Column by Jesse Matthewson.
Exclusive to STR
From 1920 to 1933, a strong prohibition was in effect in the United States. Alcohol, illicit drugs and mind-altering substances were banned and violence and crime had reached epic proportions. It had been a struggle for the religious right of the late 1800s and early 1900s to remove all of these evil products. They succeeded in 1920 with the complete prohibition, which disallowed the use of alcohol but increased deaths from alcohol and violence (Thornton, 1991).
The year 1914 saw the passing of the Harrison Act, which made illegal the sale and transportation of non-medicinal morphine and cocaine. The beginning of 1919 saw the passing of a constitutional amendment to prohibit anything to do with intoxicating liquors in the United States. In 1922, the passage of the Jones-Miller Act enforced heavy fines and prison time against illegal importers of narcotics. In 1933, an attack was begun against marijuana. Harry Anslinger, the Federal Narcotics Commissioner, used the popular press and the racial divides already in place to plant the myths regarding the use of marijuana that still exist today in popular culture. Killer weed, madness and more were his unsupported claims. In 1937, the Marijuana Stamp Act was passed, which placed marijuana in the same category as other narcotics such as heroin and cocaine.
Of course, none of these bills or amendments to the constitution served to prevent or reduce the use of alcohol or narcotics. In fact, according to predictions by the American Medical Association and over 100 years of facts and evidence, these bills did not serve to reduce the use at all (Brecher, 1986). Additional bills and anti-drug legislation had been passed almost annually from state to state and on a federal scale since 1937. In every case, there has been no significant positive change in the abuse of these substances. In 1973, President Richard Nixon initiated the first position of drug czar with the implementation of the Drug Enforcement Administration. As of 2012, in the United States the number of individuals in the justice system as felons has increased exponentially, with over 7,000,000 persons incarcerated, on parole or probation as felons (Glaze, 2011). For the period 1974-1997, the annual growth rate of prison populations was almost 8%; a substantial increase in drug convictions helped spike those numbers (JSRA, 2000).
Now we need to look at current foreign policy in Afghanistan, arguably one of the largest exporters of heroin. As of 2002, the growing of opium was officially made illegal in Afghanistan (Glaze, 2007). Unfortunately, the country is extremely poor, so opium is produced regardless of the law. There are the other problems, including protection for some drug-growing warlords in exchange for cooperation against reported terrorists by the United States military. Obviously proving this assertion would be difficult at best; however, it is only a matter of time before the documents are released either publicly or through outlets such as Wikileaks and other watchdog organizations. This assertion, however, should not be news to any who have been following the recent problems in the United States justice system with regards to Mexico-based trafficking and gun running.
The military has reported increases in substance abuse in the service as well as with those who have returned from tours overseas, specifically prescription drug abuse, which doubled from 2002 to 2005 and then tripled from 2005 to 2008. Increases in alcohol abuse have also been noted. Post-tour screening showed that within three or four months of returning, 27% of veterans showed signs of alcohol abuse, actually increasing their risk for criminal behavior (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2011).
The question raised is whether the several hundred state and federal laws regarding substances and their legality are useful or are in fact simply causing more issues. It is easy to see that crime has not decreased as a result of the plethora of legislative attempts to suppress it. It is even easier to see that drug and alcohol abuse has also not decreased, and in fact, thanks to some immoral conflicts being fought, seem to be affecting soldiers at a much higher rate than before. As a voluntaryist, it is my belief that government will in every case fail regardless of intent. This example of the failure of the drug war, drug policy and legislation as reflected in our society shows a serious flaw in thinking within the justice system. It also shows the more obvious flaws within the system itself, in that people’s vices cannot be governed. Vices can be legislated and punitively addressed, however, and regardless of severity of potential punishments, people will continue to break these laws.
The only true fix is to no longer allow government to attempt to legislate or fix individual vices. Each of us must be allowed the freedom to choose what is best for them; no set of rules can ever do this in any truly beneficial manner. The best solution would be the total dissolution of the state in all its forms. However, with that being currently impossible, the next best action is to help others see the real injustices being placed on the heads of our children and the false notions of security being taught to them. The real question that should be asked is, what is the problem, is it drugs or government?
Free your mind and the body will follow.