Sunday, August 22, 2010

EDITORIAL: The Real Border War

     In recent years, the problem of illegal immigration has increased dramatically, but is illegal immigration really the most important issue facing Americans in our war on the border?
     Since 1984, the United States has been fighting a drug war along its borders, in its cities and in its schoolyards, but we are no closer to winning this war than we were when it started. In fact, we are losing the war on drugs. There are more drugs coming into the country, there is more drug related violence and there are more drug cartels now than ever before.
      What would be the biggest blow to the Mexican drug cartels and their ability to export hard drugs into the United States? What one-step could we take to curtail the violence in the cities along the Mexican border? What would do more to keep drugs out of our schools and out of the hands of our children?

It is simple; end the 77-year prohibition of marijuana.
     Over 60percent of the income received by Mexican drug cartels comes from marijuana. The legalization of cannabis would allow law enforcement to focus on drugs that are actually killing our kids such as crystal meth, heroin and cocaine. Legalization and legal production of cannabis would put many criminal gangs out of business and prevent violence.
     The prohibition of cannabis is more dangerous than the legalization of cannabis. Amsterdam has already proven that when you separate marijuana users from hard drugs, you have a much lower rate of marijuana users transferring to hard drug use. With prohibition in America, it is common for dealers to sell more than one product. Cannabis is a gateway drug only in the sense that it tends to make other substances more easily available to cannabis users. Legalization would end this contact, if you want other substances you would have to cultivate other sources.
     Prohibitionist would like you to believe the fallacy that legalization would make marijuana more accessible to children, but this is just not the case. Before I reached the legal drinking age, it was much easier for me to buy an unregulated bag of marijuana than it was to buy a regulated bottle of Jack Daniels. While most liquor stores check the ID of their customers, most drug dealers do not.
     "In our current economic climate, we simply cannot afford to keep arresting more than three people every minute in the failed 'war on drugs,'" said Jack Cole, the director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “If we legalized and taxed drug sales, we could actually create new revenue in addition to the money we'd save from ending the cruel policy of arresting users," he added.
     Director Cole is correct in his assessment of the cost of the drug war. Each year Americans spend 31 billion dollars enforcing the current marijuana laws. Prohibition also causes up to $6.8 billion in lost tax revenue every year. That is enough to pay for port security (7.3 billion), federal higher education expenditures (2.3 billion), the children’s health insurance program (13.5 billion) and NASA budget (11.8 billion).
     Aside from the fact that the prohibition of marijuana is a catalyst for violence and it over works law enforcement officials preventing them from making significant progress in the war against more harmful drugs, living in a free society means that the a person has the right to do whatever it is that makes them happy provided they are not harming anyone else.
     Yes, the government does have the right to limit its use. They can pass laws prohibiting its use in public, or to place age restrictions on its use, but what an adult does in the privacy of their own home is not the governments business. Especially when you consider that, it is less dangerous than many legal substances such as alcohol, tobacco and even acetaminophen – according to NPR yearly deaths caused by acetaminophen 458, marijuana zero.
     It is time that we stop spending billions of dollars every year on the prohibition of an organic substance that has legitimate medical benefits, is less harmful than many other legal substances and has the ability to generate billions of dollars in tax revenues. It is true that marijuana is an extremely dangerous substance, but that danger is created through its prohibition, not through its use.

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