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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Friday, October 21, 2005

Former Seattle Police Chief Advocates Drug Legalization

(Via Progressive Review) Besides having once been chief of police, Norm Stamper is the author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing. From the Seattle Times.

I don't favor [drug] decriminalization. I favor legalization, and not just of pot but of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth, psychotropics, mushrooms and LSD. Decriminalization, as my colleagues in the drug reform movement hasten to inform me, takes the crime out of using drugs but continues to classify possession and use as a public offense, punishable by fines.

I've never understood why adults shouldn't enjoy the same right to use verboten drugs as they have to suck on a Marlboro or knock back a scotch and water.

Prohibition of alcohol fell flat on its face. The prohibition of other drugs rests on an equally wobbly foundation. Not until we choose to frame responsible drug use — not an oxymoron in my dictionary — as a civil liberty will we be able to recognize the abuse of drugs, including alcohol, for what it is: a medical, not a criminal, matter.

As a cop, I bore witness to the multiple lunacies of the "war on drugs." Lasting far longer than any other of our national conflicts, the drug war has been prosecuted with equal vigor by Republican and Democratic administrations, with one president after another — Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush — delivering sanctimonious sermons, squandering vast sums of taxpayer money and cheerleading law enforcers from the safety of the sidelines.

It's not a stretch to conclude that our draconian approach to drug use is the most injurious domestic policy since slavery. Want to cut back on prison overcrowding and save a bundle on the construction of new facilities? Open the doors, let the nonviolent drug offenders go. The huge increases in federal and state prison populations during the 1980s and '90s (from 139 per 100,000 residents in 1980 to 482 per 100,000 in 2003) were mainly for drug convictions. In 1980, 580,900 Americans were arrested on drug charges. By 2003, that figure had ballooned to 1,678,200. We're making more arrests for drug offenses than for murder, manslaughter, forcible rape and aggravated assault combined. Feel safer?

I've witnessed the devastating effects of open-air drug markets in residential neighborhoods: children recruited as runners, mules and lookouts; drug dealers and innocent citizens shot dead in firefights between rival traffickers bent on protecting or expanding their markets; dedicated narcotics officers tortured and killed in the line of duty; prisons filled with nonviolent drug offenders; and drug-related foreign policies that foster political instability, wreak health and environmental disasters, and make life even tougher for indigenous subsistence farmers in places such as Latin America and Afghanistan. All because we like our drugs - and can't have them without breaking the law. . .

Although small in numbers of offenders, there isn't a major police force — the Los Angeles Police Department included — that has escaped the problem: cops, sworn to uphold the law, seizing and converting drugs to their own use, planting dope on suspects, robbing and extorting pushers, taking up dealing themselves, intimidating or murdering witnesses.

In declaring a war on drugs, we've declared war on our fellow citizens. War requires "hostiles" — enemies we can demonize, fear and loathe. This unfortunate categorization of millions of our citizens justifies treating them as dope fiends, evil-doers, less than human. That grants political license to ban the exchange or purchase of clean needles or to withhold methadone from heroin addicts motivated to kick the addiction.
Addendum. This is from an excellent post by commenter M. Simon:

Notice what is going on. New patented stimulants must come on the market to replace drugs whose patents expire. You know how it is. Doctors and patients always want the latest miracle drugs. Even if they are not much different from drugs going off patent. So how long has cocaine been off patent? How about methamphetamine?

It seems even old line stimulants have competition for the ADD/ADHD market. Here is a report on research by a doctor who has found pot effective against ADD/ADHD, anxiety, and alcohol and tobacco addictions.
Now why do you suppose a relatively benign drug like marijuana gets the lions share of drug war money? What exactly are we being protected from? My best guess is a decline in drug company profits.

The Drug Companies have become a cartel. And like any cartel they endeavor to wipe out their competition. They are very clever to see that there is no blood on their hands. They get the government to do the job for them....

The drug companies have their eye on you and don't want you messin with none of those dirty, adulterated, unpatentable street drugs. They want to sell you a patented drug. Clean pure and legal like. Of course there will be a slight surcharge to pay for all the expensive research and development required to come up with new stimulants. On a regular basis as the patents run out.

(And with government R&D money, by the way.)

As the bumper sticker on my truck says, "Hugs are better than drugs-- except for Ritalin."

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Blogger mojotek said...

What a great piece. It is actually a very 'commen-sense' argument. That the illegality of drugs is what make them so dangerous.

I wonder if perception in this country will ever change, though. Great post, I'm going to have to write something about it also...

October 24, 2005 8:59 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

If we don't understand why people take drugs we will never get a handle on the drug war.

In this respect anti-prohibitionists are just as ignorant as the prohibitionists.

October 24, 2005 11:11 AM  
Blogger mojotek said...

Very true, M. Simon... but the fact that people take drugs voluntarily to solve or deal with their problems still seems a medical issue rather than legal issue to me.

October 25, 2005 6:39 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...


My researches put the drug war in its proper medical context.

Once that context reaches a wider audience the war is over.

The deal is that you do not catch an addiction to illegal drugs from the drugs. Any more than you catch an insulin addiction from insulin.

September 26, 2006 4:51 PM  

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