A Viagra-model Solution to the War on Drugs
Bernhard Haisch, Ph.D. AstrophysicistPoorly funded schools. Deteriorating highways. Gang violence. Blame it on the "war on drugs."
Drug dealing and enforcement together constitute a several hundred billion dollar per year business worldwide . We are fueling the world's largest black market, creating criminal empires of global drug dealers, and in return our society gets gangs, violence, crime, corruption and a drain on our resources.
This robs and threatens everyone of us. California, for example, has built only one new university since 1984... thanks to building 20 new prisons. And these prisons are now overflowing with people whose crime is not robbery, rape or murder, but merely private use of a "controlled substance." It costs taxpayers about $30,000 per prisoner per year. There is a way out of this waste of life and money, a "live and let live" compromise we can live with.
The function of Prozac and several similar prescription drugs is not to fight sickness, but to make people feel good. Viagra has gone one step further It is really our first legal recreational drug. This opens a whole new solution to our dangerous, costly war on drugs. Let's challenge pharmaceutical companies to come up with one or more safe, non-addictive, legal recreational drugs, available to adults by prescription. It is futile to try to stamp out something people desire. Throughout history this approach has never worked, but a safe and controlled alternative often has. However the real reason to try this is not just personal freedom. The real reason is that the current war on drugs is the single most corrupting, violence-generating factor in the world today and we've got to stop it.
Primarily as an anti-drug offensive, the government has granted itself vast power to seize private property even from innocent people. So if a spouse or a business partner, say, winds up involved in drugs, your share of assets may be taken away from you no matter how innocent you might be. In an amazing ruling the Supreme Court upheld the right of the government to do just that. An innocent wife in Michigan recently lost her share of a seized automobile because her husband had used it in soliciting a prostitute. That widely-publicized case happened not to involve drugs, but the "war on drugs" is where seizure is more widely used all the time by the government.
We consider it outrageous when a repressive foreign regime dictates the private behavior of its citizens. And yet we allow our government to throw our own citizens into prison for doing things in private. On what moral or constitutional grounds can we justify penalizing the mere possession or private use of something? Do we really want to give the government the power to incarcerate its citizens for this? This is barbaric and unconstitutional... and an ominous road to be going down that threatens all of our rights.
Prohibition failed. The federal 55 mph national speed limit of the 1970's failed. It looks to me as if our "war on drugs" is failing badly and, worse still, undermining our liberty at the same time. Dare we ask who is profiting from the present situation? I pose that it is time to stop the war mentality rhetoric, start thinking these things through rationally, and even try a radically new approach. Let's win the war on drugs with a new definition of victory that will end the violence, corruption and black market bonanza.
According to a piece in the New York Times, "A good many Americans, including police chiefs and doctors, believe it is time for a change in our failed drug policy. It is our political leaders who are afraid of change." Our national "war on drugs" poses a greater danger to our society than the drugs themselves. It is time to rethink our drug policies from square one. Why not authorize the pharmaceutical companies to explore the completely new approach of developing a few safe recreational drugs, with known effects and well-calibrated dosages. If a physician can prescribe Viagra, why not this? We permit adults the use of alcohol. It's time to think outside the box. The mess within the box is intolerable.
 $53.7 billion was spent on illegal drug purchases in the US alone in 1996 (Assoc. Press). Add to that a similar amount spent on enforcement.
 USA Today, March 5, 1996
 New York Times, Jan. 5, 1998, piece by Anthony Lewis.
Dr. Haisch is an astrophysicist in Palo Alto, California.
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