You read in the papers about these foreign governments losing control of their nations to drug cartels and you wonder what can be done to help them. Drug gangsters are for the most part ruthless killers who make so much money they corrupt the nations in which they operate by bribing officials and citizens alike, murder honest law enforcement personnel and pay no taxes to their host governments. In some nations they wield more power than the legitimate rulers. The war on drugs has been a dismal failure and one of the results is that in the United States, one in every hundred men are in prison, a large percentage of them on drug charges.

The solution? Simple. Make recreational drugs legal. Maybe that sounds radical, but is it any more nuts than continuing the current situation? The actual cost of recreational drugs like cocaine, heroin and marijuana is very small, sort of like bananas or wheat. The high prices and the fortunes to be made and fought over are due to the fact that they are illegal. As far as the moral questions, well, what about alcohol, which remains the single most destructive drug in every society? 90% of humanity drinks alcohol moderately and poses no threat to society from their drinking. 

The other 10% of the people drink 90% of the alcohol and many of them do pose a threat to themselves and society. They are addicts. Yet society chooses not to penalize 9 out of 10 people by making booze illegal. America tried it once, from 1920 to 1933 and the results were disastrous. American whiskey cartels sprung up overnight and many of these organized crime organizations are still with us. Finally, after a baker’s dozen years of gang violence, corruption of government officials and serious health problems arising from unsupervised production of “bathtub gin,” the nation came to its senses and repealed Prohibition.

And guess what? There wasn’t a single extra alcoholic created because booze was legal again. The approximately 10% of the population susceptible to addiction didn’t leap to 20 or 30 percent. Problem drinkers are problem drinkers and until medical science can cure this disease, no Prohibition will keep them from their drink. It’s the exact same with drugs, and the addicts come from the same 10% of humanity. Why not lift the drug Prohibition? It’s pretty obvious by now that addicts are going to get their drugs. It’s sure obvious to the drug cartels who murder and corrupt on a grand scale in order to be the ones supplying the addicts. Illegal drugs are very expensive. Legal ones are not, and the quality of legally and sanitarily produced drugs will lower the rate of many drug-related disease like hepatitis and HIV that can be spread to non-drug users.

And if drugs are legal in America, the world’s main consumer market for illegal drugs, the drug cartels will lose their power. Thugs like them have no interest in operating a legal business operating on normal profit margins. That takes work. There is an honest living to be made by farmers, chemists and retailers, much like the honest living made by the people who produce the ingredients for alcoholic beverages. The governments of drug producing nations would no longer be held hostage by billionaire drug cartels. Nor will rival guerilla groups looking to overthrow these governments take over chunks of the drug trade and use the profits to fund that war. That has already happened in South America and is happening now in Afghanistan. The Taliban might ban music and dancing, but they sure approve of heroin. At least the selling part of it. The profits on illegal drugs are astronomical, and munitions dealers never ask the source of their clients’ money.

Ask the Mexican authorities, who find their own army out-gunned by drug cartel soldiers, and far behind them in technology. If the drugs produced in Mexico were legal that would be one less problem for our troubled southern neighbor. In our own country, marijuana is the second largest cash crop after soybeans. Soybean farmers, however, don’t evade taxes, don’t booby trap their fields, don’t kill anybody or bribe any local government officials. Legal marijuana would be a windfall to many state treasuries where the climate is suitable to it’s growth, and being that it is a hardy weed, that’s almost every state in the union. And the costs to society, both monetarily and psychological, of imprisoning 1% of our male population would shrink as well.

Drunks and junkies will always be with us, and they have demonstrated time and again that no laws will prevent them from satisfying their cravings. They cannot be stopped except by themselves when they seek recovery. Everybody reading this knows and is related to an alcoholic or a drug addict, and very likely loves them just the same as the rest of their loved ones. Most addicts live outwardly normal and productive lives. It is in the home, among families where most of the damage of addiction is done, whether it be the legal or illegal sort of addiction. A damaged child doesn’t much care one way or the next if his parents’ demons are against the law or within the law, that kid is still hurting and no amount of legislation will change that. The addict will get his fix, period. Making it expensive and illegal only creates many more problems than this very basic and very real one.

All the strategies by all the world’s police forces, all the laws passed by any legislators anywhere and all the elite commando units in the world destroying clandestine drug farms haven’t stopped the flow of illegal drugs even a little bit. They’ve only driven up the price, not only of the illegal drugs themselves but the price of running our own governments. There are vast resources being deployed to combat the uncombatable that could be used elsewhere to do some good. Governments have invested heavily in permanent agencies and infrastructure designed to stop the drug trade. Has there ever been a more expensive and more complete failure? The war on drugs is no more effective than if a war on being left-handed were proclaimed, or a war on people with freckles. You could arrest and lock up any number of those people, and when they are released, they will still be left-handed and still have freckles.

So maybe it’s time to grow up and face facts. The war on drugs is a complete failure and a disaster, and legalization is the only way to get any sort of handle on the problem. We let people drink, but lock up drunk drivers. We often mandate treatment, but the treatment of addiction is in its primitive stages at best, with the 12 Step voluntary talking therapy programs run by complete amateurs, addicts themselves with no medical training at all being the most effective remedy, and their rate of cure is pretty lousy. There may be other solutions to addiction, medical ones, but we’ll never know as long as our whole approach to the problem a law enforcement one. Imagine if that was the approach to cancer? What would the survival rate of cancer victims be? How many new treatments and therapies would be created if cancer victims were considered criminals? Imagine if cancer treatments were available only in illegal, clandestine and unsanitary facilities? What sort of society would we be then?

And what sort of society are we now? How many of our lawmakers oppose legalizing drugs because to do so would be to cut off an important income stream for them, their bribes from drug cartels? And of the non-corrupt public officials, how many simply have a vested interest in the war on drugs? Their careers are defined by either investigating, fighting or imprisoning drug offenders. Pure inertia drives these agencies, with no thought to the effectiveness of their efforts. No one really knows how much money and human talent is wasted on this foolish quest. There are few industries more controlled, orderly and tax-revenue producing as the alcohol and cigarette producing industries. These are our accepted vices. Add drugs to the list and stop pretending there are other solutions. There aren’t.

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