FIGHTING TO WIN IN THE WAR ON DRUGS
Step No. 1 In The New Battle Plan: Legalize Marijuana, Tax Sales
While Congress, the president, Liberals, Conservatives, and the media are arguing about the War on Terror, they're neglecting another war that has been raging since the Nixon administration, America's War on Drugs.
We're not losing the fight against drugs, nor are we winning. Instead, we're sitting in a 21st century trench warfare in drug policy. The drug war needs revitalization, a strong commitment to success and new, unconventional ideas to achieve a long overdue victory.
Starting off, America should legalize marijuana. I know, I know. I'm a right wing, gun-toting, anti-abortion, racist, woman hatin' ultra-conservative, what am I doing endorsing the legalization of an illicit drug?
Quite frankly, it makes perfect sense, and you can't win the War on Drugs without first decriminalizing marijuana possession in America. Now, don't get me wrong - I don't smoke marijuana, never have and never will. I think it's wrong, but that shouldn't keep Joe somebody who sits next to me in history from doing so, especially when it's so economically advantageous for the United States.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 96.7 million Americans ( 40.2 percent ) have tried marijuana; an estimated 25.4 million ( 10.6 percent of the population ) smoked marijuana last year alone. If there's one area of which the United States government is an expert, it's taxation. Let's suppose that all 25.4 million of those people smoked an average of five grams of marijuana throughout the year.
If we estimate each gram of marijuana costs $20, of which the government enforced a 25 percent per gram tax, the U.S. government would have received an additional $635 million in revenue last year.
Legalization would not only increase the U.S. pocketbook, but save money as well. Last year, there were 1.7 million drug-related arrests in America. Of that 1.7 million, 771,605 were marijuana-related and 684,319 of those were for possession.
Enforcement of laws prohibiting marijuana cost American taxpayers an estimated $4 billion in 2004. Yet, frequently conducted studies from numerous sources indicate that marijuana is nowhere near as dangerous to health or property as tobacco, alcohol or "hard" drugs.
Tobacco, alcohol, hard drugs and anti-inflammatory medication such as Aspirin directly accounted for a half-million American deaths last year. Direct deaths from marijuana totaled zero. In fact, the average marijuana user would have to consume 5,000 times the normal amount to die directly from its use.
Marijuana also is less addictive than caffeine ( interesting side note: Nicotine is more addictive than heroin, cocaine and alcohol ). Legalization would have to come at a cost, however.
Entry of marijuana into the United States and its production in America would need strict regulation to ensure consumer safety. So count out maybe $1 billion of our generated surplus, and we still would have $3 billion left over to continue to fight the truly evil drugs.
The additional $3 billion generated could be used instead to combat the remaining hard drugs, which do have pronounced physical and social effects on Americans. Prosecution simply is not enough anymore. I wish our citizens were smart enough to know that drugs are not healthy, and imprisonment is an effective deterrent to drug use, yet, neither of those are true.
That's why treatment also must play a key role in eliminating drugs in America. A simple solution I've heard for a while now is for every dollar spent on drug enforcement the government should spend a dollar on treatment and prevention programs. Most of you reading this went though D.A.R.E. during elementary school. D.A.R.E. is an outstanding program that demonstrates to children the dangers of drug use.
These types of programs should be extended in our schools and at home. More money cannot be the only answer. Simply throwing more money at a problem doesn't make it go away. Parental involvement is needed to help curb drug use. Parents should be involved in their children's drug education and if they chose not to, should be held accountable.
It would take a decade or two, but once you've inoculated a whole generation against drug use, you really can begin to stamp out drugs in America.
While you continue various programs in America, work has to be done abroad to curb the amount of drugs available in the United States. Currently, cartel leaders essentially control Central and South American countries through money. They pay off political leaders, the military and even local citizens to ensure their autonomy and safety.
You see, fighting drugs is much different from fighting terrorism and radical Islam.
Radical fundamentalists appeal to a shared ideology, drug cartels appeal to people's wallets. That's how we can appeal to those citizens. If money can buy their support, then it's our place to out bid them.
Drugs can be fought in much the same way as the Cold War, by outspending those who sell them. Cartel leaders are essentially businessmen. Their tactics are harsher than your typical Fortune-500 CEO, yet, at the end of the day, their goal is the same, to make a buck.
With the economic resources of the United States government, we can make cocaine and heroin production unprofitable. Political pressure and economic sanctions can be put on countries that allow cartels free reign.
The United States has the clout, the economic power and the will to win. It'll take time, effort, money and forward thinking by Americans, but it's not that hard.
Legalize marijuana, start education against drug use earlier and use the power of the dollar to destroy drugs at their source. Thirty years is much too long to still be dealing with this problem. It's time to end it, now.
Tue, 15 Nov 2005
Source: Daily Toreador, The (TX Edu)
Copyright: 2005 Daily Toreador