Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The pointless war on soft drugs

I don't like messing with my brain, so neither drink nor smoke (either cigarettes or harder stuff). Nevertheless, I've always been in favoring of legalizing pot and treating it like alcohol or cigarettes, for two reasons. First, my own observations show that most people born after 1955 treat pot in the same way the older generation treats alcohol: they use it at the end of the day or socially to relax and feel comfortable. Few abuse it, just as most Americans are not alcoholics. Second, because it is such a widely used drug, it turns most Americans born after 1955 into scofflaws -- and that is a mindset that can spread like a virus, giving them a disdain for all laws, not just silly ones. Turns out that RichLowry at National Review Online feels the same way:

As the nation's 'drug czar,' John Walters is supposed to be saving us from the ravages of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. At least that was the original sales pitch for the 'war on drugs' in the 1980s. But the war has evolved into largely a fight against marijuana, which no one has ever claimed is a hard drug. Walters is nonetheless committed, Ahab-like, to arresting every marijuana smoker in the country whom law enforcement can lay its hands on. *** Their crusade bears little or no connection to law enforcement. Crime generally has been declining from 1990 to 2002, even as pot arrests have increased. Are we to believe that crime is at its lowest rates in 30 years, but the nation is beset by rampaging marijuana smokers who are kept under minimal control only by ever-increasing arrests? Every major county in the country, except Fairfax, Va., saw an increase in marijuana arrests during the past 12 years. That Washington, D.C., suburb has not been notably overrun by hemp-crazed hordes. The fight against marijuana isn't even working on its own terms. According to the Sentencing Project, since 1992, the price of marijuana has fallen steadily, declining by 16 percent. In 1990, 84.4 percent of high-school seniors said it was easy to get marijuana. In 2002, 87.2 percent said it was easy. Daily use by high-school seniors tripled from 1990 to 2002, going from 2.2 percent to 6 percent — the same level as in 1975. *** Marijuana is not harmless, and its use should be discouraged, but in the same way, say, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day should be discouraged. The criminal-justice system should stay out of it. Twelve states have decriminalized marijuana to varying degrees, fining instead of arresting people for possessing small amounts. They recognize that — as the authors of a new study for the conservative American Enterprise Institute argue — "the case for imposing criminal sanctions for possession of small amounts of marijuana is weak."