TO WIN THE WAR ON DRUGS: LEGALIZE

(This Op-Ed by yours truly appears in today’s issue of Florida Today)

On Nov. 8, just 70 miles south of the U.S. border into Mexico, drug cartel savages opened fire on three American adults and six children, burning and killing them all. Murder is commonplace. It’s not so unusual in Mexico to see bodies hanging from bridges. 

Why? It’s all about messages.

It’s no mystery. Cartels have been killing for years. No matter how many authorities claim they are fighting the drug war, too many — here and abroad — are beholden to warlords, in fear for their lives and the lives of loved ones, so the carnage continues all for money and drugs.

Mexico’s president was criticized recently after he declared a policy of “hugs not guns” in fighting the drug war. He’s too smart to be that stupid.

Arresting drug chieftain El Chapo was good news, though it accomplished nothing. No more than believing that radical Islamic Jihad is stunted because Bin Laden was killed. Great news, perhaps. Nothing changed. Drugs continue to flow. People die.

There are some who have suggested that domestic wars would be over if drugs were legalized. Hmm. Interesting thought. In fact, there is an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) in which present and former police officers have banded together to further that idea. Crushing black markets via legalizing puts a new face on the situation. It might be worth thinking about this. LEAP is an organization of criminal justice communities who oppose the “War on Drugs” to be replaced with a system of legalized regulation as more efficient in dealing with drug use, abuse and addiction.

According to the Drug Policy Allowance, the U.S. spends $47 billion a year fighting the lost drug war. In 2018, that translated to 1.6 million drug arrests. That’s a lot of court dockets and prison cells. Over 200 thousand people have been killed in Mexico’s drug wars since 2006.

Whatever happened to the old adage about doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results? Why don’t we have leaders who think outside the proverbial box?

Black markets drive crime rates, in many modes, not just drug wars.

Does anyone really think that keeping prostitution illegal is going to stop prostitution? The black market has been driving prostitution for centuries. The world’s oldest profession is doing just fine under the radar, where police do their share of expanding criminal records and jail terms. If a hooker gets lucky she can opt to become an informant for other crimes. Las Vegas has the right idea. Legalize, license, tax, zone and medically control. It works fine in Nevada. Why put people in jail? What good does that do, America?

If former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke had his way with criminalizing the sale and ownership of firearms, he would have created the mother of all black markets. He should be the poster boy for naivety. Americans may tolerate some form of firearm regulations, but they would never cede to erase Amendment 2. 

What happened when Uncle Sam restricted the consumption of alcohol during Prohibition from 1920 to 1933? The black market thrived while people drank themselves silly. Organized crime was in seventh heaven, thank you Congress. It was another failure in trying to control what cannot be controlled in a free society.

If we made all abortions illegal, we’d spark another black market where novices and butchers conduct the procedures in animal vets and backroom parlors. That’s the way it was prior to Roe v. Wade. I know. I was there.

Some behaviors simply cannot be legalized. Like it or not, deterrents are necessary in order to control and prevent dastardly activities such as child pornography, sex trafficking or slavery. But if we didn’t need to deploy 800,000 cops in the U.S. to fight unwinnable crime wars, we’d have far less than 2.2 million people wasting away in prisons, therefore creating a windfall of savings to the taxpayer.

Perhaps if we diverted the gigantic cost savings from eliminating drug wars into programs that aid and treat drug addicts and the mentally ill, tax money would be better spent. We might actually safe lives.

 

16 Responses to TO WIN THE WAR ON DRUGS: LEGALIZE

  1. Helen Bennett November 25, 2019 at 9:52 am #

    I thought you previously said pot should NOT be legalized?

    • Edward A. Hensley November 25, 2019 at 2:54 pm #

      Indeed he did Helen. Of course de-criminalization & legalization are
      2 different things, as are regulated medical MJ & legal whoopie pot.

      However, Marshall working both sides of a pot debate (the folly of
      keeping pot illegal vs. real health dangers to youth & addictive prone
      persons) is not the real folly of his great sounding argument here.

      Greedy state & local government tax powers have long contributed
      to a flourishing and dangerous black market in cigarettes. Now,
      with CO & CA leading the way with legal pot for fun, reliable reports
      are that bootleg pot far outsells legal pot. Well now, seems law
      enforcement & revenuers may need reinforcements, for society
      to benefit from legal pot.

      Then comes the deadly epidemic of opioids, with bootleg fentanyl
      reported to be responsible for 80% of all U.S. fentanyl OD deaths.
      This should make the case we can’t legalize all drugs.

      Far less deadly than fentanyl, but a brain eating monster is Meth.
      I would not even de-criminalize meth, let alone legalize it.

      Ah but then, rat poison is legal and unregulated, so what do I know.

      I don’t know but I suspect, Marshall’s call for legalized drugs is long
      on sincere caring and hope but short on the ability to succeed.

      And for this I am sad, for I too care!

  2. Ginny November 25, 2019 at 11:10 am #

    Mr. Frank…. I have said for years that legalization of drugs is our only option. The cartels would be thrown into chaos. Taxation would benefit. Thanks for an excellent opinion column. Ginny

  3. Chris November 25, 2019 at 11:12 am #

    A while ago, I opined that we should consider establishing “drug stores” or places where all who wanted drugs could get them, use them and under clean and basically sterile conditions, and the drugs would be free. Just have the user get an id card of some type, which is tracked closely, and he or she could get all they want for no charge. Instantly, every dealer in the US is out of business, and the illegal importing of drugs comes to a halt. Let the government supply whatever drugs are to be used in each store (which would have standardized potency) but have pamphlets and information about how to get treatment when the person wants to quit. Since we would be giving the drugs (clean needles and all) to the user, the necessity to commit burglaries and robberies to get drugs also comes to a screeching halt. The stoners will all be in one location, which is handy for the police too. Transportation to and from these stores is something to consider… perhaps an Uber ride is the answer, because when you do this, you have to let it be known that if you are caught driving while stoned, you will do mandatory jail time. Incentivize the free ride, and make the alternative not worth it. This is oversimplified, but instead of spending the billions and billions of dollars on a war we are losing, it is time to put the bad guys out of business. If they have no market, they are done.

  4. John McGuire November 25, 2019 at 11:12 am #

    A solid statement of logical thought.

    However, it must be remembered that some parties profit from keeping drugs illegal, for example, private prison systems in America, an outrageous abrogation of a governmental function.

  5. Charles Pierce November 25, 2019 at 11:24 am #

    As a student of American History, it is interesting that prior to the 18th Amendment and the passage of the Volstead Act, the government did not much care what you stuck into your body even to the point of selling Cocaine, Morphine, and other very strong and addictive drugs at local Drug Stores. The state provided no treatment for your addiction, that was your problem. If you legalize drugs than we must go back to the concept of it is your problem not the problem of society.

  6. Frank Clifford November 25, 2019 at 12:06 pm #

    I favor legalization. However, there must be strict regulations that are swiftly and soundly enforced. The regs would center around control by the state. Here is an overview of my idea of strict control.

    1. Only legal full-time residents of the state could purchase the drugs. (No, snow birds and less-than-six-monthers are not full-time residents) Colorado and other states made a mistake in allowing out-of-staters to buy weed.

    2. A resident would apply for a card, like a credit card, with photo ID and thumb print. He or she must pass an background investigation. There would be an initial purchase fee for the card. The card must be “refilled” monthly with a fee, say $20. He or she could purchase a fixed amount daily each month at a fixed price and could not carryover unused amounts or days. (A personalized card would not allow another person to buy the MJ.)

    3. Weed would be sold in state-controlled stores, not in general retail. Employees of the store would be state employees.

    4. MJ would be grown only by state employees. If they screw up, they have their pension and other bennies on the line, in addition to jail time. (State employees are not dumb; they can learn to grow, process, and transport weed! But NO contractors; their employees do not have a vested interest in control and they could become agents of sneaking weed out for friends and relatives.) Employees would harvest and package weed and transport it in trucks owned or leased by the state.

    5. All violations, including DUIs and even an attempt to share or sell one’s daily amount to another, would result in an automatic 10-year sentence with no parole. Control is only as good as the punishment. Smoking weed would be subject to the same no-smoking rules as cigarettes.

    Legalization of use cannot be an “open season” affair to do whatever one feels like doing with weed. Buy it and enjoy it yourself.

  7. Larry Bennett November 25, 2019 at 12:50 pm #

    Your column in the Today paper was not only refreshing, but well written with a good dose of reality. Yes, making something illegal creates an underground culture in any society.

    Marshall, I was there too; I was raised in the 50’s and 60’s. When I attended a religious men’s retreat recently, I was surprised how many wanted to make the right of choice to have an abortion illegal. I believed at that time, they were adamant in “punishing” women for an indiscretion.

    Instead, what surprised me the most is these were good men who thought making abortion illegal would make it disappear. No, it just endangers the women to die at the hands of butchers – again!

    As the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana said “Those who do not remember are condemned to repeat it”.

    Drugs, prostitution and Prohibition only succeeded in making criminals out of our citizens, and wasting our resources on incarceration rather than treatment.

    I enjoy your articles and appreciate your thoughts.

  8. Donald November 25, 2019 at 2:11 pm #

    Despite what Marshall said about abortion, because we legalized it in1973, we have killed over 60 million unborn babies since the advent of Roe v. Wade. I believe at a minimum we should discourage abortion and encourage contraception.

  9. Anthony Frigo November 25, 2019 at 2:43 pm #

    Well said Mr. Frank ;

    To Mr Clifford. Are cigarettes, Alcohol, or guns sold in state controlled stores or grown
    by state employees ? Can a snowbird buy any of these products in Florida. Investigated . America already has more than non-violent people in prison. We’re not in Nazi Germany yet.

  10. Richard Moore November 25, 2019 at 4:29 pm #

    I have to agree with Marshall’s idea, as well as with many of the previous respondents, except that putting the government i charge of anything is asking for more problems. I don’t know the total answer, but legalizing drugs has some appeal.

  11. Fred Ingley November 25, 2019 at 6:11 pm #

    Mostly agree, but can’t support unlimited abortion.
    Re. The War On Drugs – Let’s examine who profits:
    1. The illegal drug dealers. After all since it’s illegal that’s where the big profits are.
    2. Law enforcement agencies. Great, now we can get much large appropriations, get numerous additional agents and get all our salaries raised tremendously. And oh yes, we can get scads of additional equipment. All this to help us fight The War On Drugs.
    3. Prisons and prison officials. Same reason as number 2. above.

    However I would strongly recommend that a great amount of research be done to create field tests to prove the presence and amount of each of the drugs present in one’s body. AND MAKE DRIVING WITH ANY OF THAT S@&# PRESENT IN ONES BODY A FELONY.

    By the way, yours truly is a member of LEAP and my attitudes have changed greatly since being in active law enforcement.

  12. Fred Ingley November 25, 2019 at 6:39 pm #

    Mostly agree, but can’t support unlimited abortion.
    Re. The War On Drugs – Let’s examine who profits:
    1. The illegal drug dealers. After all since it’s illegal that’s where the big profits are.
    2. Law enforcement agencies. Great, now we can get much large appropriations, get numerous additional agents and get all our salaries raised tremendously. And oh yes, we can get scads of additional equipment. All this to help us fight The War On Drugs.
    3. Prisons and prison officials. Same reason as number 2. above.

    However I would strongly recommend that a great amount of research be done to create field tests to prove the presence and amount of each of the drugs present in one’s body. AND MAKE DRIVING WITH ANY OF THAT S@&# PRESENT IN ONES BODY A FELONY.

    By the way, yours truly is a member of LEAP and my attitudes have changed greatly since being in active law enforcement. I’m not for the “Lock UM UP FOR POSSESSION” any more. I’m strong for locking up the dealer but not the user. My belief is that the government does not have the MORAL authority to tell some “alpha hotel” what he/she puts into their own body, only the authority to say your are responsible for your actions, no matter what you have put into your own body.

  13. Don Matthews November 26, 2019 at 1:20 pm #

    Marshall, I’m writing a long response to a well written idea on the war on drugs. as a 32 year law enforcement Officer, we chased drugs dealers every single day. It continues today maybe even worst. Every possible avenue must be looked at in order to end the drug problem. Too bad we have a House and congress that killing this country faster than the drugs.

  14. Helen R. Frigo December 1, 2019 at 2:42 pm #

    To Mr. Don Matthews: Please explain how the House and congress are killing this country faster than the drugs? Just read most of Benjamin Franklin’s life and actual writing, and realized how important he was to the creation of this incredible country. He made enough money printing to retire at 42; he did NOT inherit his money. He insisted on the importance of working with others, learning a marketable skill, using science to improve people’s life, and libraries, libraries. Seems to me Nancy Pelosi has followed Franklin’s example.

  15. Helen R. Frigo December 3, 2019 at 2:55 pm #

    Thinking more of Don Matthews “killing this country faster than drugs…”. Our Rep. Brian Mast, a Republican, wrote a bill that required background checks of anyone buying a gun from anyone. It has passed the House, and yet waits in Senate, like so many other useful, simple solutions, for Senator Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on it. I haven’t looked up Kentucky’s population, but it has 2 senators, just like populous states like FL. Maybe you agree that people of wealth, landowners, prestige, etc., should be a check on a unicameral legislature. But it does mean we do have a complicated system of checks and balances. It is really hard for any one group to “destroy the country”, “make it great again”, etc. So please stop the blame game. This nation has over 300 million people, stretched out over a huge distance. It’s complicated, and the MEDIA does have to make money, you realize? It’s a profit making business, as was Ben’s printing press.