The United States has spent the past 30 years fighting the so-called war on drugs. Americans have paid a heavy price both financially — the drug enforcement budget is now $40 billion — and with their civil liberties with laws that turn 'innocent until proven guilty' on its head.Neither this series nor any discussion of the drug problem that I have seen has covered the best and most obvious solution: safe, affordable, and effective substitutes for illegal drugs. Clearly a great many people desire the effects that they can get from drugs. We should be encouraging the development of means that will produce those effects legally and safely—for both the user and society.
During the week of October 9th, NPR News airs a series from correspondent Deborah Amos, War on Drugs, on All Things Considered that explores why, after three decades of effort and billions of dollars in expenditures, America's war on drugs has no victory in sight. Coverage includes a look at Mexico, money laundering, corruption and drug treatment.
Why don't we? Presumably it's our puritanical culture. No so-called mind-altering substances are acceptable within that culture. Why is that? I no longer know. We are perfectly willing to accept anti-depression, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety drugs. Why we as a culture reject other sorts of mind-altering drugs is more and more of a mystery. It's time we woke up and started to sponsor research into drugs (or other means) that would produce the sorts of effects that people who take illegal drugs want.
This week NPR is doing a number of follow-up stories on methamphetamine. Prohibition didn't eliminate the desire of many people for the effects of alcohol. The war on drugs won't eliminate the desire of many people for the effects produced by drugs, like meth, that remain prohibited. Let's find safe, affordable, and effective substitutes for illegal drugs. We can do it. We are, after all, a market driven economy. The consumer is always right. Let's put that ethic to work to solve the drug problem. Let's stop acting like each other's nanny and begin a serious effort to find ways to satisfy this human need in a rational way.