guy kevin sabet. you could say ah you know dont let that dude rent space in your head, no he doesnt but when i come to the internet reform world and see his name i get pissed because i am one of those who dont like stupid people being involved in - well lets just put it this way eh man like you know those big families that do those big family dinners and they isolate the children at the kiddie table? why you may ask? well, im sorry little franky but nobody gives a crap about godzilla and super radio man when we're talking about the european crisis. you know what im saying scott?


but then i think about this man its like obviously, well quite honestly actually i dont REALLY know because i am kinda outta touch with internet culture so forgive me if im wrong but i THINK that MOST of us play out most of our lives away from the keyboard around real people, you know, so i was thinkin about this you know as it pertains to kevin sabet... so im thinking right like ok i encounter all kinds of stupidity and ignorance online from people ive never met, never will meet and would want nothing to do with if they were around in the world of my private life away from the keyboard... and when it comes to the people in the world away from the keyboard well, in my case, its mostly people that do what i do, think along the same lines etc. a person who wasnt into my...."Scene"....wouldnt hang around long with me....there are lots of would've been gfs who could attest...anyway, so i was thinking, you know, about kevin and was, you know this guy has obviously been spouting  his rhetoric and idiocy for a long time... Now i thought nobody could really be that dumb... unless they were pretending on purpose to ignore the facts and why would anybody do that unless they were paid to do that? so thats what i thought but i also thought, well, is it possible that kevin is surrounded by people in his life away from the keyboard (maybe the ultimate answer here is that he doesnt have one? idk) that think that he does and i thought well surely that cant be... and i think to myself, well, there has to be SOME people in his real life that have called him to the carpet on the things he says... Right?? HECK in my life obviously there are aquaintences that dont agree with my heroin loving...they try to tell me the usual bs but whatever, the fact is ive got naysayers in my life, i would think in kevins and considering his higher profile than the average joe, there would have to be those close to him saying listen man you really sound stupid wtf are you thinking? you know??? the only thing i can come up with is he has to be paid to say these things and he has to be paid not to recant. i cant fathom it working any other way unless he is genuinely THAT ignorant.

Ivory Tower Syndrome, personified

Sabet's been a member of the DrugWar's Ivory Tower Brigade from the early 1990's, when during Congressional testimony he was being short-stroked as a newly-minted, up-and-coming Junior DrugWarrior, one of the Order of Saint Nancy The of The Negative's (Just say NO!) brood , she of the Unusually Shiny Eyes.

He's been a professional bullshitter for them for years, their live-in waterboy, carrying gallons of spray-on PR lipstick to apply to various terminally ugly pigs du jour of drug policies. A classic courtier, a drone in the hive who produces nothing but noise. And we paid for his salary for almost 20 years.

Where's Senator Proxmire when you need him? Sabet would have been a perfect reason for why the ONDCP should receive one of Proxmire's old "Golden Fleece" Awards...

No Authentic Altruism in Drug Wars

David Evans and Kevin Sabet are two political evangelicals who are out to save humankind from what Sabet calls a ‘cancer’ and what everyone else calls a ‘really good time’ – or even in some cases a ‘spiritual experience’. 

Sabet and Evans write as if they possess the moral high-ground on the drug issue, in this instance a morality unimpeded by science and reason.  Like demi-gods or hanging judges, they deem themselves qualified to bestow extremes of punishment upon drug users.  They believe doing so alters and deters drug taking behavior among their victims, as well as discouraging anyone else considering a relaxed evening at home that might include an ale and a doobie.  The numbers say they’re wrong.

It’s not just punishment the two prohibitionists promote, but persecution.  Sabet and Evans get to feel superior to drug users.  They get to ostracize them and eliminate any future chances their victims might have for a normal public life.  In this stage of moralizing, the superior moralizer creates a caste society of untouchables, unhirables, and undesirables, all the while claiming good intentions and burnishing the moralizer’s own moral credentials.

For the schemes that Sabet and Evans promote to function at all, the means of authoritarian intervention would have to be continuous and indefinite.  Law enforcement would need to imitate the GDR’s infamous Stasi.  We would be living in a nation of spies, and there would still be illicit drugs and illicit drug users.  As for soft drugs, I’ve never known anyone busted for weed or some other innocuous substance who didn’t continue to use their drug of choice once the government’s Sword of Damocles no longer hung over their head.  Prohibition is, always has been, and always will be an abject failure.


And you have to wonder, also, at the religious aspect

Sabet is a B'hai, a member of a faith almost universally persecuted in its' area of origin and in almost every non-Western nation, often to the point of martyrdom. They have very strict religious laws as to what may be imbibed, inhaled, etc.. just as did all those alcohol Prohibitionists.

So, you'd think that, given his own faith's persecution, he'd be leery of engaging in that sort of thing, himself. But, apparently not. He doesn't seem to see any connections at all between what he has actively aided and abetted doing  to cannabists and what other religions have done to his.

Every time I think of people like Sabet, I think of the Nazi's Ahnenerbe, which was staffed with people just like him, trying to come up with academically-sounding sophistries to justify atrocities from the safety of their cozy parlors, while in the trenches, the blood flows.

Persecution is Persistent

The effects of persecution get passed down through generations.  Three or more generations can be affected.  The best examples I’ve encountered are the children of Holocaust survivors.  The emotional ripple effect from the Nazi genocide didn’t stop in 1945.  No way. 

Sabet may feel the need to seek sanctuary within an unobtainable idealistic world provided by his B’hai faith, but the B’hai religion is homophobic, and it shows other authoritarian characteristics as you've indicated, which could indicate a strong cultural link by Sabet to the evangelical right in the United States.  Organized religion has been strongly prohibitionist ever since the Chinese Boxer Rebellion, while capping it all off with hysteria over porn, alcohol, sex, drugs, great music, great literature, et al.

Perhaps when Sabet is brought to trial for crimes against humanity, when he’s finally convicted by a world court and imprisoned in a Spandau type of setting, we can analyze his peculiar predilections for persecution and thereby prevent the emergence of future Sabets.

Idiots repeat thing expecting different results

And how many of you will do more than lip service about the drug war attrocities?  How many will vote for Democrats or Republicans again, despite the fact that both parties have promited the drug war since 1937?  Maybe it's time to consider an alternate party, like the Justice Party, and DO something about this ridiculous BS!  Adults should be allowed to do whatever they wish, among themselves, in their homes.  If a person becomes dependent on drugs, then it's a MEDICAL issue, NOT a criminal one!  Cops' duty should be ONLY to protect people and property.  Period!

Count me in - I'm voting for

Count me in - I'm voting for the libertarian party next presidential election. (END THE FED and END PROHIBITION)   And don't give me that bull about how a 3rd party can't win.  Even if that is true, it sends a message loud and clear for the next election that 3rd party candidates are the way to go.  

Ha. Now you wouldn't be

Ha. Now you wouldn't be holding back on us now, would you Scott? That was my reaction, verbatim.

How about where he said "Treatment, sometimes with enforceable sanctions: Decades of research have shown that treatment reduces crime and saves money. But newer interventions, like drug courts or interventions that combine positive drug tests with very short sanctions (like 1-3 days in jail) can significantly reduce drug use and help people live a better life." I almost choked on that one. It's good to know, short jail stays can help a person " a better life." Maybe Kevin should try that? Along with the lifelong criminal record that comes with them. Make him a better person, it will.

But of course he know full well that most people entering treatment for the first time relapse within ninety days (70% of them!), so he wants seventy percent of these folks to spend MORE TIME incarcerated than they otherwise would for just a simple arrest. Sounds like he's really, really interested in seeing that people DO go to jail for petty possession, because his "third way" will incarcerate 70% more people for more time. If the average stay in jail for petty possession is twelve hours, and the average number of days spent in jail living a "...better life"  because you relapsed is three days, he's asking that 70% of people arrested should spend 600% more time incarcerated for their crime than they do under the current laws you think that's intentional?

Sabet is not just a dumb prohibitionist, he's got a PhD, and has made drug policy his entire career. He knows to a nicety the effect of the proposals he floats. This new third way is a facade meant to disguise a massive ramping up of the war on users. Notice his proposals target only users, not traffickers, or money launderers, or drug kingpins. His proposals are aimed at the end user and will result in HUGE committment to private treatment companies and a huge influx of people into jail for petty possession. 

Perhaps he doesn't believe people go to jail for possession. He seems intent on correcting that problem.

Same old Sabet

A few years ago, I saw Kevin Sabet debate Peter Christ of LEAP at Schenectady Comunity College. He used the same tact and tone during the debate as did in his article. And he repeatedly used the term "Look, it's not perfect...but blah, blah, blah. For the most part his schtick worked on this impressionable college crowd. After four years of dressing up this pig, people aren't buying it anymore.

Thinking Clearly's picture

An Intervention is Needed

Listening to Kevin Sabets congenial reasoning and trivializing of the miserable plight of hundreds of thousands who had their lives destroyed by prosecution for marijuana makes me ill. Does he think Americans were born in a cabbage patch?

He doesn't deserve the PHD his paper is written on. The war on drugs that he so conveniently misnamed and misplaced hasn't changed a bit.

These two reprehensible con men in the form of David Evans and Kevin Sabet need some intervention and re-education.

Nice Work Scott

Nice work Scott. Thanks for all your efforts in ending the War On People.


Barry Cooper/

Nice Work Scott

Thanks for helping to end this "War On People."

Very nice article.


Barry Cooper/

War is hell

They call it the Drug War. War is hell. People die; people bleed every single day for the self-righteous crusade of the scum of the earth.

It's not the Initiative Against Drugs, nor the Drug Prohibition Movement; everyone seems to agree that this is War. Not only is Sabet grossly out of touch with reality (or mind-blowingly dishonest and dishonorable), but he has the guts, the balls to suggest that his war comes without casualties? I have tried to put a different slant on his words so that I might see how they might make sense, but all that comes of it is further disgust and revilement of an already vile man.

The ignorant I can abide.

The willfully ignorant are beyond even my pity. full of S***

...So our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug's effects._________________________________________ I think we all know about the hundreds of studies that shed Marijuana in a positive light; Studies that hint that Medicinal application of the chemical compounds contained within the Cannabis plant are far safer and far less expensive than standard drugs, such as Tylenol, Anti-inflammatory drugs, Aspirin, etc.; Though the position that Gil is taking on the application of Marijuana, whether Medicinal or recreational, is one that dodges the question posed as well as contradicting the vast amount of scientific knowledge available on the subject. To directly address the rhetoric behind this quote would be similar to saying, "The Government is right, scientists that don't take a biased approach to what they're studying are wrong." Quote:_________________________________________According to scientists at the National Institutes of Health- *the world's largest source of drug abuse research...*_________________________________________ /Facepalm... How did I not see the Drug Czar shelling out studies from an institution that's funded to study the negative aspects, and*ONLY* the negative aspects of what's being studied.  What about the AMA, an organization that is headed by ACTUAL Physicians? Last time I heard, these guys had beef with the fact that Marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance. It seems that the majority position among this organization [which, I must point out, have no particular interests in which they have to protect to keep their jobs (hint, hint; BIG PHARMA) other than their patients] is that Marijuana has desirable clinical applications and is safe enough to be recommended by a doctor. But go on... Quote:_________________________________________...marijuana use is associated with *[2]addiction, [1]respiratory disease, and [2]cognitive impairment.* We know from an array of treatment admission information and Federal data that *[1]marijuana use is a significant source for voluntary drug treatment admissions and visits to emergency rooms.**[2]Studies also reveal that marijuana potency has almost tripled over the past 20 years, raising serious concerns about what this means for public health* – *[2]especially among young people who use the drug because research shows their brains continue to develop well into their 20's. Simply put, it is not a benign drug.*_________________________________________ Everything in bold has a corresponding number. The numbers in question mean either: 1: Completely false. Studies are available that point to the opposite of what is stated here. 2: Intentionally misleading. Information is construed in a manner that is intended to justify the rhetoric behind the statement. Quote:_________________________________________Like *many*, *we* are interested in the potential marijuana may have in providing relief to individuals diagnosed with certain serious illnesses._________________________________________ The intended meaning of the words in bold are: Many: Various individuals who profit off of the Pharmaceutical industry. We: Big Pharma. Quote:_________________________________________That is why we ardently support ongoing research into determining what components of the marijuana plant can be used as medicine._________________________________________ You "Ardently" research the "individual" components of the plant because: * Big Pharma can't put a patent on a plant. * Cannabis is cheap and easy medicine to grow. * Cannabis has various medical applications. This = More $$$ Quote:_________________________________________To date, however, neither the FDA nor the Institute of Medicine have found smoked marijuana to meet the *modern standard for safe or effective medicine for any condition.*_________________________________________ The Institute of Medicine cannot confirm that smoked marijuana is beneficial because the Institute of Medicine is a *not-for-profit, non-governmental* American organization. NIDA has the market on Cannabis research. As I've said before, the government funds NIDA to research the negative aspects of Marijuana. The Institute of Medicine adheres to a strict Peer-Peer review process, which if Cannabis research was allowed in this setting, would amount to studies that are contradictory to the negative bull that's spouted by NIDA, as we've seen with other scientific organizations outside of U.S. Federal Jurisdiction. And about the bold: The so-called "Modern Standard" Gil cites is an invalid argument to stand behind, simply because said "Standard" is set by "Vested Interests." Science is not greedy. Quote:_________________________________________We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use._________________________________________ Can you find any truth hidden in this statement? I couldn't... PM me if you do :wave: . What? Couldn't find even a sliver of truth? Didn't think so... Quote:_________________________________________Preventing drug use is the most cost-effective way to reduce drug use and its consequences in America._________________________________________ Legalization is the most cost-effective approach to dealing with Marijuana - Revenue minus wasted money spent on enforcement, incarceration, and erasing the ridiculous notion that pot-smokers need "intervention" is reality. Quote:_________________________________________In fact, millions of Americans are in successful recovery for drug and alcoholism today._________________________________________ First, learn how to articulate yourself Gil. Lastly, Learn how to stay on subject. Nobody is recovering from "Marijuana" addiction you fucking idiot. Quote:_________________________________________Our commitment to a balanced approach to *drug control* is real._________________________________________ No. This is an elementary thought process. The government isn't capable of controlling ANYTHING, nor has the power to do so when exercising control encroaches on the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the victim. If you can't control guns, murder, and unethical financial practices, it seems ridiculous to suggest that the Federal Government believes that it's capable of suppressing the human instinct to act upon an impulse to alter their consciousness. Summed up, this response is nothing but the same old tired rhetoric with a twist: Lies, lies, and more lies. Not only does Gil lie through his teeth about EVERY FUCKING POINT he attempts to state as fact, he ignores the VERY SIMPLE question that was posed. TheDankery10-29-2011 02:59 AM _________________________________________Re: What We Have to Say About Legalizing Marijuana  Oh, fuck off. Let's make alcohol and tobacco illegal then if we're so concerned about "public health" Obama can eat a dick. He knows full well that the War on Certain Drugs is a counterproductive, wasteful sham. Yet he continues to wage it anyways. Earlier presidents probably illegitimately believed smoking a joint would make you take an axe to grandma then rape your sister; whereas Obama, Clinton & Bush all smoked pot themselves and they each have known first-hand that it's relatively harmless. MJU198310-29-2011 03:06 AM _________________________________________Re: What We Have to Say About Legalizing Marijuana  Quote:_________________________________________Originally Posted by TheDankery (Post 12633980)Oh, fuck off. Let's make alcohol and tobacco illegal then if we're so concerned about "public health" Obama can eat a dick. He knows full well that the War on Certain Drugs is a counterproductive, wasteful sham. Yet he continues to wage it anyways. Earlier presidents probably illegitimately believed smoking a joint would make you take an axe to grandma then rape your sister; whereas *Obama, Clinton & Bush all smoked pot themselves and they each have known first-hand that it's relatively harmless*._________________________________________ Pot *and* coke! ;)

Wm F Buckley

Do you have on here this document, a transcript of legendary "conservative" Wm. F. Buckley's view on legalization?   I pasted it below, but it is quite long; I there should be a link to this on the Stop site.


Wm. F. Buckley, Jr., on the ending the War On Drugs 1996

WE ARE speaking of a plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, is responsible for nearly 50 per cent of the million Americans who are today in jail, occupies an estimated 50 per cent of the trial time of our judiciary, and takes the time of 400,000 policemen -- yet a plague for which no cure is at hand, nor in prospect.

Perhaps you, ladies and gentlemen of the Bar, will understand it if I chronicle my own itinerary on the subject of drugs and public policy. When I ran for mayor of New York, the political race was jocular, but the thought given to municipal problems was entirely serious, and in my paper on drugs and in my post-election book I advocated their continued embargo, but on unusual grounds. I had read -- and I think the evidence continues to affirm it -- that drug-taking is a gregarious activity. What this means, I said, is that an addict is in pursuit of company and therefore attempts to entice others to share with him his habit. Under the circumstances, I said, it can reasonably be held that drug-taking is a contagious disease and, accordingly, subject to the conventional restrictions employed to shield the innocent from Typhoid Mary. Some sport was made of my position by libertarians, including Professor Milton Friedman, who asked whether the police might legitimately be summoned if it were established that keeping company with me was a contagious activity.

I recall all of this in search of philosophical perspective. Back in 1965 I sought to pay conventional deference to libertarian presumptions against outlawing any activity potentially harmful only to the person who engages in that activity. I cited John Stuart Mill and, while at it, opined that there was no warrant for requiring motorcyclists to wear a helmet. I was seeking, and I thought I had found, a reason to override the presumption against intercession by the state.

About ten years later, I deferred to a different allegiance, this one not the presumptive opposition to state intervention, but a different order of priorities. A conservative should evaluate the practicality of a legal constriction, as for instance in those states whose statute books continue to outlaw sodomy, which interdiction is unenforceable, making the law nothing more than print-on-paper. I came to the conclusion that the so-called war against drugs was not working, that it would not work absent a change in the structure of the civil rights to which we are accustomed and to which we cling as a valuable part of our patrimony. And that therefore if that war against drugs is not working, we should look into what effects the war has, a canvass of the casualties consequent on its failure to work. That consideration encouraged me to weigh utilitarian principles: the Benthamite calculus of pain and pleasure introduced by the illegalization of drugs.

A YEAR or so ago I thought to calculate a ratio, however roughly arrived at, toward the elaboration of which I would need to place a dollar figure on deprivations that do not lend themselves to quantification. Yet the law, lacking any other recourse, every day countenances such quantifications, as when asking a jury to put a dollar figure on the damage done by the loss of a plaintiff's right arm, amputated by defective machinery at the factory. My enterprise became allegorical in character -- I couldn't do the arithmetic -- but the model, I think, proves useful in sharpening perspectives.

Professor Steven Duke of Yale Law School, in his valuable book, America's Longest War: Rethinking Our Tragic Crusade against Drugs, and scholarly essay, ``Drug Prohibition: An Unnatural Disaster,'' reminds us that it isn't the use of illegal drugs that we have any business complaining about, it is the abuse of such drugs. It is acknowledged that tens of millions of Americans (I have seen the figure 85 million) have at one time or another consumed, or exposed themselves to, an illegal drug. But the estimate authorized by the federal agency charged with such explorations is that there are not more than 1 million regular cocaine users, defined as those who have used the drug at least once in the preceding week. There are (again, an informed estimate) 5 million Americans who regularly use marijuana; and again, an estimated 70 million who once upon a time, or even twice upon a time, inhaled marijuana. From the above we reasonably deduce that Americans who abuse a drug, here defined as Americans who become addicted to it or even habituated to it, are a very small percentage of those who have experimented with a drug, or who continue to use a drug without any observable distraction in their lives or careers. About such users one might say that they are the equivalent of those Americans who drink liquor but do not become alcoholics, or those Americans who smoke cigarettes but do not suffer a shortened lifespan as a result.

Curiosity naturally flows to ask, next, How many users of illegal drugs in fact die from the use of them? The answer is complicated in part because marijuana finds itself lumped together with cocaine and heroin, and nobody has ever been found dead from marijuana. The question of deaths from cocaine is complicated by the factor of impurity. It would not be useful to draw any conclusions about alcohol consumption, for instance, by observing that, in 1931, one thousand Americans died from alcohol consumption if it happened that half of those deaths, or more than half, were the result of drinking alcohol with toxic ingredients extrinsic to the drug as conventionally used. When alcohol was illegal, the consumer could never know whether he had been given relatively harmless alcohol to drink -- such alcoholic beverages as we find today in the liquor store -- or whether the bootlegger had come up with paralyzing rotgut. By the same token, purchasers of illegal cocaine and heroin cannot know whether they are consuming a drug that would qualify for regulated consumption after clinical analysis.

But we do know this, and I approach the nexus of my inquiry, which is that more people die every year as a result of the war against drugs than die from what we call, generically, overdosing. These fatalities include, perhaps most prominently, drug merchants who compete for commercial territory, but include also people who are robbed and killed by those desperate for money to buy the drug to which they have become addicted.

This is perhaps the moment to note that the pharmaceutical cost of cocaine and heroin is approximately 2 per cent of the street price of those drugs. Since a cocaine addict can spend as much as $1,000 per week to sustain his habit, he would need to come up with that $1,000. The approximate fencing cost of stolen goods is 80 per cent, so that to come up with $1,000 can require stealing $5,000 worth of jewels, cars, whatever. We can see that at free-market rates, $20 per week would provide the addict with the cocaine which, in this wartime drug situation, requires of him $1,000.

My mind turned, then, to auxiliary expenses -- auxiliary pains, if you wish. The crime rate, whatever one made of its modest curtsy last year toward diminution, continues its secular rise. Serious crime is 480 per cent higher than in 1965. The correlation is not absolute, but it is suggestive: crime is reduced by the number of available enforcers of law and order, namely policemen. The heralded new crime legislation, passed last year and acclaimed by President Clinton, provides for 100,000 extra policemen, even if only for a limited amount of time. But 400,000 policemen would be freed to pursue criminals engaged in activity other than the sale and distribution of drugs if such sale and distribution, at a price at which there was no profit, were to be done by, say, a federal drugstore.

So then we attempt to put a value on the goods stolen by addicts. The figure arrived at by Professor Duke is $10 billion. But we need to add to this pain of stolen property, surely, the extra-material pain suffered by victims of robbers. If someone breaks into your house at night, perhaps holding you at gunpoint while taking your money and your jewelry and whatever, it is reasonable to assign a higher ``cost'' to the episode than the commercial value of the stolen money and jewelry. If we were modest, we might reasonably, however arbitrarily, put at $1,000 the ``value'' of the victim's pain. But then the hurt, the psychological trauma, might be evaluated by a jury at ten times, or one hundred times, that sum.

But we must consider other factors, not readily quantifiable, but no less tangible. Fifty years ago, to walk at night across Central Park was no more adventurous than to walk down Fifth Avenue. But walking across the park is no longer done, save by the kind of people who climb the Matterhorn. Is it fair to put a value on a lost amenity? If the Metropolitan Museum were to close, mightn't we, without fear of distortion, judge that we had been deprived of something valuable? What value might we assign to confidence that, at night, one can sleep without fear of intrusion by criminals seeking money or goods exchangeable for drugs?

Pursuing utilitarian analysis, we ask: What are the relative costs, on the one hand, of medical and psychological treatment for addicts and, on the other, incarceration for drug offenses? It transpires that treatment is seven times more cost-effective. By this is meant that one dollar spent on the treatment of an addict reduces the probability of continued addiction seven times more than one dollar spent on incarceration. Looked at another way: Treatment is not now available for almost half of those who would benefit from it. Yet we are willing to build more and more jails in which to isolate drug users even though at one-seventh the cost of building and maintaining jail space and pursuing, detaining, and prosecuting the drug user, we could subsidize commensurately effective medical care and psychological treatment.

I HAVE spared you, even as I spared myself, an arithmetical consummation of my inquiry, but the data here cited instruct us that the cost of the drug war is many times more painful, in all its manifestations, than would be the licensing of drugs combined with intensive education of non-users and intensive education designed to warn those who experiment with drugs. We have seen a substantial reduction in the use of tobacco over the last thirty years, and this is not because tobacco became illegal but because a sentient community began, in substantial numbers, to apprehend the high cost of tobacco to human health, even as, we can assume, a growing number of Americans desist from practicing unsafe sex and using polluted needles in this age of AIDS. If 80 million Americans can experiment with drugs and resist addiction using information publicly available, we can reasonably hope that approximately the same number would resist the temptation to purchase such drugs even if they were available at a federal drugstore at the mere cost of production.

And added to the above is the point of civil justice. Those who suffer from the abuse of drugs have themselves to blame for it. This does not mean that society is absolved from active concern for their plight. It does mean that their plight is subordinate to the plight of those citizens who do not experiment with drugs but whose life, liberty, and property are substantially affected by the illegalization of the drugs sought after by the minority.

I have not spoken of the cost to our society of the astonishing legal weapons available now to policemen and prosecutors; of the penalty of forfeiture of one's home and property for violation of laws which, though designed to advance the war against drugs, could legally be used -- I am told by learned counsel -- as penalties for the neglect of one's pets. I leave it at this, that it is outrageous to live in a society whose laws tolerate sending young people to life in prison because they grew, or distributed, a dozen ounces of marijuana. I would hope that the good offices of your vital profession would mobilize at least to protest such excesses of wartime zeal, the legal equivalent of a My Lai massacre. And perhaps proceed to recommend the legalization of the sale of most drugs, except to minors.


Those SWAT guys in the photo look like they're about to storm the Warsaw ghetto.

Just the right sense of indignation

It's nice to read that someone else actually gets worked up over this travesty.I've been beaten,shot at,imprisoned,paroled revoked,rearrested,etc.etc.12 years of my life was taken because I got addicted to heroin.My first arrests were for cannabis.I have been hearing the same arguments and watching things deteriorate year after year and now we have Mexico.We also have Portugal.What does the drug war hold out as the answer.Mexico.Now you tell me this is not insane.File it under WTF.

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Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School