The War on Weed: Marijuana Is Basically Harmless -- The Monumentally Stupid Drug War Is Not
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Then Congress enthusiastically climbed aboard the anti-pot political bandwagon, passing a law that effectively banned the production, sale, and consumption of marijuana. Signed by FDR on August 2, 1937, this federal prohibition remains in effect today. Although it has been as ineffectual as Prohibition, the 1919-1933 experiment to stop people from consuming "intoxicating liquors," this ban continues, despite its staggering cost and dumfounding destructiveness. Consider a few facts about America's weed war:
- It diverts hundreds of thousands of police agents from serious crimes to the pursuit of harmless tokers, including agents from the local and state police, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, and U.S. Marshals, Secret Service, Border Patrol, Customs, and Postal Service.
- By even the most conservative estimate, the outlay from us taxpayers now tops $10 billion a year in direct spending just to catch, prosecute, and incarcerate marijuana users and sellers, not counting such indirect costs as militarizing our border with Mexico in a hopeless effort to stop marijuana imports.
- Police agents at all levels trample our Bill of Rights in their eagerness to nab pot consumers by conducting illegal car searches, phone and email taps, garbage scrounging, and door-busting night raids.
- Even people who are merely suspected of marijuana violations and have had no charges filed against them can (and regularly do) have their cars, money, computers, and other property confiscated by police. In a reversal of America's fundamental legal principles, it is up to these suspects to prove that their property is "innocent" of any crime.
- People convicted of possessing even one ounce of marijuana can face mandatory minimum sentences of a year in jail, and having even one plant in your yard is a federal felony.
- 41,000 Americans are in federal or state prisons right now on marijuana charges, not counting people in city and county jails.
- 89% of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession of the weed, not for producing or selling it.
Tidbit: In September, the useful and always vigilant Sen. Russ Feingold revealed that the Justice Department was perverting a dangerous provision in the infamous Patriot Act of 2001 for use in non-terrorism cases. "Sneak-and-peek" search warrants (based on a liberty-busting provision allowing police agents to break into a home or other private facility and search the premises without the owner's knowledge) were supposed to be reserved for extraordinary investigations into suspected terrorist activity. However, Feingold found that of the Justice Department's 763 requests last year for such searches, only three involved terrorism cases--while 65% of the sneakandpeeks were used in drug-war investigations, including pursuit of marijuana "criminals."
How's the war going?
Hitting yourself over the head one time with a ball-peen hammer could be considered an experiment. Doing it twice, though, would be stupid. And doing it repeatedly is insane.
The war on weeds is insane, for our officials keep sacrificing tax dollars, lives, civil liberties, and their own credibility in a "terribly wrong" and losing effort. They've been whacking us for decades with ever-bigger and more-repressive prohibition hammers, but marijuana availability and use keep going up, not down.
The 2008 survey on drug use conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows pot to be popular with millions of Americans. Of those surveyed, 41% admit to having partaken at some point in their lives, 10% enjoyed it in the past year, and 6% use it regularly. These numbers greatly understate the actual level of marijuana consumption, because the survey is taken by federal health agents going door-to-door for in-person interviews. In effect, they're asking, "Have you been consuming an illicit drug--an activity that violates federal law and is punishable by a long prison term?" Many choose to fib.