Wasted -The War On Drugs

Did you ever stop to think about the never ending War on Drugs? It’s been going on for decades, sucking up billions of dollars and accounting for much of the prison population. And yet, anthropologists will tell you that virtually all societies regularly use some sort of drug. In some groups, it’s considered a right of passage and you’re not a fully actualized adult until you take your first trip. Even some animals will indulge if given the opportunity. Monkeys and elephants are not above sampling alcohol rich, over-ripe fruit while birds have been known to topple from their trees after getting a beak full.

Consider the way Americans treat caffeine. It’s certainly qualifies as a potentially addicting, psychoactive drug and yet it’s perfectly legal and available at every turn. Let’s keep those worker ants working. Kids can buy caffeine-laden sodas with more than a dozen teaspoons of sugar at school. Adults can get their fix from the company coffeepot or at one of the Starbucks now found on every block. The DEA agent planning his next bust over 15 cups of Joe is Standard-Operating-Procedure. So let’s get over the notion that there’s something unusual, unnatural or evil about creating a chemically induced state. Now ask yourself, why would the government continue to pursue a policy that clearly does more harm than good? Is it possible that taking an item costing pennies and running up to dollars is the key?

During Prohibition, the folks selling booze were able to build their vast organizations only because alcohol was illegal. As a consequence, big bucks were continuously poured into the pockets of legislators who opposed Repel. Keeping liquor illegal was a necessary part of the game. Support your local underworld…ban something. The people behind the War on Drugs recently asserted that buying a recreational baggie aided terrorists. If true, wouldn’t putting blow on sale at your neighborhood pharmacy really put the skids on terrorism?

And what’s this we hear about government agencies like the CIA trading narcotics for information and as a means of funding undercover operations? Of course, such stories might be nothing more than lunatic conspiracy theories. Then again, is it really true that all the dope collected during The French Connection subsequently disappeared from the evidence room? That’s what it said at the end of the film.

And too, because controlled substances are often fortuitously found on suspects, this can serve as a quick and easy means of confining someone that might otherwise be out on the street in 24 hours. This is actually a positive result of the Drug War. Local police officers typically know who the miscreants are and a very small amount of crack works as an effective means of rubbish removal – the human kind.

And what about the notion that keeping drugs illegal serves as a kind of welfare system? Making them legal would cut off a source of income and a kind of employment that now constitutes a major cottage industry on that end of town. Legalizing drugs might just force criminals to leave the hood and focus on this end of town.

Of course, the power that results from making something illegal and then building enormous bureaucracies to control it is a kind of narcotic in its own right. Big agencies spending billions and having the power of life or death, freedom or incarceration over their fellows is a lifestyle not easily abandoned. It’s a kind of continuing high – involving car chases and shootouts just like in the movies. And on top of all that, Joe Six-pack sees you as a hero and a defender of the American Way…at least until you find some pernicious weed in his kid’s car.

The War on Drugs also serves to convince taxpayers that they are being protected and their money is being well spent. Unfortunately, citizens who believe they need to be saved from themselves will far more readily abide restrictions of their liberty combined with invasions of their privacy. If you accept being put in prison for growing a plant in your yard and smoking it in your home, you’ve already lost a much bigger war…the War on Freedom.

Look At It This Way

The War on Drugs, as advertised, makes no logical sense. But notice the phrase “as advertised” and keep in mind that the world is seldom the way you’re led to believe it is. If you realize that the War on Drugs has nothing to do with cutting down on availability and discouraging usage, then suddenly…it makes perfect sense.

By Stephen Mason, Ph.D.

Psychology Today
18 March 2009