Why Millennials Want to End the War on Drugs

Why Millennials Want to End the War on Drugs

by Carsten Hood
Indoor_cannabis_plants

More and more Americans are beginning to question their government’s war on drugs, and the younger generation is leading the discussion. TMI recently hosted a drug policy forum at Texas Christian University; my own campus political group at Texas A&M held a meeting on drug decriminalization; and this video criticizing the drug war recently went viral on social media. With public concern on the rise, it’s a perfect time to review some of the unintended consequences of modern drug prohibition. Let’s start with…

Gangs and cartels. Powerful criminal organizations aren’t inevitable components of human society. Banning things spawns them. When America criminalized alcohol in the 1920s, we got Al Capone and his gangsters; now we have liquor stores. Before cannabis was first regulated in the 1930s, we had peaceable farmers; now we have violent cartels. Gangs form to meet consumer demands that the legal market cannot. And since law enforcement institutions don’t protect suppliers of illegal goods from aggressors (and indeed become aggressors themselves), drug suppliers must protect their own property. Hence, they are necessarily violent. This certainly doesn’t help with…

Crime. Drug prohibition not only generates extensive crime and violence among supply-side institutions, but also pushes the average drug consumer towards lawlessness. Criminalization inflates the cost of users’ habits, reduces their legitimate opportunities for advancement, and introduces them to criminality by definition. And if they wind up in prison, they’ll receive master’s degrees in being bad—at your expense. Which takes us to…

Mass incarceration. You’ve seen the figures before: the US government holds about 2.2 million citizens in its prisons, more people than inhabit the Texas metropolises of Dallas or Houston. It really is insane. America’s pursuit of drug offenders vastly overburdens its criminal justice system, siphoning resources from dealing with crimes that directly harm unwilling people. Besides being unfair, dangerous, and potentially life-destroying, incarceration might be the worst way to correct someone’s bad habits. It’s also very costly. Just like…

Corruption. Entire police departments have been caught laundering drug money. DEA agents are frequently discovered to be cooperating with criminal organizations. Our indispensable CIA has been exposed to be dealing in narcotics so many times throughout its hazy history as to render any distinction between its conspiracies and policies meaningless. Also, do you think the cartels only buy off politicians south of the border? I doubt it. Banning things has a toxic effect on the institutions we grant power over them. Speaking of toxic effects—what about…

More dangerous drugs. Criminalization drives people towards dangerous synthetic drugs like methamphetamine—or markers and glue—which are easier to produce or obtain without being caught. Additionally, since prohibiting substances makes handling them costlier and riskier in proportion to their volume, banned substances tend to become more potent. This potency effect explains why beer promptly gave way to hard liquor during alcohol prohibition, and why the concentration of psychoactive THC in marijuana has increased drastically in the past few dozen years. Also, because the illicit drug market is clouded by secrecy, drug suppliers can get away with bulking or lacing their products with all sorts of nasty ingredients. Organizations operating under law have to be much more careful about harming people—unless we’re talking about the state itself, whose policy…

Prevents treatment. Sick people die because bureaucrats bar them from medicine. Cannabis, as one example, is especially valuable in curbing certain rare and dangerous conditions. Unfortunately, it’s often illegal. On a related note, average drug users, being made criminals, find it difficult to obtain help; and potential helpers have disincentives to provide it. It’s a shame, really. In fact, it’s…

Immoral. Is it morally justifiable to rob, kidnap, and cage people because they handle or consume certain substances arbitrarily banned by politicians, bureaucrats, and special interests? What if they’re consuming these substances to save their own lives? To have fun? Does it matter? I don’t think so. A plausible moral argument might be made for drug prohibition if it actually did benefit society in the long run; but as this list indicates, we cannot make such an assumption. In fact, most of the evils we associate with drugs actually result from criminalizing them.

This list, of course, could go on. I leave it to you to consider the drug war’s role in police militarizationrights violationspharmaceutical monopolizationenvironmental degradationracial discriminationsocietal breakdown, and even war. In the end, the various long-term consequences of drug prohibition are unbounded and unknowable. Conversely, its lone justification—that it hinders use—is dubious at best. All we can say for sure is that prohibition distorts drug use. And as many are coming to realize, it may not be worth it to distort patterns of drug use—hopefully for the better—if it means warping society itself for the worse.

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Austin! Have you been looking for an opportunity to get together with a group to critically examine philosophical texts? Well, here's your chance. We are hosting Socratic Happy Hours to discuss readings that relate to your life.

Join us over drinks and casual discussion over George Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language." This essay, dating back to 1946, will likely give some insight into problems we're still facing today.

Sable will be leading us through the essay, socratic seminar style. Participants will join for an hour long discussion where we address open-ended questions based on the text, listen to each others comments and respond thoughtfully, and walk away with a better understanding of the topic at hand as well as connecting more with those who attend.

Is political speech and writing the "defense of the indefensible"? Does it make lies sound truthful and murder respectable? How can we counter what's going on and help strive for sincerity in language? We'll find out together on Wednesday, November 15th at 7:30pm. (Brew and Brew is particularly busy this month, so we shifted our date from the normaly first Thursday meeting). Your first drink will be on us! Please help us spread the word.

*This event is open to anyone interested in having conducive dialogue about the essay at hand and those that agree to come prepared to engage on the text. Please read the text beforehand; there's a link to it in the "discussion" section, and we'll provide hard copies in person.
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Socratic Happy Hour: Politics & the English Language

November 15, 2017, 7:30pm - November 15, 2017, 9:30pm

Austin! Have you been looking for an opportunity to get together with a group to critically examine philosophical texts? Well, here's your chance. We are hosting Socratic Happy Hours to discuss readings that relate to your life. Join us over drinks and casual discussion over George Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language." This essay, dating back to 1946, will likely give some insight into problems we're still facing today. Sable will be leading us through the essay, socratic seminar style. Participants will join for an hour long discussion where we address open-ended questions based on the text, listen to each others comments and respond thoughtfully, and walk away with a better understanding of the topic at hand as well as connecting more with those who attend. Is political speech and writing the "defense of the indefensible"? Does it make lies sound truthful and murder respectable? How can we counter what's going on and help strive for sincerity in language? We'll find out together on Wednesday, November 15th at 7:30pm. (Brew and Brew is particularly busy this month, so we shifted our date from the normaly first Thursday meeting). Your first drink will be on us! Please help us spread the word. *This event is open to anyone interested in having conducive dialogue about the essay at hand and those that agree to come prepared to engage on the text. Please read the text beforehand; there's a link to it in the "discussion" section, and we'll provide hard copies in person.

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