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by Prohibition doesn't Work!
Saturday, Jan. 07, 2012 at 2:33 PM
This details the failed war on drugs and recommends legalization and understanding of the actual beneficiaries of the war on drugs in the prison-industrial complex and offshore banks.
Within the last century U.S. society has witnessed the effects of Prohibition against alcohol and other recreational drugs using threats of incarceration and police confiscation of private property. The era of Prohibition against alcohol during the 1920’s enabled a large scale organized and often violent criminal enterprise to profit from an illegal black market selling bootleg alcohol. The criminal gangs that sold bootleg alcohol included famous gangsters like Al Capone known for their ruthlessness in dealing with enemies or rival gangs of bootleggers. Frequent turf battle between criminal gangs spilled over into the streets and often killed or wounded bystanders unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire.
Thankfully after a few years of the futility of fighting the tendency of bootleggers to replace one another with new recruits after being shot or jailed was realized. The costs of Prohibition against alcohol included salaries of additional police and prison guards who were needed to arrest and jail the thousands of gangsters who were involved in the manufacture, transport and sales of bootleg alcohol. Common sense prevailed when people understood with the relative ease of making bootleg alcohol it was too tempting for people to pass up the profits gained from their criminal enterprise. Continuing Prohibition policy towards alcohol was like rolling a boulder uphill, it wasted energy and accomplished nothing. After Prohibition was repealed alcohol was taxed and regulated, generating income for the government instead of wasting resources on chasing and jailing bootlegging gangsters.
During the 20’s some jazz musicians began introducing cannabis (marijuana) to mainstream culture. Though cannabis was used by humans since ancient Egypt as a medicine and also for recreational purposes, it was not a mainstream drug of choice in the U.S. until the jazz and swing era of the 1920’s. Around the time of Prohibition against alcohol cannabis was gaining popularity. For reasons including the threat of cannabis sister plant hemp to timber baron William Randolph Hearst, the U.S. government under Harry Anslinger began the public relations campaign to demonize cannabis users. Early movies like “Reefer Madness” portrayed cannabis users as mentally unstable perverts who lacked self-control and ended up going crazy and killing one another by movie’s end. This sort of negative propaganda persisted in the media and the police began targeting jazz musicians and other cannabis smokers who formed their own subculture.
Cannabis enforcement was different from alcohol as it was easy to bootleg anywhere in the U.S., though cannabis required specific climates to be grown. This resulted in a great deal being imported from warmer climates in the south. Over the decades a similar structure of criminal gangs evolved to grow, transport and distribute cannabis from warmer rural climates to the populated regions of the north. Along with cannabis other drugs including heroin, opium, cocaine and crack cocaine entered the market through the same vast criminal enterprise structure as witnessed during the era of alcohol Prohibition.
The street gangs controlling the drug trade were hierarchal organizations with low level street dealers to captains to high ranking leaders. Outside of the U.S. the most powerful drug lords formed extensive cartels that dwarfed the simplicity of the Prohibition’s bootleggers. As the drug lords and their vast cartel enterprises became more sophisticated, the resources required by law enforcement to capture and detain those involved became ever more expensive.
When taxpayers are required to pay for police and prisons the status quo politicians need to find reasons to convince them that this is a vital expense that they cannot live without. Thus we witness the decades of propaganda beginning with the reefer madness movie and countless TV commercials warning of the dangers of drug addicts who steal to support their habits. The general paranoia of out of control addicts encourages the maintenance of a prison-industrial complex and police state to ensure the public’s safety. The term “War on Drugs” became the catchphrase used by status quo politicians to entice the public into believing and supporting their efforts to eradicate the proliferation of illegal drugs in our society using heavy handed tactics of police state enforcement and prison-industrial complex detention. The public was frequently reminded by our benevolent drug warrior politicians that the lives of our children were at stake if we did not lock up our children in order to protect them from drugs.
The reason that we needed to incarcerate our children was because they were standing on corners in our neighborhoods and selling small amounts of drugs to other children nearby. Most of these children were teens in high school or young adults who found it more logical to earn fast cash from drug sales that would increase their social status with their peers than to earn minimum wage by working at fast food outlets. The low ranking teenage drug dealers were usually initiated into gangs or crews that worked for higher ranking captains and this hierarchy continued climbing in wealth and status until reaching the drug cartel kingpin at the very top of the ladder. The drug cartel kingpin would never have any contact with the lower ranking street dealers and their captains, though the lowest tier of dealers were those most often arrested and given severe sentences often equal to rapists and other violent criminals. That is not to say that the drug dealers did not engage in violence against one another at times, though often arrests could be made simply on the basis of possession, even if nobody was directly harmed in the process.
The proponents of incarceration for illegal drug use claim that children who are exposed to drugs are harmed mentally and physically by exposure to the drugs, and this statement cannot be refuted. It is a fact that anyone under the age of 18 would be harmed in their development by exposure to most drugs, especially the hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine. This is the reason that certain legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol are prohibited to be sold to people under 18 and 21. Of course the young teenagers only see this as a challenge and usually find a way around the age restrictions on these two legal and addictive drugs. The same concept applies to illegal drugs and the ability of teens to procure these drugs easily.
Given the tendency for teens to go for restricted substances like drugs and alcohol and ignore spinach and broccoli seems to be a common trend. The magical ages of 18 and 21 do not suddenly make the acts of smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol any healthier than they were prior to their birthdays. Any addiction begun in the early years of development will continue on into adulthood. This is when contact with law enforcement becomes more likely an outcome, and the prison time for adults caught with drugs is severe. Even if there was no intent to sell, the individual who purchases illegal drugs can be arrested and incarcerated based on possession alone. This policy of the “War on Drugs” creates hardened convicts out of drug users instead of treatment for addiction. The outcome of this expenditure is releasing an untreated drug addicted individual into society with knowledge of a new set of criminal trades to procure money for drugs. The process of incarceration of drug users in the same setting with low ranking drug sellers ensures that social contacts between the interdependent groups remains strong within the prison so contacts are always updated until the day of release.
If it appears that status quo politicians who promote the “War on Drugs” as a conflict worth fighting because one fine shiny happy day the good guys will win are naïve or unable to comprehend reality. If their actions promoting the revolving door of the prison-industrial complex are perceived as being done “for our own good” despite the costly price of incarceration people could dismiss them as well meaning “father knows best” patriarchs and nothing more. If nobody noticed the barely distinguishable money trail leading from the coffers of the prison-industrial complex to the pockets of the politicians who promoted the “War on Drugs” people could claim that their well-intended war on drugs was worth fighting forever.
However, facts indicate there is indeed collusion between financial interests of the prison-industrial complex and politicians who promote further taxpayer spending to fight the War on Drugs and incarcerate addicts and sellers alongside one another in prisons. Here specifically discussing the charges of possession and/or distribution to individuals above age 21, not theft, assault, distribution to individuals under 21 or other crimes against society that inflict harm upon individuals.
Would it be relevant to examine the source of campaign finance funding from lobbyists with financial interests in the prison-industrial complex? It appears that in a transparent democracy the answer would be yes, that in order to protect our civil liberties the public needs to be informed if our tax dollars are being used to finance the wealth of the prison-industrial complex, and should learn that the promoters of the War on Drugs are profiting from fighting a never ending losing battle against our own family, friends and neighbors who struggle with addiction and poverty.
Other beneficiaries of the War on Drugs include the drug cartel leaders and the offshore banks that are used to launder and store large sums of their money gained from illegal drug sales. In many ways Wall Street is another benefactor from the illegal drug money as stock prices are set according to the corporate banking sector including the offshore banks. If the offshore banks are getting frequent inputs of large sums of money the response on Wall Street will be positive and stockbrokers do not inquire about the source of the money. These claims enter into a grey area and evidence of this collaboration is scarce outside of having awareness gained by deduction of the processes of money transfer and storage required for the drug cartels to operate.
The War on Drugs creates a circular current that begins in South and Central America of drugs moving north and guns and money from the U.S. eventually moving south to the cartels. This includes propping up dictators like Panama’s Manuel Noriega and looking the other way when he allows drug cartels to operate and then using his economy’s dependence on drugs as an excuse to invade when Noriega wasn’t cooperating with U.S. financial interests. During the Reagan administration Panama’s Manuel Noriega witnessed his fall from grace and entry onto the U.S. list of international public enemies as the number one position.
An August, 1996, series in the San Jose Mercury News by reporter Gary Webb linked the origins of crack cocaine in California to the Contras, a guerrilla force backed by the Reagan administration that attacked Nicaragua's Sandinista government during the 1980s. Webb's series, "The Dark Alliance," has been the subject of intense media debate, and has focused attention on a foreign policy drug scandal that leaves many questions unanswered.
The same Reagan foreign policy under the War on Drugs provided arms to the Contras of Nicaragua who were a private militia fighting the socialist Daniel Ortega. In exchange the CIA was importing drugs like crack cocaine and drug money from the Contra controlled cocaine fields and selling weapons to Iran at the same time. This became the Iran-Contra scandal where Reagan testified that he could not remember the details.
The CIA has been shown to use their involvement as leverage towards one cartel being favored over another. In a hypothetical scenario if the chief kingpin of the Juarez cartel is favored over the Sinaloa cartel’s leadership, eventually the CIA will arrest or disrupt some high ranking captains of the Sinaloa cartel and sit back and watch the Juarez cartel take over the territory and sales lost from the Sinaloa’s setback. The corporate media will trumpet the arrest of the Sinaloa leadership and say nothing of the invisible gains made by the Juarez cartel who quietly add more turf to their empire. This arrest will be heard by the public and repeated by status quo politicians as a battle won in the war on drugs and can be used by proponents of the War on Drugs to request further funding from taxpayers to keep up the “good fight”.
Statements from the status quo politicians such as “If we only fight a little harder next year than we may see greater victories in the War on Drugs.” could be translated into reality speak as “We’re going to need more money from you taxpayers to increase the rates of incarceration of low level dealers and addicts so it looks like we’re having greater success in the War on Drugs this year than we did last year.” If the politicians were really honest hey would also say, “We’re sorry that many of the people we’ll be incarcerating are also your family, friends and neighbors, that’s just the collateral damage that you’ll need to bear in order for it to appear we’re winning. We would try to arrest all the cartel leadership’s upper echelons all at once, though this would stop them from depositing large sums of money into offshore banks and that would stress out Wall Street. You know we can’t have those stock traders getting jittery!”
The revolving door of the prison-industrial complex requires regular payment of additional support staff including the Corrections Officers. Clearly the ranks of prisons throughout the U.S. are kept fuller by incarcerating individuals for possession only, netting addicts and low level dealers together. The corrections officer unions form political lobby groups that finance politicians’ campaigns provided once elected they deliver stricter drug laws to run more prisons at maximum capacity. The overcrowded prisons that are packed with low level dealers and users push taxpayers for funding to build more prisons that require additional corrections officers, thus becoming a self-perpetuating cycle. The illegal nature and presence of armed street gangs that fight and kill another in turf battles is another source of people likely to be incarcerated. If everyone either grew their own drugs at home or bought them legally in dispensary stores there would be no need for armed street gangs to engage in urban warfare with one another.
Under blanket drug legalization the only turf battles we would witness in the U.S. would be advertisement wars between the legal drug dispensaries using flyers and newspapers as their weapons. People would be much less likely to sustain any injury or loss of life from a stray ad flyer than a stray bullet. Instead of mothers visiting their sons in jail, functional addicts could work and ingest the drug of their choice in freedom. Those addicts who were unable to function normally would be able to obtain treatment for their addictions through rehabilitation services at their choosing. The voluntary rehab centers for dysfunctional addicts would include work for food programs were the addicts could learn farming skills and provide for their own food, thus improving their nutrition and self-esteem in the process and increasing their probability for recovery upon return to society. These voluntary rehab centers with food grown by the patients would save taxpayers a bundle when compared to the costs of incarceration into prisons.
The proponents of continued prohibition against drugs claim that legalization will only give gangs the green light to sell their products to school children. This can be disproven by the recorded long term effects of alcohol sales following the end of Prohibition during the 1930’s and beyond. Once alcohol became legal after Prohibition was banned, the sales in stores eliminated the control previously held by gangs of bootleggers. Since the stores did not sell their alcohol out of trunks of cars or speakeasy saloons with security guards that screened for cops, it was easier for authorities to monitor the sales and those merchants who chose to sell alcohol to underage minors could be cited, fined arrested and shut down if violations continued.
Of course there remains the possibility of an individual above age 21 legally purchasing than illegally distributing the alcohol to another individual who is under the age of 21. This factor remains the crux of the argument in favor of complete and total banning of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and even caffeine. All these substances have been shown to cause health problems in young people and would need to be banned along with drugs and alcohol if society wishes to follow this logic. It appears hypocritical for authorities to allow open consumption of substances like caffeine or sugar by nearly any age group without admitting to the addictive nature these substances and their negative effects on the health of young people while incarcerating any adult found with drugs.
Finally the decades of prohibition against drugs has not been able to prevent their use by minors, just as Prohibition against alcohol during the 20’s did not stop minors from getting access to bootleg alcohol either. The only protection for minors is responsible parenting that can monitor their children with some assistance from the community.
The so-called War on Drugs has not proven that prohibition of either drugs or alcohol will be able to prevent minors from accessing these substances, though it has shown evidence of being very costly yet ineffective at stopping either adults or minors from consuming the product. The War on Drugs has also shown evidence of benefiting its’ proponents in the corrections officers union and in the offshore banks that store the money of the drug cartel’s leadership. These points allow for the conclusion that the War on Drugs uses taxpayer dollars to support the prison-industrial complex in the guise of protecting the community. The prison-industrial complex then self-perpetuates a revolving door cycle of users and low level dealers going back and forth between either earning for the cartels out on the streets or for the prisons when incarcerated. Flip a coin heads or tails and users and addicts are working for either half of the prison-industrial complex.
Escape from the futility of the War on Drugs is only possible through decriminalization and legalization. For a few decades in Holland drug use was decriminalized and consumption of drugs such as heroin and other occurred openly in the streets of specific “red light” districts where everyone knew this activity was confined to these locations. Those who chose to use heroin were allowed to do so without police interference provided that they harmed no people or property in the process of consumption. If the hard drugs like heroin got the best of them, their haggard appearances in a public setting known for heroin use gave outsiders a visual demonstration of the negative side effects of addiction.
Several leaders of third world nations directly affected by the drug trade have encouraged legalization, including Bolivia’s Evo Morales and former Mexican President Vicente Fox. It is great to witness politicians like Mr. Fox coming to their senses following their direct experiences of years of failure from fighting an unwinnable war. In Bolivia Evo Morales proposed the government to take control of growing and distributing coca leaf, the source of powder cocaine. He points out that the coca leaf by itself would be considered medicinal prior to being refined and processed into powder and crack cocaine. Indigenous people of Bolivia have used the coca leaf in its natural state for centuries to help overcome altitude sickness without ever having any problems.
The problem with refining and processing the coca leaf is that it intensifies the active ingredients and discards other molecular compounds in the leaf that may balance out the stimulants to be gradually absorbed. This is similar to cannabis that can be used as medicine for the over 250 different cannabinoids that work together around the primary “delta THC” cannabinoid that creates the effects of relaxation. Without the surrounding cannabinoids to balance out the THC the effect would be less pleasant, at witnessed by taking the pharmaceutical derived “Marinol” that the federal government recommends for medical cannabis patients. Unlike the cannabis plant that naturally makes the over 250 cannabinoid compounds in perfect balance, the pharmaceutical product Marinol only contains one or two cannabinoid compounds in isolation. This makes Marinol more like refined powder cocaine than the natural coca leaf. Instead of recognizing the rights of states to make their own choices, the DEA continues to keep cannabis illegal and pushes Marinol from their pharmaceutical lobbyists.
The pharmaceutical lobby is another powerful force along with the alcoholic beverages industry that were strong contributors of a recent ballot measure in California to decriminalize cannabis. Since people have a choice of using cannabis for stress relief or taking a pharmaceutical product, the pharmaceutical lobby wishes to ensure that their products remain the monopoly of treatment options. The pharmaceutical lobby is called Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (aka (PhRMA) and has the means to maintain their icy grip on the consumer’s pocketbooks as a treatment monopoly. If consumers attempt to get lower prices by importing pills from Canada the purpose of PhRMA is to block this. According to Marcia Angell MD in “The Truth About the Drug Companies” in 2003 the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of importing pills from Canada and Europe with the intent of saving lower income senior citizens and disabled consumers to save money on prescription pills. This panicked the PhRMA lobbyists who commission Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (R) to circulate a “Chicken Little” letter warning of certain disaster if imports from Canada and Europe were allowed. Later that year despite public pressure to allow prescription drug imports under the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the members of Congress had fallen victim to the fears purveyed by Santorum and other of PhRMA’s “Chicken Littles” who followed the directions of lobbyists. Congress voted against legalizing imported pills and in their decision denied senior citizens and lower income disabled the right to purchase their pills at the lowest possible free market price. In the end permission was denied under the false premise of safety and the pharmaceutical corporations maintained their monopoly and forced consumers to purchase the higher priced pills domestically despite the same identical options existing across the border (pg. 226).
The PhRMA lobbyists are certain to continue their monopoly on treatment options and use their political muscle to prevent competition as long as the people enable them by electing candidates like Rick Santorum who are known to bend to the pressure of PhRMA lobbyists against the wishes of consumers in a free market. The PhRMA lobbyists are also proponents against medical cannabis as many diseases and long term medical conditions can find relief for symptoms form cannabis consumption with far less risky side effects. To maintain their monopoly on treatment options PhRMA refutes evidence that cannabis can help provide relief for many conditions including bipolar, a type of mental illness that usually requires the pharmaceutical product Lithium for treatment. One of the problems with using Lithium to treat bipolar are side effects that can harm the liver as lithium is a strong salt. One day too long out in the sun while on Lithium can result in severe sunburn as Lithium makes people photosensitive. This is just one example where consumers can choose to avoid the dangerous side effects of taking pharmaceutical products when cannabis does not have such dangerous side effects.
It appears that the states of California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Michigan, Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, Hawaii and Alaska who all have laws to allow for medical cannabis use are going to be in conflict with the DEA indefinitely until the policy of federal prohibition against cannabis and other drugs is further examined for effectiveness. It is clearly a violation of the U.S. Constitution for federal agents and local police to continue incarceration of individuals for simple possession and/or ingestion of so-called “illicit” substances. To protect the integrity Constitution the use of drugs by individuals above age 21 needs to be legalized, and this is what Ron Paul would try to accomplish if elected U.S. President in 2012.
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