Marianas Variety

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    Monday, December 9, 2019-12:43:53P.M.






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Variations: There ought to be a better way

PROHIBITION didn’t work in the U.S. People still consumed alcohol, and the unintended consequences — like most unintended consequences — were horrific.

So prohibition was repealed. Most countries in the world now consider alcohol abuse to be what it is anyway — a public health issue. But there are laws in place to punish those who, under the influence of alcohol, commit a crime. Alcohol manufacturers, distributors and retailers have to follow certain rules. There’s a legal drinking age. And government agencies/programs as well as private organizations exist to help those who have a drinking problem.

Meanwhile, drug prohibition still exists. In the U.S., it has been 113 years since the feds first prohibited cocaine, heroin and related drugs. Marijuana has been illegal since 1937. The War on Drugs was first declared in 1971.

Drug prohibition doesn’t work. So our solution is…to impose harsher punishments (which in third world countries like the P.I. now include arbitrary arrests and summary killings), longer mandatory prison terms, more K9s, more x-ray machines and, if possible, travel restrictions if not an outright ban on the entry of foreigners and the curtailment of civil liberties.

It’s like we’re banging our head against a concrete wall and complaining about the pain so we decided to “solve” the problem by…banging our head against the concrete wall harder and faster.

In the NMI, there has been ice addiction since the early 1990s, and based on the old news articles I’ve read so far, it was much worse then. Ice was still a novelty. An MV columnist wrote on Aug. 2, 1991: “To know that a lot of our young folks are into ice (shabu) sends a chill up my spine…. It has also become fashionable in a gathering, be it at a beach or elsewhere, [to] get a sniff for two dollars.” Back then, ice heads included government and education officials, businesspersons and other prominent individuals. So a war on ice was declared — zero tolerance! — tougher laws were enacted and the office of a drug czar was created, etc., etc.

On Guam, a federal public defender told Variety that in his 14 years there, “he has seen no evidence that the war on drugs is being won or that drug usage is being curtailed.” Moreover, “[d]emand is so high and profits are so tempting that focusing simply on cutting supply is hopeless.” He said “[t]here are no limits to the human imagination when it comes to smuggling illicit drugs….”

And so here we are…urging the authorities to bang their collective heads harder and faster against a concrete wall.

The argument for waging “war” on ice is primarily based on the belief that ice makes people crazy and turns them into criminals.

Yet crime existed in the past when ice was not an issue at all. And some of the worst crimes in history were perpetrated by drug-free people.

Can ice turn people into criminals — or do criminals like to smoke ice?

Those who want to delve more deeply into the drug issue may want to read “Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition” and the “Economics of Prohibition.” The authors, Jeffrey Miron and Mark Thornton, are American economists, and their books are based on extensive research and include hard figures and a lot of footnotes.

Here are some of their findings:

• Crime and corruption are natural outgrowths of drug prohibition, not drug use.

• Individuals who use certain products or activities to self-destruct have problems far worse than the visible ones. Prohibition of these goods or services will have little impact in such cases.

• Addiction reduces the deterrent effect of prison sentences.

• Higher prices lead addicts to inflict costs on the general population in the form of muggings, robbery and burglary.

• An important reason for the longevity of narcotics prohibition is that consumers of narcotics, unlike alcohol consumers, have always been a small fraction of the population.

• Every dollar spent on prohibition enforcement means one less dollar that can be spent on alternative public policies such as national defense, shelters for the homeless….

• The profit opportunities created by prohibition will result in new methods of production, transportation, inventory, distribution and marketing.

• The use or abuse of certain drugs is not a necessary cause of crime, since crime and corruption can occur without drugs. Drugs are also not a sufficient cause of crime because drug use is not by itself able to generate it. Drug use is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition of the criminal activities that prohibition seeks to eliminate or reduce.

• There is little evidence that drug use causes crime. The most consistent and predictable relationship between substances and violence is a result of trafficking in illicit drugs. The evidence that purports to show a causal effect of drug use on crime shows no such thing.

• Evidence provides no indication that prohibition reduces violence.

• Eliminating drug prohibition would reduce homicide in the United States by 25 to 75 percent.

• The rates for murder, burglary, robbery, and auto theft declined after the repeal of alcohol prohibition.

• Prohibition potentially glamorizes drug use in the eyes of those too shortsighted to consider the long-term consequences.

• The goals of prohibition are questionable, the methods are unsound, and the results are deadly.

• There is little evidence that increased enforcement would reduce drug use further.

• Evidence provides no support for prohibition.

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