David Brooks goes off on marijuana this week. He offers that don’t do as I did attitude that only the well-heeled can argue to the rest of us. It’s another affirmation that the laws are there for the poors.
I support a regulated drug market. The evidence is prohibition makes drugs more dangerous for communities, their users and the enforcement community. Realistic, non-prohibitive drug policies are more humane and cheaper, reducing violence and giving addicts consistent opportunities to reduce their addiction at their own pace in a way that costs less. Examples: Portugal and Denmark. Example for the other side? Mexico.
The argument should end there.
Drug addiction is a problem, but jails are the worst place to solve them. They are the most expensive, least effective places to teach people to make meaningful alternative choices. After all, no politician wins votes by spending more money on teaching “higher” values to felons.
David Brooks makes his argument by comparing higher vs drug addled happiness, but I think he is pretty limited in his understanding of “drug use.” I enjoy my coffee and gin on the day’s book-ends. It has not stopped me from listening to Wagner or reading Proust. Isn’t it possible that for some, the former is better high; and latter more comprehensible? And I’m not even talking about their usage.
Don’t get me started on the drug use of artists like Coleridge and Basquiat.
The down and dirty problem is that the war on drugs has been a de facto war on poor, black families. Whites and blacks use most drugs at the same rate; blacks, however, get the rap sheet. Brooks avoided it. Once a felony, then no job. Then it’s working with other felons. The drug conviction itself keeps them out of the labor force. Legalization is not about “happiness.” It’s about the ruined lives along prohibition’s way.
There are some non-race based policy changes that would diminish the impact of racism in our country. One is affordable health care. The second would be full employment. The third comprehensive public education. And last, ending the war on drugs. This last one would liberate a substantial plurality of black men in jail.
Ending the war on drugs would be a fair way of reallocating our resources that would proportionately help those who have been disproportionally affected. We’d free up our police forces to focus on violent crimes. We’d not need to militarize them against drug lords. And neighborhoods would be safer because people could get their high legally.
We’ve spent one trillion dollars on this war, and the demand has not stopped.
Prohibition is a waste of money. Criminalization doesn’t work.