Reason #931 Why Rick Perry is Ridiculous: or Legalize it All NOW

There are a lot of things that I want to cover, but this article from the BBC, “Rick Perry suggests US military role in Mexico drug war” just made my eyes bug out.  I think Rick Perry is a horrible candidate for a lot of reasons, and this is just one more to add to the pile.  During a speaking engagement in New Hampshire, Perry apparently suggested that he would send US troops into Mexico to help contain the drug war and keep thugs off of our borders.

I think a person would have to be downright foolish at this point to believe that the so-called “war on drugs” has been anything other than a colossal failure.  Drug crime in Mexico is at an all-time high.  As of 2009, there were over 95,000 Americans in federal prison for drug-related offenses, and a disproportionate number of those individuals are minorities.  That means that there were – and likely still are – more people in the federal pen for drug crimes than for all other crimes, including violent ones, combined.  The US government has been outed by its own agents for running guns into Mexico on behalf of the drug cartels.  Forbes magazine has listed Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzman as one of its billionaires.  Do any of these facts point to the success of the drug war?

The US government has, according to this Fox news article, thrown over $1 trillion at the war on drugs over the past 40 years, and even the drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has admitted that the whole thing has been a staggering failure.  The prosecution of non-violent drug crimes causes great strain on an already overburdened legal system, never mind the foolish waste of taxpayer dollars.  The cost of state and federal penitentiaries is staggering, and most states are at 90% capacity or greater in their prisons.  Of course, we haven’t even covered the cost of running the DEA, the marketing programs aimed to make people (especially youth) stop using drugs, and money spent in foreign countries like Colombia and Mexico in an attempt to reign in the problem.  All of this, and the rates of violent drug-related crime continue to rise, along with overdose and addiction rates.

I think another major issue, at least for the people of Mexico, is that their right to bear arms has been severely abridged by the Mexican government through subsequent amendments to the 1917 constitution.  As of right now, Mexican citizens may have guns, but only in their homes and for self-defense.  Said firearms are limited in size, and approval in Mexico City can take up to one month.  Also, there is only one gun store in Mexico City, which means that the supply falls quite short of the demand.  Carry permits are available, but most people are unable to obtain one, and if they do, the size of the pistol is limited to a 380.  (For more complete information, click here.)

What does this mean for Mexico?  Well, in short, it means that people in the streets have no means of defending themselves against the violent crime that is pervasive in several areas of Mexico.  It seems incredibly obvious to me that the only people being punished by these restrictions, however well intentioned they may have been, are the ordinary citizens.  Criminals, as a general rule, don’t obey the laws.  Why in the world do governments continue to foolishly believe that even criminals will obey gun restriction laws?  If anything, those laws work to the benefit of the criminals, who are allowed to do their business in relative peace and without fear of retribution from the victims.

And now, on top of all of this, we’ve got Governor Perry who wants to send US troops into Mexico.  Brilliant.

For one thing, that would violate Mexico’s sovereignty, and I have no doubt that their government wouldn’t be best pleased to see US troops marching over their border.  We all know what happens when US troops come marching over the border.  More importantly for the US, however, is the obvious monetary burden such an act would create – an act that couldn’t be tolerated by a system that is already falling apart under the strain of trying to support three wars and military installations in 130 countries.  To even entertain the idea of further troop deployment into another country is nothing short of lunacy.  Have I even mentioned what the cost in human lives would surely be?

Most of the Mexican drug cartels are extremely well equipped and have been sparring with the Mexican army and between themselves for years.  They have grenades, armor-piercing rounds, rocket launchers, and even so-called “narco submarines,” submersible boats that are difficult to detect with radar or sonar and can carry up to 26,000 pounds of cocaine.  Is Rick Perry seriously considering the possibility of sending our troops into the veritable jaws of death?  We’ve all heard the horrible reports on the news about the vicious murders of which these gangs are capable.

The solution to this problem lies not with troop deployment or spending money.  The answer is so exceedingly simple.  Just legalize it.  All of it.

I know that a lot of people are initially taken back by this proposition.  The idea of legalizing cocaine and heroine and opium and pot is not an idea that many care to entertain.  If it isn’t illegal, they wonder, won’t more people do it?  It seems to me that this notion doesn’t give people very much credit.  I will grant the reader the concession that there are a lot of stupid people wandering around on this planet.  How many people seriously believe that shooting heroin or doing lines like it’s Saturday night at The Boom Boom Room with Lindsay Lohan is a good idea?  Similarly, how many people think that getting drunk all the time is good for one’s health, or smoking pack after pack of cigarettes is healthy for the lungs?  Frankly, a person would have to have been living in a cave to believe such silliness.

The fact of the matter is that for most of its history, the US didn’t have much in the way of drug laws.  According to Wikipedia, the first known drug laws were written in San Francisco to combat opium dens, which were largely run by the immigrant Chinese, who smoked it.  Of course, laudanum, a tincture of opium and alcohol, was commonly prescribed to women for “female troubles” and was not regulated.  Most opium addicts in the US in the 19th century were women, incidentally.  Nonetheless, the rate of drug addiction was substantially lower, in spite of the fact that drugs were available.

Portugal decriminalized all street drugs (heroin, cocaine, LSD, opium, etc.) in 2001.  The rate of addiction and HIV cases spread through needle drugs is down substantially.  The Cato Institute has a report on it that is available here for download.  Instead of focusing on laws and prosecuting drug users, Portugal has decided to focus on treatment instead.  Portugal may have some problems right now, but they’ve got the right idea on this one.

One of the great side effects of legalization is that it immediately takes drugs away from the realm of the criminal black market, where prices are increased due to the risk of obtaining the drugs.  Prices are instantly lowered due to competition and availability.  Actually, if you look at it from this perspective, the biggest opponents to legalization would be the drug lords themselves, who are obviously making a killing (literally and figuratively) on the drug trade.

Just imagine how many lives could be saved and how much money freed up if we just decriminalized drugs!  Think of the number of cases that would never be tried, the number of people who would never see the inside of a jail cell, and the number of family members who wouldn’t have to bury someone they love.  We could spend that money paying down the debt.  We could allocate some of that money saved for treatment of addicts.

What goads me most about the situation is the fact that the lawmakers can’t look at Prohibition and Portugal and realize what needs to be done here.  Are these people not supposed to be intelligent?  Do they really believe that morality can be legislated?  The fact of the matter is that, when fully legalized, drugs, prostitution, and the like are victimless crimes.  They do no harm but perhaps to the individual who partakes in that activity.  It is of no concern to the rest of us, for it harms us in no appreciable way and abridges our rights in no way.  Why in the world do we care if our neighbor likes to have a joint once in awhile?  I don’t care if my neighbor smokes or has a beer or glass of wine after work.  For some people, those are merely a few of the simple pleasures that life has to offer.  Why deny people something they enjoy because it doesn’t fit into our system of morality?  We cannot judge others by the meter with which we use to judge ourselves.

Ultimately, I have to wonder if the government really is this stupid (very possible) or if they know what they are doing and there is some ulterior motive to all of this.  Is the government receiving some benefit from the war on drugs which is not easily seen?  Is a group of people not directly in the government deriving some benefit and doing everything it can to ensure that the system continues like it is?  Truly, I hope that is not the case, because it is high time (pun intended) that we do the right thing.  Legalize it all now.  That is truly the most moral thing to do.


About The Lady Libertarian
I am American, currently expatriated but hopeful about getting back home one of these days. Besides reading and writing about politics, I enjoy camping, sailing, canoeing, making pie, and traveling. I hope you'll enjoy this blog and find it informative and accessible.

5 Responses to Reason #931 Why Rick Perry is Ridiculous: or Legalize it All NOW

  1. Beth says:

    I like your posts like this that really get me thinking. It’s one of those things that I normally had always assumed was the right thing because “drugs are bad”. You make really good points though about whose role it is to decide these things and if our resources are best spent in this manner and if it’s right to criminalize those who do drugs.

    Also, in my job (regulatory) I deal with DEA and Board of Pharmacy regulations and licensing, etc. And I see that things are becoming more and more regulated. For example, because of the increased focus on fighting meth labs, pseudoephedrine is becoming more and more strictly regulated. And then there are really scary drugs like “bath salts” that are rapidly being outlawed due to more and more incidences (pretty much every Board of Pharmacy newsletter I’ve been reading has been talking about emergency legislation to ban the sale of “bath salts”).

    So, on this issue, I’m not entirely sure. I definitely don’t think sending troops to Mexico would be a wise decision. And where I once believed it was right to keep marijuana from being legalized, I’ve even changed my thinking on that- especially in regards to the fact that it could be medically beneficial and that it seems to be no worse than alcohol, which is perfectly legal (in fact it’s easily argued alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana). I find most interesting the case of Portugal and then it really makes you think if the laws are even doing what they are meant to do or if we’re wasting time and money. And also, if they know these laws do little to combat the problems with drugs, what motives are behind spending their time and energy enforcing these laws?

  2. I really need to do some research and get a post up sometime in the near future about the push to regulate vitamins and “home remedies.” I had no idea they were thinking about regulating bath salts – groan – but I knew about the pseudoephedrine. I think that’s been going on since before I left the US.

    Marijuana most definitely does have medicinal benefits. My grandpa’s grandmother used herbal remedies for people and acted as a “country doctor,” and marijuana seeds, leaves, and stems were a staple in her kit. She would bake the seeds, grind them down, and add them to poultices, though I will say that she admonished my grandfather to never get any big ideas and try smoking the leaves. 😉

    I think the most concerning part, in light of the obvious failure of this “war on drugs,” that the government refuses to try anything different. I haven’t done a lot of research on the subject, but I’ve heard from various sources that there are branches of government – particularly the CIA – that are on the take. I would be willing to buy into this, given the appropriate evidence. The CIA isn’t exactly known for operating on the up-and-up, and they don’t disclose their annual budget. I’ve read commentary in other places that the CIA couldn’t tell you what their budget is even if they wanted to, because so much of it comes from drug money and such. I read somewhere – don’t ask me where, because it was too long ago – that the CIA has been quite happy to spread the wealth from the Afghanistan poppy fields, which are fully operational again, around to large parts of Asia. The opium and heroin addiction rate has apparently gone sky-high since we landed in Afghanistan, though that couldn’t automatically be attributed to CIA involvement. Still, something like $300 billion in drug money is laundered through the US every year, which pretty staggering.

    On the whole, the US government is perfectly happy for other countries to traffic drugs, provided that they can receive information from them and will be compliant with US policy. Manual Noriega, the old head of government in Panama, was a known drug trafficker, and the US did business with him for years. The only reason he was finally indicted was because the Sandistas downed a CIA plane with documents proving that the US government knew exactly what was going on and were gaining from it. George Bush, Sr., was CIA director at the time.

    I guess there are a lot of ways, ultimately, that one could look at the whole picture. One is to view the fact that the prison system is a whole section of the economy in and of itself,between prison construction, police, guards, and equipment manufacturers. It keeps the legal profession in business. Homes in inner city neighborhoods have been lost and then snatched up by larger companies for pennies on the dollar. The US State Department and CIA receive valuable information from drug runners and terrorists who deal in the same.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say with all of this is that there are too many people on top who have too much to lose by eliminating the drug war. Unfortunately, that means that the people on the ground, as usual, will continue to suffer.

    • Beth says:

      The bath salts that are being banned are actually drugs just sold as “bath salts”, and they were technically legal to sell. I was confused at first too, my cousin was putting stuff on facebook about how bad it was and warning people (and coming from him, it must be really bad!! lol)- I ended up googling it because I had no idea what “bath salts” he was talking about.

      But yeah, the rest I’m sure there’s money involved in keeping things the way they are. Just like I’m sure there is money involved in taking away the supplement market.

  3. mikelikesme says:

    Welcome to the the US where, if you like it, the Congress or local government will make a law to curtain it at taxpayers expense or your expense. The land of the free? Have the wrong drug we lock you up. You smoke cigarettes we tax the heck out of it. Mistreat an animal (PETA laws) you could face jail time. Carry a gun, get fined and/or time. Spank your kids if you like foster care for them while you face charges. Walking your dog without cleaning up after it, fine time. Not following Home Owners Association rules, pay a fine or we sell your home. It’s great to be so free. Can you move over, there’s not much room in this closet, so I can read my Playboy?

  4. Unfortunately, it seems to be getting worse, not better. I don’t believe in legislating morality, which is really just a fancy way of saying that other people are attempting to impose their will on me. I don’t know why everyone gets so wrought up about what everyone else is doing, if what you’re doing is causing no harm to anyone but possibly yourself. It’s silly, and it needs to stop.

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