In Perspective: the war on drugs

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Jeff Billman graduated from the University of Dallas in 2011 and is currently working on his MA in American studies at UD.

The United States government should legalize marijuana for two reasons.  First, it simply is not practical for the federal or state governments to waste billions of dollars to effect its prohibition. Costs ranging from paying scores of agents to the mind-boggling legal fees and incarceration of those who run afoul of marijuana laws add up to untold billions being spent. We would be better suited to allocate those billions spent on the enforcement of marijuana laws in other areas such as education, infrastructure or national defense.

Second,  legalizing marijuana would allow us to tax and regulate it like tobacco or alcohol, making the industry more profitable and safe for the country.  In a 2005 report by Dr. Jeffrey Miron of Harvard, it was estimated that “replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation … would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10-14 billion per year.” Moreover, conservatives estimate that marijuana is the United States’ largest cash crop, worth over $35 billion annually. To place our largest cash crop entirely on the black market is both unwise and dangerous. Rather than let the criminal element exercise its monopoly to the detriment of all, we should legalize marijuana and regulate our largest cash crop, thuereby ensuring its safe cultivation and distribution.

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Louis Hannegan is a junior politics major and the Commentary Editor.

In recent months, the idea of legalizing marijuana has gained some traction in the American public.  From articles in the “Economist” to California’s Proposition 19, voters and writers have begun to seriously consider and even push for this policy.  In making their arguments for legalization, advocates tout the benefits of additional tax revenue, cutting costs of enforcement and decreased gang violence.  Though certainly pointing out benefits, this line of argument ignores marijuana’s effects on its users and the implications of these effects for the self-governed.

Aside from damage to the nervous system, marijuana use compromises one of the very faculties which characterizes us as humans: reason.  Unlike alcohol, which, though frequently abused, can be used in moderation, marijuana in its ordinary use compromises the rationality of its users.  In this condition, our minds’ rational processes, like making syllogisms or drawing inferences, are highly impaired, and passions, instinct and habits take control.

As reason fades, so does the ability to govern oneself.  In this state, stoners become instinct-driven people bereft of reason and unable to govern their own actions.  For a society that believes in freedom and self-government to sanction such a debasing process with positive law would be to encourage the diminishing of the very things for which our nation stands.  And as long as we value self-government through reason, this war on drugs is worth the money and blood it demands.

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Patrick Brehany is a junior philosophy major.

It is difficult to think of a more controversial topic than the ongoing War on Drugs. However, when it is examined as either a metaphor or a reality, the war is manifestly a failure. In what has consistently been a physical response to drug abuse, the effort has produced only physical problems. Our society is at an impasse, the only way forward is to start again with a new, more realistic metaphor and offense.

Our current “war” reflects a rejection of human nature. It assumes that all problems, individually and in society, manifest material causes. Thus it seems to follow that if enough resources are thrown at the problem, it will disappear. Indeed, history seems to support this concept concerning drugs. The international war against opium in the early 20th century effectively eradicated the problem in the U.S. This can no longer be expected. In our modern information and service-based society, no appetite is beyond the reach of our technological sophistication. From old-fashioned highs to medication and designer drugs, opportunities for abuse are rife.

As a society we must embrace a realistic view of history and human nature where temperance is recognized as a virtue, not a physical equation. At the risk of seeming to equivocate, we need to change hearts and minds, not supply routes and sanctions.

We must declare not a war, but a Crusade on Drugs. With the issue framed correctly, material efforts become only corollary to the deeper ideological conflict. As a society we must value human dignity over pleasure. Smart laws must take the place of blanket resolutions.

The example of the anti-smoking lobby illustrates the power of accurate information, combined with meaningful laws, to change an addictive culture. The battle must be fought not on the international or national level, but in every church, home and community. Ending the War on Drugs will prove that America remains a city on the hill, an example of citizenship and governance for the world.

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