American drug laws are being threatened by anti-prohibition groups.  People are beginning to wake up to the evils of prohibition.  The DEA published this booklet, Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization.  It is available online HERE.  The DEA says this booklet is “designed to cut through the fog of misinformation with hard facts”.  Let’s take a look at the top ten “facts” about legalization.

1. We have made significant progress in fighting drug use and drug trafficking in America. Now is not the time to abandon our efforts.

They go on to say “Ninety-five percent of Americans do not use drugs.”

The exact opposite of that is true. An estimated 117,325,000 Americans aged 12 or over (47% of the US) have used illicit drugs in their lifetime. The lion’s share being marijuana use (41% of total US population).   Marijuana use has declined slightly in recent years but heroin use has grown significantly as well as cocaine.  Drug use follows trends for which change over time.  For example acid was popular in the 60s and again in the 90s but not right now.  Speed and meth were popular with the artsy crowd in the 60s and now meth is seen as a hillbilly drug.

Lets not forget the legal drugs.  The DEA only combats illicit drug use but the scope of drug use in America paints a picture.  Over 66% of US adults drink alcohol on a regular basis and 82% have tried it. 90 billion is spent on alcohol annually in the US alone. Tobacco use is also alarming, 173,927,000 Americans have used tobacco in their lifetime. In addition the use of menthol cigarettes among smokers is on the rise. Caffeine use is also alarming, approximately 70% of Americans are addicted to caffeine. Caffeine is an addictive and abused drug, in fact there are four caffeine-induced psychiatric disorders recognized by psychiatric professionals.

2. A balanced approach of prevention, enforcement, and treatment is the key in the fight against drugs.

Prohibition has never worked. Alcohol prohibition created a lucrative black market run by organized crime groups, corruption among law enforcement and politicians, and did little to curb alcohol use. Drug prohibition has taken all these problems to the next level.

The DEA continually promotes it’s special drug courts. These courts often sentence people to forced rehab. While that is better than prison many people don’t need or want rehab. In the case of marijuana the unnecessary treatment is used to create statistics that show marijuana is addictive, which it is not. (see marijuana rehab industry)

3. Illegal drugs are illegal because they are harmful.

Absolute bullshit. The legal drugs are more harmful than the majority of illegal drugs. In the case of marijuana the DEA uses myths and half-truths to show it is harmful.  Here is a quote from the DEA site:

smoking one marijuana cigarette deposits about four times more tar into the lungs than a filtered tobacco cigarette.

That is not true at all (see joint/cigarettes myth).  Another DEA tactic is emergency room mentions. Emergency room mentions are not reasons for visiting the hospital. If you go to ER, lets say for a broken leg, and mention marijuana verbally or on a survey it goes to this statistic. That is a loose measurement of prevalence of use not an argument for harm related to the drug. The DEA’s arguments that marijuana is harmful are 100% false. The lethal dose for marijuana is about 900 joints in one sitting (physically impossible), it is not addictive, and there has never been a recorded death or case of cancer as a direct result of marijuana use.

The DEA’s lies are immoral. A publicly funded agency should not lie to the public to stay in business. They are going after the children too, check out justthinktwice.com.

Alcohol is the drug that society has the most problems with. It is addictive, poisonous, has a high potential for abuse and no medical value. Four in ten criminal offenders report alcohol as a factor in violence. 43% of Americans have been exposed to alcoholism in their families. Tobacco is physically worse. Nicotine addiction is harder to quit than heroin. These drugs are harmful and kill millions every year but they are legal, why?

This chart sums it up. It ranks drugs based on the amount of drug it takes to get high vs how much it takes to kill you:

4. Smoked marijuana is not scientifically approved medicine. Marinol, the legal version of medical marijuana, is approved by science.

Marinol is a synthetic form of THC in a pill.  It is not popular among those who need medical marijuana.  There are three major complaints.  First, vomiting patients have trouble swallowing a pill. Then, if a patient does swallow the pill, the good effects don’t kick in for hours. And when the pill finally starts to work – buckle up. “A 2.5 milligram Marinol pill absolutely knocked me out,” reports one man with AIDS. “I wound up lying on the sofa for days, just totally drugged and unproductive.”  Patients prefer smoked marijuana because it is cheaper, more effective, works almost instantly, and easier to dose.  Here’s a good article “Marinol: The Little Synthetic That Couldn’t“.

Marinol costs $652 U.S. for 30 doses while cannabis can be bought for less than $100 for the equivalent amount.  Marinol was first made in 1985 when a company called Unimed bought the patent and began producing.  The reason a pill was created is a plant cannot be patented.  The pharmaceutical industry is based entirely on patents.  If you could grow your own medicine why would you pay thousands of dollars per year to a drug corporation?

The American Medical Association has recently stated that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance must be reviewed (article).  The DEA suffered a blow and has been working to remove references to the AMA’s stance on marijuana from their website and publications (article).

5. Drug control spending is a minor portion of the U.S. budget. Compared to the social costs of drug abuse and addiction, government spending on drug control is minimal.

What?!?  The DEA’s annual budget was $2.4 billion in 2006 and increases every year.  That’s just the DEA, the cost of maintaining the extreme amount of prison space required for drug war POWs is enormous, as well as local police, judges, prosecutors etc.  In 2003 the US federal government spent over $19 billion on the drug war, that’s $600 per second.

Drug prohibition is the lifeblood of many private industries as well including the private prison industry, private rehab, anti-drug advertising, drug testing, and many others.  There are countless other corporations who benefit from drugs being illegal; big pharma, alcohol and tobacco companies to name a few.  Of course there are the organized crime groups who actually sell the illicit drugs.  The money involved here is insane!

6. Legalization of drugs will lead to increased use and increased levels of addiction. Legalization has been tried before, and failed miserably.

The “legalization” that was tried before was actually the decriminalization of marijuana in Alaska that started in the 70s but they deliberately did not tell the whole story. As the DEA correctly points out Alaskans passed a referendum to recriminalize the personal use of marijuana by a slim margin in 1990. However, in 1993 the Supreme Court of Alaska ruled that a popular vote could not change a constitution amendment. The court has upheld this decision on several occasions. As the law currently stands in Alaska you are legally allowed up to one ounce of marijuana in the privacy of your home and up to 25 marijuana plants.  In Amsterdam you are only permitted to have 5 grams of marijuana without facing prosecution.  The DEA knows this and purposely lied in their “fact sheet”.

Decriminalization does not remove the “forbidden fruit” appeal of  drugs.  Some rebellious teens do drugs because they are illegal.  Under decriminalization people arrested for small amounts of pot don’t get a criminal record but they still pay a fine and it is still illegal.  It was not just an experiment either, twenty one states in the US have decriminalized marijuana to some degree.

The argument that legalization will lead to higher levels of addiction assumes that prohibition limits demand.  That is not the case.  Drugs are available in an absolutely uncontrolled market. High school students frequently claim that pot is easier to get than alcohol.  The law is not much of a deterrent.  When alcohol prohibition was removed in the 1930s did everyone become a drunk?  Absolutely not.

Let’s try a thought experiment.  If a big bucket of heroin and one of cocaine were left unattended on a busy street corner how many people would use the drugs?  Probably the same amount that are using it now.  Less than 1% of the population have used heroin and nearly 10% have tried cocaine.

7. Crime, violence, and drug use go hand-in-hand

That’s true but not for the reasons they say it is.  Illegal drugs are available only in the black market created by prohibition.  In a black market you can’t rely on the cops or other agencies to solve disputes so violence is the only option.  This market is run by criminal gangs who have built up massive amounts of money due to prohibition.  Drug users do not have to be criminals.  If you could go to a gas station and by a pack of “greens” the criminals would not be involved.  You don’t see Starbucks (one of the biggest drug dealers in the world) shooting up the competition do you?

8. Alcohol has caused significant health, social, and crime problems in this country, and legalized drugs would only make the situation worse.

This argument is used frequently by prohibitionists.  Well why is alcohol legal then?  I’ve already pointed out some of the problems with alcohol.  The truth is marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol and the DEA prevents this alternative from getting to the public.  To me this argument is an admission of guilt.

For info on the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol look no further than SAFER.  Or get yourself a copy of the new book “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

Drunk driving is a major problem but studies show that stoned drivers are more cautious and safer drivers.  Each drug has its own unique pros and cons. If you can’t compare apples to apples the argument breaks down.

9: Europe’s more liberal drug policies are not the right model for America.

Europe has different forms of decriminalization and harm-reduction.  These policies have already made their way into the US.  The American stance of militarized outright prohibition with no compromise has not worked.  It is pretty ignorant to ignore alternatives when the system is failing.  What is the shelf life for bad legislation?

10. Most non-violent drug users get treatment, not jail time.

Again they are tooting their own horn about the “drug courts”.  The DEA thinks that treatment over incarceration shows mercy.  They won’t let you forget it either.  That does not change that hundreds of thousands of non-violent users are in jail for extremely long sentences.  (see marijuana vs rape).  The US imprisons more of their own people than any other nation past or present.  The drug war is the main recruiter for the growing US prison population.  Jail or not they still get a criminal record and that is just as bad.

The DEA’s arguments against legalization are weak.  I thought they could do better with a $2 billion/year budget.  But why are they arguing about the law anyway?  DEA is the drug enforcement agency they are supposed to enforce the law not rationalize it. As David Bratzer of LEAP said “If police officers are qualified to comment on anything it lies merely in the area of arresting criminals and helping people in distress.” Laws are supposed to be determined by the legislative branch of the government and in a more general sense the voting public, not the cops.  That just shows how fucked up the DEA is.