The Drug War is possibly the major domestic issue of our time. It affects numerous aspects of domestic and international life: violence, loss of rights and treasure, race relations, prisons, vast corruption here and abroad, quality of life. As with alcohol prohibition, the Drug War is not working out. The Libertarian Party of North Carolina (LPNC) believes that there is a simple solution to these complex problems: We propose that the Drug War be ended.
So what is wrong with the Drug War? Well...the Drug War is:
Congress passed the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1914. The Soviet Union has come and gone in that time.
Alcohol prohibition in the US, 1919-1933, is widely acknowledged as a gift to organized crime. Similarly, today’s Drug War is little more than a subsidy for criminal behavior. It is folly.
From its overtly racist origins in the 19th century to its slightly less racist present, the Drug War has victimized disproportionately minorities, black people in particular. While African-Americans comprise 22% of NC's population, 52% of NC's prison population are black, thanks largely to the uneven burden of the Drug War.
In 2017 thirty inmates at the Tyrrell Prison Work Farm in NC were charged with drug offenses…. ostensibly committed WHILE they were in prison!
The Drug War has systematically eroded our civil liberties in a pattern that Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall called "the drug exception to the Bill of Rights."
Drug users are ostracized, races divided, dealers demonized, innocent lives ruined, neighborhoods trashed, assets seized, rights trampled, families destroyed, justice denied.
The US is widely known in the international medical community for routine undertreatment of pain. Doctors feel pressure not to prescribe opiates even when they are clearly appropriate and in NC they CANNOT prescribe marijuana because they have been drafted into the Drug War. Pain is often perceived as a character flaw.
Too often we hear, "Wrong place, wrong time" in connection with the Drug War.
In 2017 there were 5600 admissions to NC prisons for drug offenses. With an average cost of $35,000 per inmate per year, NC taxpayers spend $197 million per year on these new people alone.
US relations with many countries -- Mexico and Colombia, for example -- are unnecessarily complicated by US pressure to take a hard line against drugs. Many wish to decriminalize, which has worked well where it has been tried.
The LPNC Solution?
These problems seem intractable, yet the fix is simple. Excepting possibly drug addiction, ALL problems commonly associated with illegal drugs are caused or exacerbated by the Drug War itself. The Libertarian Party of North Carolina supports an immediate end to the Drug War. ALL the problems listed above will be eliminated or dramatically mitigated and at a cost -- literally -- of less than nothing.
Legalization of recreational drugs will instantly defund criminal enterprises around the world. Our experiences with Prohibition, 1919-1933, should inform us that we are making the same mistakes today with the Drug War.
The Drug War disproportionately affects people of color, about six times more than white people. Legalization of drugs will do more to reduce the racial divides than any other single action.
Police and courts will be free to find, prosecute, and punish perpetrators of real crimes, those with real victims. Nonviolent drug offenders can be released into a world where they CANNOT return to the corrosive environment of illegal drug trafficking.
As of July, 2018, nine states have legalized marijuana, several others have decriminalized it, and still others allow marijuana as medicine. None have experienced unpleasant repercussions. All fears were unfounded. In fact, rather than expending resources on a futile effort to stamp out marijuana use, those states now reap benefits. North Carolina should join these states in marijuana decriminalization and it should lead the effort to legalize other recreational drugs as well.
Until North Carolina is ready to legalize recreational drugs outright, it should adopt a program of harm reduction. Drug addicts should have access to clean needles, which would almost certainly reduce levels of HIV as well as Hepatitis B and C. Street drugs can be tested for purity and for adulterants to make them safer.
In 2001 Portugal implemented a program of decriminalization of all recreational drugs with great success. New HIV infections fell by 94%, overdose deaths by 80% by 2012. Against expectations, even addiction rates have declined. After initial skepticism around the world, Portugal's practices are now considered by many as a model of best practices.
We cannot win the Drug War, nor should we try. Drug addiction is a manageable problem. An interminable, racist, cruel, expensive, futile, repressive, and counterproductive Drug War is not.