The War on the War on Drugs

Breaking the Taboo is a new hour-long documentary arguing that the War on Drugs has failed, and it’s streaming on YouTube for free. It’s a high-quality production produced by Richard Branson’s son and narrated by Morgan Freeman, and it features many interviews with former heads of states around the world.

I’ve heard many of the arguments and statistics before, but it’s very powerful to see them presented in one place, especially regarding the inability of governments to stop the drug trade on both the supply side and the demand side while empowering cartels and encouraging cycles of poverty, abuse, and violence.

I continue to view the ending of this war as inevitable. Opinion polls continue to trend in this direction, and cash-strapped governments will soon be encouraged to trade the costs of enforcement for the tax revenue of legalizations.┬áThis film comes at a tipping point and will probably help push many on the margin; I think it’s even good enough to change some minds.

I think the most charitable arguments against ending this “prohibition” involve concerns about abuse, but I think it’s important to emphasize, as this film does, that such abuse is already happening, and it’s hard to help addicts when we’re sending many of them to jail where they will still find drugs because we can’t keep them out of prison and where they are likely to return to the black market drug trade when they get out of prison.

Some of the statistics about legalization leading to reduced use in a few countries almost sound too good to be true, but coupled with falling cigarette use in the United States, it certainly provides some hope and food for thought.

The War on Drugs may be unwinnable. But the War on the War on Drugs might be.

3 thoughts on “The War on the War on Drugs”

  1. I think we are at the beginning of the end of cannabis prohibition. It is now legal in Washington State and Colorado. In both states they addressed the failings of the California initiative. I expect Oregon to do the same soon. Likewise, California will try again with a better initiative and win this time. Then other mountains states (like Montana) will follow suit. In all these cases, I expect very little backlash. Cannabis is quite mild and has very few side effects. Its use is not nearly as dangerous to society as alcohol, nor as dangerous to one’s health as alcohol or tobacco. Years from now they will wonder why it was illegal for many years while those other drugs weren’t.

    It will be a harder road for the other drugs. If we see a 10% increase in methamphetamine use, is it worth the change? I think it is (and would argue that you won’t see the 10% increase if you handle things well) but I think the counter argument is reasonable. The success of marijuana legalization, however, should help the cause of legalizing all recreational drugs.

    1. I agree on both accounts. I was somewhat surprised that the documentary went for the more general argument and how well it was able to cover it. Even Gary Johnson hinted at the third-party debate that he could see rationale for keeping some of the harder drugs illegal; I guess the question is how effective are the laws and the law enforcers at preventing such drastic substance abuse – this film basically argues “not much.” I admit it’s a little less cut-and-dry, though I’m definitely warming up to the “treatment over imprisonment” arguments. Either way, for now I’m mostly looking forward to state marijuana legalizations leading to reduced arrests and poverty/crime cycles and drug cartel profits, although it all may be mild for awhile.

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