Drug War Rethink Long Overdue

Editors Note: Illegal drug distribution rings are a major source of so called “illegal guns”, a better word would be crime guns. Want to really do something about “illegal guns” change the way we fight the war on drugs.

Marijuana and Guns
Marijuana and Guns
Jim Rubens
Jim Rubens

New Hampshire – -(Ammoland.com)- Illegal drug overdose deaths have rocketed into a crisis policy challenge, claiming a staggering 325 New Hampshire lives last year, three times our traffic fatalities.

Unfortunately, we are hearing same-same from most of our political leaders: tinker around the edges with good ideas that will help (but not nearly enough) and toughen up on the drug war.

The global 50-year, $1 trillion war on drugs is a flagrant policy failure in urgent need of a thorough, evidence-based rethink. Here are the facts:

Supply interdiction drives up violence and drug supplier profits.

  • Global illegal drug demand is now $320 billion annually.
  • Since 2006, drug trade violence stemming largely from U.S. demand has killed over 100,000 people in Mexico alone.
  • U.S. taxpayers spent $7.5 billion last year attempting to eradicate production of opium (the raw material for heroin) in Afghanistan, yet cultivation there has reached record levels, supplying ¾ of global demand and occupying a cultivated land area the size of Rhode Island, and providing a major source of funding for the Taliban.

Drug addiction and abuse is pervasive and massively damaging.

  • Nationally, illegal drug use costs almost $200 billion annually in crime, lost work productivity and healthcare.
  • 9.4 percent of Americans are past-year users of illegal drugs, 7.5 percent for marijuana. 39 percent of 12th graders are past-year illegal drug users, 35 percent for marijuana. At my local high school, MJ can be had free for the asking every day and is easier to obtain than alcohol.
  • Only 11 percent of 23 million Americans needing treatment for illegal drug or alcohol use are getting such treatment.
  • New Hampshire is #12 among the states at 11.2 percent of 12+ population using illegal drugs or abusing pharmaceuticals.
  • Substance abuse costs New Hampshire $1.84 billion annually, nearly 3 percent of state GDP.
  • U.S. prisons are filled with non-violent drug offenders. With 5 percent of world population, the U.S. has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Illegal drugs are readily available even in prisons with many drug offenders leaving prison as hardened criminals and more addicted.
  • Drug law enforcement is racially discriminatory. Six in ten drug crime prisoners are black or Latino, though proportions of drug suppliers and users are similar for whites.

Here’s how I’d change policy, specifically for heroin and marijuana.

For heroin, we can learn from the eight European nations and Canada which operate “heroin assisted treatment” programs. Generally, heroin addicts who have failed methadone or other forms of drug treatment are given access 2-3 times per day to clinical healthcare facilities where they receive controlled doses of pharmacological grade heroin in addition to medical care, drug treatment counseling and social services. The measured outcomes include sharp reductions in illegal drug use, drug crimes, disease, overdose deaths and major increases in addiction treatment retention. In Switzerland, property crimes among enrolled heroin addicts dropped by 90 percent.

In 2001, Portugal became first in the world to decriminalize all drugs and to make drug treatment services fully accessible. In Portugal as generally in the 24 other nations adopting drug decriminalization, use rates did not increase. Drug violators are referred to treatment providers, but not compelled to accept services. Drug-related deaths since 2001 have declined by 80 percent. Rates of past-year drug use have decreased. New AIDS cases among drug injectors resulting from dirty needle sharing declined by 93 percent.

In most of the U.S., sterile needles are illegal to possess and one-third of all new AIDS cases result from dirty needle sharing.

For marijuana, Washington should grant states the power to legalize and regulate like alcohol. For New Hampshire, I’d allow sale at state liquor stores if locally approved. Require child-proof packaging and labels disclosing potency and health effects, including the fact that MJ use involves performance and brain developmental effects (though far less in the aggregate than tobacco or alcohol). Prohibit advertising and public use. License in-state wholesale producers and allow personal production in limited quantities. Extend DUI laws to cover marijuana metabolite blood levels.

Washington State is one of four to have legalized and taxed the sale of cannabis products. Over its first year in full effect, Washington saved most of the $20 million previously spent on minor MJ law enforcement and collected $83 million in tax revenues, with revenues used to fund prevention, treatment, research and education programs. Early data show that traffic fatalities and youth marijuana use have not increased.

To sharply reduce human suffering, violence and death, political leaders must confront the fact that the drug war is an abject failure. Real solutions must sharply increase public funding for substance abuse and addiction treatment, which can be more than paid for via reduced drug interdiction and non-violent drug user imprisonment. By dropping rigid thinking about drug policy, we can increase racial harmony and defund criminal drug empires and Afghan terrorists.

Jim Rubens is former GOP state senator and past President of Headrest, a Lebanon NH-based substance abuse and suicide prevention and counseling center.

Thanks for listening,
Jim Rubens

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Freedom_First
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Freedom_First

Many years ago, I contacted some gun-rights advoates and tried to explain to them that the war on drugs was, in fact, a war that was being waged against the American people and their freedoms. Human beings, not drugs, were being killed, assaulted, robbed, and arrested by the millions. I furthur explained that gun-rights activists who supported that war were the dumbest people on the planet because if police goons had the right to kick down doors looking for what they considered to be dangerous substances (drugs), then they had the right to kick down doors to confiscate dangerous objects… Read more »

Eric
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Eric

Making 20 year police actions in the 2 sandboxes has cost us even more, How about you go in kill the enemy and leave. Instead of supplying the enemy (DAESH AKA ISIS) with U.S. weapons and vehicles from Mosul and Qatar.

Clark Kent
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Clark Kent

George: No police officers or federal agents would lose their jobs if drugs were legalized. They would merely be moved to other divisions/bureaus; believe me there is plenty of other crime around that needs to be addressed. And what in the world do the AMA and the medical community have to do with illegal drugs? Prescriptions are for legal drugs. And as far as Congress goes, it is not ‘corporations’ that elect Representatives but the few Americans that bother to get off their fat azzes to both register to vote and then actually cast votes. ‘We have met the enemy… Read more »

Clark Kent
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Clark Kent

‘Drug law enforcement is racially discriminatory’. That is total B.S. and takes the focus off the percentage of criminals within minority communities where it belongs. One could also falsely claim ‘homicide enforcement is racially discriminatory’.

George
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George

I’ve been saying to legalize all drugs for years. Glad to see Portugal do it, and also see that usage has gone down. But it won’t happen here for a couple of reasons. First off a lot of people would lose their jobs, as fighting drugs is big business. DEA would evaporate, and that would put over 10,800 people on the streets. Not to mention the narcs in every start and local police force. Plus the corporations who contract to them would also lose out. They’d have to cut their employees, and who knows how many that would be. Next… Read more »

Randall
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Randall

All I can say is Amen! I can only relate my own experience. I am now 59 years old and a stable, law abiding citizen. However, I spent most of my teenage years addicted to heroin. I can attest that everything you state rings accurate and factual. Back in those bad years of my life everything was exactly as you describe. Like me, most every other addict I knew didn’t like being addicted or the life it caused us to lead. Unfortunately, most of those are now dead from overdose, violence and disease. I have known and been saying, exact… Read more »

Malcolm Kyle
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Malcolm Kyle

Prohibition has diverted police resources away from other law enforcement activities with the result that violent crimes, and crimes against property, have been far higher than they would otherwise have been. To the extent that communities divert law enforcement resources from violent crimes to illegal drug offenses, the risk of punishment for engaging in violent crime is reduced. Kindly follow the link to a scientific paper that determines empirically the homicide offense rate to changes in the percentage of arrests attributed to drug offenses. The empirical results obtained are consistent with a priori expectations that homicide offense rates are higher… Read more »

Darren
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Darren

A great article when it comes to the failure of the war on drugs. Not so great in seeming to advocate socialized health care & prohibition of free speech (advertising). Overall glad to see this on Ammoland.