This Is Your War. This Is Your War On Drugs – How America Is Finally Realizing That Richard Nixon May Have Been Wrong About Something
In 1971, Richard Milhous Nixon announced the war on drugs. That war has been raging for 43 years, but it looks like it is finally coming to an end. And it looks like the American Government has lost and that the people on drugs have won.
Why is this? How come a load of stoners and third world crime lords have managed to defeat the might of the US Government? Well firstly, the War On Drugs was conceived by Tricky Dicky himself. There’s your first clue. Secondly, humans have been using drugs for millennia for one main reason. Drugs are fun. And when you legislate against fun, you really are fighting a losing battle.
All drugs have consequences of course. Get drunk and you act like an ass and get a hangover in the morning. Take cocaine and you become a paranoid and egotistical bore. Put too much heroin in your syringe and you die. But people will face all sorts of dangers for the sake of fun. Or for the sake of deadening the pain of being human.
America has instituted this kind of plan before, of course. Alcohol is mankind’s main method of forcing itself to have fun and deadening the pain of being human. So, less than a year after the end of the First World War, America passed the Volstead Act and banned booze. Odd really, because you’d think that a bit of forced fun and relief of the human condition would have been just what the doctor ordered after the horrors of mechanized slaughter.
Nevertheless, the act was passed and for fourteen years boozing was illegal on US soil. There were very few ill effects resulting from this. Apart from a massive increase in the public consumption of alcohol due to a love affair with the romance of the Speakeasy. And the funding of organized crime which allowed it to gain the foothold it retains to this day. Oh, and all the death and blindness which resulted from guzzling badly made illicit hooch.
Still, it wasn’t all bad. Prohibition had a loophole which let you make your own wine at home. This led to the tradition of the middle classes being happy in the delusion that drinking wine isn’t actually proper boozing, thus allowing them turn their alcoholism into a guilt-free form of snobbery. Getting blind drunk is fine provided you’re imbibing out of crystal goblets and not out of a bottle in a brown paper bag as you stagger through a public park.
The War On Drugs hasn’t been all bad either. In fact, if you’re in the business of building prisons, it’s been fantastic. There’ve been 45 million arrests on drug related charges since 1971. Between 1973 and 2006 the American prison population increased by 700%. Now that’s progress. Since 1971, the War On Drugs has cost the US taxpayer a trillion dollars. The Apollo moon landings only cost $25 Billion. Even if you adjust for inflation, that’s still only about $100 Billion in today’s money. So you have to admit that the War On Drugs trumping that ten times over is quite an achievement.
The War On Drugs isn’t coming to an end because the US Government has been outsmarted by a bunch of stoners and third world crime lords. Even though to a large extent it has been. No, the War On Drugs is ending because politicians simply don’t want to fight it anymore. The concern over narcotics has been superseded by a much more pressing concern over the Federal Debt.
Inevitably then, resistance to the legalization of cannabis will be half hearted given the amount of revenue generated by Colorado and Washington already. Is this a bad thing? Well, recognising the actual dangers associated with certain drugs, legislating accordingly and treating drug addiction as an illness rather than a crime would certainly be a good start. I’m not saying that legalizing all drugs would necessarily be the way to go. But it has occurred to me that if you’ve come up with a plan, and that plan hasn’t worked after 43 years, than maybe it’s time to admit that trying a different one might not be a bad idea.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2014