How to End the War on Drugs

Drug war supporters think Americans might tear apart the fabric of society if we were legally allowed to consume whatever plants or chemicals we chose. This is not based in fact.
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Call me crazy but I find it absurd to claim we're a free country while our government dictates what adults can or can not do in the privacy of our own homes. We've accepted a massive blow to a fundamental expression of individual freedom if our own minds and bodies are off-limits to personal exploration. I say this not as a drug taking enthusiast -- but as a true believer in freedom and non-violence.

Now let's talk social responsibility. I experimented with a few drugs over the years. But I don't do drugs today. That choice has nothing to do with the law. I don't need a court or a SWAT team to keep me from pulling out my teeth or hitting myself in the head with a hammer. A little education, self-love and real world experience is a much better motivator. Maybe once or twice a year I hit myself in the head with a hammer... but that's my own business. And I digress...

Drug war supporters think Americans might tear apart the fabric of society if we were legally allowed to consume whatever plants or chemicals we chose. This is not based in fact. We don't need to outlaw STDs for the public to see the benefit in avoiding them. We just need sex education. So why do we have laws against drug use? The only answer is fear -- and a deeply ensconced tradition.

The history of the laws are nightmarish. All drugs used to be legal. Until 100 years ago when America's first drug tsar said this:

There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.

Similar arguments were made against heroin and cocaine (mostly consumed by middle class white women at the time). And that was the "science" upon which we can thank for today's war on drugs.

From the standpoint of social responsibility, the war on drugs has in fact created a crisis of epic proportions not just in the United States but across the planet.

Here in the States, we know that drug arrests and convictions are profoundly racist and classist in their application today. And just imagine the damage to millions of working families for generations when Mom or Dad gets convicted for possession and has a felony on their record. Imagine the psychological damage on children whose homes are raided by a SWAT team for a small amount of marijuana. And picture the impact this policy has in the hearts and souls of our police officers.

We know that the U.S. today jails far more people than any other nation while simultaneously leading the world in demand for illegal drugs. And we know that as long as there is such strong demand for illegal drugs, the youth, the economically challenged and the opportunistic will rise to the occasion to fill the void with a violent unregulated black-market that spans the globe.

In the last six years alone, Mexico has lost over 50,000 people to drug war murders, bombings, torture and assassination all for the cause of supplying the United States (more than anyone else) its fix. In sum, this is truly an unacceptable human failure of global proportion -- and it is the drug laws themselves that tear apart the fabric of this nation. If we want to save lives we need to end the war on drugs. We know this. So how do we do it?

I recognize that many libertarians will shudder at my plan, but let's start the conversation. I am open minded. My baseline is this: all drug sales, possession, and use are hereby no longer criminal nor jail-able offenses. Period.

Now let's split some hairs. I personally do not support total legalization without regulation. In other words, I don't want to see Coca Cola corporation marketing black tar heroin to today's youth with catchy advertising. That may sound obvious but remember that America is one of only two countries in the world that allow pharmaceutical advertising. So don't put it past us! Moving on...

My recommendation would be to allow pharmacies to sell recreational drugs to adults-only, along with plenty of warning information. We regulate and cap the prices at cost -- so they're viewed as cheap and the black-market incentive is eliminated along with the tendency for corruption.

Oh man, I can hear the capitalists screaming at me already for taking away their profit potential, but you know what? I don't personally believe everything out there needs a financial motive. I know -- it sounds like Satan talking but consider for a moment that not every aspect of the market-place is best served by personal greed. Public health being one in particular where the rewards of a healthy population reap a greater return than immediate sales on medicines.

Next -- I would outlaw advertising for recreational drugs. That shouldn't be a problem because I haven't met anyone out there desperate for more commercials (other than ad agency execs). The reason for the this is that nothing screws up the natural demand in a market place than marketing.

And most important of all, I would take a few of the Billions of dollars we spend on a SWAT team and military approach to asocial and medical problem and put it toward independent research for addiction treatment and rehabilitation clinics for the Americans who need help and have nowhere to turn today. With the remaining Billions I'd recommend a better social safety net for the unemployed Americans who one way or another will have to find a means to put food on the table.

You may have other ideas. I'd love to hear them.

While we discuss those, remember that we're strongest when we stand together. So let's join and support the fantastic activist organizations doing the ground work. I have three recommendations.

1) The DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE is a fantastic organization with tons of information, resources and easy action steps on contacting congress-people. (

2) LAW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST PROHIBITION is an inspired group of former and current police officers, judges and prison guards who are calling for legalization of all drugs to save lives. (

3) MARIJUANA MAJORITY while focused solely on marijuana is a great coalition of famous names who are joining forces to help spread the word that indeed 72 percent of the nation already agrees "no jail time for marijuana". We're making progress! (http://

Looking forward to your thoughts.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to mark the theatrical and on-demand release of "How To Make Money Selling Drugs," a new documentary by Matthew Cooke that examines the drug trade from a variety of angles. For more info on the film, click here.

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