Since I'm no longer running for office, I feel no need to "watch what I say." Not that I ever did.
While now a GOP activist (after 35 years as a Libertarian), my views on legalizing drugs haven't changed. Do it!
Not that I'm the only Republican who has come to this perhaps counterintuitive conclusion. Among many others are/were former Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz, Milton Friedman and William F. Buckley.
But to business. Portugal "took one for the team" by decriminalizing drugs. All drugs. Gutsy move.
They coupled decriminalization with a rehab and counseling program, and the results have been terrific. Drug abuse (and the crime that comes with drug prohibition) is down by 50%.
Here's a short Forbes article from last year on this, which in turn references a Cato Institute paper detailing Portugal's experience.
Ten Years After Decriminalization, Drug Abuse Down by Half in Portugal
. . .
If you wish to go directly to the Cato study, here it is:
Finally, here's an op-ed on the topic I had printed a while back (as a Libertarian). It sums up my reasons for supporting drug legalization (or decriminalization, to be more specific):
Some people feel that the solution to the drug problem is to become like Iran and other totalitarian countries -- crack down hard on drugs (and porn and deviant sex habits and on and on). Institute a death penalty for users and sellers, and repeal the Bill of Rights where drug violations might be involved.
Perhaps they are partially right -- kill a few hundred thousand people, institute a police state, and perhaps we can significantly reduce drug use in our society. But the country will not be the America that our Founding Fathers envisioned in 1776.
Furthermore, I doubt that we can put the genie back in the bottle -- drugs are here as we have far too many users out there already. Malaysia has the drug death penalty and still has over 300,000 addicts getting their product. After all, if we can't keep drugs out of our prisons, how do we ever plan to keep drugs out of the whole country?
But even if it would work, I would oppose such an approach. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, those who are willing to sacrifice freedom for security will end up with neither.
As a parent of boys who grew up in today’s society, I had the same concerns that all thinking parents have for their children and the temptation of drugs. I know that my children have been approached by drug dealers in school. But I also know that no one sidled up to my kids and tried to get them to buy a pack of Marlboros, or a fifth of Jack Daniels. Why? Because there is no excess profit in dealing in legal drugs, even though they are illegal for minors to use.
The key to understanding the drug problem is to realize that the huge profits (a 12,000% markup in cocaine, for example) are the direct result of prohibition. Most of the problems we ascribe to the “drug problem" are really the problem of drug prohibition. A $1 a day drug habit becomes under prohibition a $100 a day habit, and crime will inevitably result on both the buyers' and sellers' part.
There are only three ways most drug addicts can afford to pay the high prices of illegal drugs:
1. You can sell your body. The major cause of prostitution -- male and female, teenage and adult -- is drug addiction.
2. You can steal from others. When I debated County Supervisor George Bailey on the Roger Hedgecock radio show (about the jail sales tax), Mr. Bailey insisted that the county’s studies found that 80% of all property crime (mugging, robbery, burglary and car theft) in San Diego is committed by drug addicts trying to get money for drugs. The lowest figure mentioned by law enforcement agencies is 40%, and 60% is normal for urban areas.
3. This third method is perhaps the most harmful of all -- become a member of a perverse version of a multilevel drug marketing system. Become a dealer, sell to your friends and expand the drug problem.
We should end this madness. Let's legalize drugs and eliminate such problems. We will still have the very real medical and social problem of drug abuse. Utopia is not an option. But look at the benefits of drug legalization:
1. Drastically reduce property crime (burglaries, auto thefts, muggings and commercial robberies). Estimates start at 40%.
2. Greatly reduce the corruption of our law enforcement people.
3. Relieve our overburdened court system.
4. Relieve the overcrowding in our jails. Our country now provides the highest per capita incarceration of any country in the world, passing the 2,000,000 prisoner level in early 2000. And California has the highest per capita incarceration rate of any state (plus by far the highest annual prisoner cost of any state).
5. End the routine drug shootings of dealers and bystanders over turf wars and drug deal rip-offs. You don't see 7-11 owners shooting it out with AM/PM shareholders over who gets to sell alcohol at an intersection.
6. Destroy the multilevel marketing scheme that fills our schools and playgrounds with children selling drugs.
7. Destroy the power of the hoodlum gangs and drug lords.
8. Reduce the desperate acts of prostitution to acquire overpriced drugs.
9. Greatly reduce the overdoses from ingesting unknown purities cut with unknown materials. An estimated 80% of the nation’s 3,500 annual illegal drug “overdose” deaths are caused by these two factors.
10. Reduce the spread of AIDS and other diseases from sharing scarce prohibited needles.
11. Return to a respect for the Bill of Rights with its support for the 2nd Amendment, due process and privacy in one’s personal life. Gun owners are starting to understand that perhaps the greatest danger to their right to keep and bear arms is the hysteria connected with the drug war.
12. End government's Big Brother monitoring of our e-mails, our cell phones, our travels and our financial transactions under the guise of seeking “drug money."
13. Reduce our international balance of payments problem.
14. End the onerous action of asset forfeiture -- the confiscation of property from suspected drug users and dealers (i.e. minorities with a lot of cash) without even charging them with a crime, let alone convicting them.
15. End our inadvertent funding of the communist and terrorist movements around the world, and especially in Latin America (our drug money is used to buy protection for the drug lords and farmers in South America).
16. End our meddling in other countries' affairs in our vain attempt to curtail drug imports to the U.S. Significant savings to future military budgets should result, not to mention avoiding casualties from such conflicts and the increasing risk of a nuclear, biological or chemical warfare reprisal against our cities.
17. Allow companies to design safer, less potent drugs. Note the drop in potency in the “legal” harmful drugs -- alcohol and tobacco. Illegal drugs, however, become even more potent since a more compact product is easier to smuggle and carries no greater penalty if caught.
18. Stop persecuting people for private actions that, while they may harm themselves, do not directly harm others.
Understand, with this freedom will come increased responsibility for one's actions. We Libertarians come down hard on drunk drivers and others who first harm others and then claim diminished capacity. No “Twinkie defense” would be allowed. One would face both criminal penalties and restitution responsibilities if one harmed others.