Trump’s Drug Policy Is Destroying Lives

American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017 (ANG/Annie Edwards)

Politico reports that President Donald Trump’s crackdown on opioids is backfiring.

Hundreds of patients told the political news website they have been suddenly refused prescriptions for medications they relied on for years — sometimes just to get out of bed in the morning — and have been left to suffer untreated pain on top of withdrawal symptoms.

Many … described being tapered off narcotics too quickly or, worse, turned away by doctors and left to navigate on their own. Some said they coped by using medical marijuana or CBD oil, an extract from marijuana or hemp plants; others turned to illicit street drugs despite the fear of buying fentanyl-laced heroin linked to soaring overdose death numbers. A few … contemplated suicide.

Read more “Trump’s Drug Policy Is Destroying Lives”

Good, Bad and Ugly in Trump’s Drug Plan, Corbyn Parrots Russian Talking Points

Republican officials, including House speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, speak with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 20, 2017
Republican officials, including House speaker Paul Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence, speak with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 20, 2017 (White House/Benjamin Applebaum)

Politico reports that Donald Trump is eying common-sense drug reforms — as well as the death penalty for drug dealers.

Here is the good, bad and ugly in the president’s plan to fight America’s opioid epidemic. Read more “Good, Bad and Ugly in Trump’s Drug Plan, Corbyn Parrots Russian Talking Points”

Donald Trump’s Instincts on Drugs Are All Wrong

American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017
American president Donald Trump arrives in Salt Lake City, Utah, December 4, 2017 (ANG/Annie Edwards)

Axios reports that President Donald Trump envies countries that execute drug dealers, tells confidants a softer approach to drug reform will never work and that America needs to teach its children they’ll die if they take drugs.

His administration is looking into triggering five-year mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers who deal as little as two grams of fentanyl. Currently, the threshold is forty grams.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be lethal in extremely small doses. Overdose deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have increased sixfold since 2013, outstripping those from every other drug.

But a crackdown won’t help. Read more “Donald Trump’s Instincts on Drugs Are All Wrong”

Repression Is the Wrong Approach to America’s Opioid Epidemic

Donald Trump
Businessman Donald Trump gives a speech in front of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, September 9, 2015 (Joshua M. Hoover)

One of the few silver linings to last year’s presidential election in the United States was that candidates from both major parties recognized that opioid addiction should be treated as a public-health, rather than a law-enforcement, problem.

Which makes it all the more disheartening that Donald Trump is taking exactly the wrong approach to this crisis.

Politico reports that the new president believes in a “tough law-and-order approach” to arrest the rise in drug overdose deaths.

142 Americans die from opioid abuse every day. That is more than die in car accidents or from guns.

The crisis is concentrated in postindustrial states like Kentucky and West Virginia: the heart of Trumpland. Read more “Repression Is the Wrong Approach to America’s Opioid Epidemic”

America Relaunches Drug War Based on an Assumption

Has there been a worse government failure in American history than the war on drugs? At least Prohibition was abandoned after thirteen years.

Despite governments around the world and states across America recognizing that drugs are better treated as a public health rather than a law-and-order issue, Jeff Sessions, Donald Trump’s attorney general, is determined to give repression another go. Read more “America Relaunches Drug War Based on an Assumption”

Indecisive Drug Policy Symptom of Humala’s Evasiveness

Peru’s newly appointed anti-drug chief, Antonio Otarola, claims that his agency, Devida, is on course to meet its coca plantation eradication targets for 2014. Unfortunately, this is part of a rather worrisome picture.

Otarola, a former defense minister, says that in the fight against the growing narcotics trade, his agency is set to reach 30,000 hectares of coca plantation eradication per year, triple the levels managed under the previous government.

Those figures sound impressive and are in keeping with the notion that the war on drugs is a priority for President Ollanta Humala but, as ever, the realities of Peruvian politics are rarely what they seem.

Humala’s treatment of the largest drugs trade in the world has shown no signs of any deeply considered consistent policy. Indeed, it is the lack of consistency that has been an enduring aspect of an, at times, ill considered populist term in office. Read more “Indecisive Drug Policy Symptom of Humala’s Evasiveness”

Consumers, Not Government, Should Set Cannabis Prices

Marijuana sold legally in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 1, 2008
Marijuana sold legally in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, June 1, 2008 (Valentina Solito)

I don’t often find myself disagreeing with Walter Russell Mead but one of the arguments he makes at his blog today against decriminalizing marijuana — which the state of Colorado did this year — is quite misguided.

According to Mead, “a key question is how Colorado should set the prices for legal pot. Set it too low,” he writes, “and cheap Colorado weed could help prop up the black market in other states but set it too high and people will prefer to buy from the black market in Colorado.”

The assumption here being that a central authority should set cannabis prices which is quite absurd. The whole point of decriminalizing the drug is to get the government out of regulating what Coloradans can and cannot consume — which is, of course, the only argument in favor of legalization that matters.

Now that there can be a free market in cannabis, demand and supply will determine its price, just as happens with any other product. Why should cannabis be any different?

Mead further notes that “quite apart from these price considerations,” the black market in Colorado is unlikely to go away. Which is probably true because marijuana remains illegal in virtually all other states.

But that is far from an argument against legalizing drugs. By that logic, no state could ever take the first step of decriminalizing anything!

Drug Decriminalization Worked in Portugal

Portugal’s experiment in drug decriminalization has worked, said health experts last week. “There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline,” according to the president of the country’s Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction. Opponents of a liberal drug policy who fear that decriminalization would lead an increase in drug consumption have been proven wrong.

The number of drug addicts considered “problematic” in Portugal — people who routinely use hard drugs like heroine and intravenous users — has dropped by half since the early 1990s when the figure was estimated at around 100,000.

In 2001, Portugal took the unusual step of decriminalization drug possession. Since then, fewer teenagers have tried drugs and the number of drug related deaths has declined dramatically. The number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction has doubled meanwhile.

Decriminalization alone hasn’t solved the problem but in Portugal, it has been a major step toward reducing crime and tragedies related to drug trafficking and use.

The restrictive drug policy, by contrast, has failed. The war on drugs has not and cannot be won — because it is immoral. A just government doesn’t dictate what products its citizens can and cannot consume or enjoy. It is not the state’s responsibility to protect people against themselves. Any government that embarks on a policy that aims to do just that is bound to fail. Portugal has learned that lesson.

The War on Drugs Has Failed

The global drug war has failed, says a report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, “with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” It is time that governments consider legalizing marijuana and similar substances.

The commission includes, among others, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, former US Secretary of State George P. Shultz, former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker and business tycoon Richard Branson. They are urging today’s leaders to “have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately — that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won.”

Instead of punishing users who “do no harm to others,” the commission argues that governments should end criminalization of drug use and experiment with legal models that would undermine organized crime syndicates and offer health and treatment services for drug users in need.

America’s war on drugs, which is being waged both within the nation’s borders and across Central America, is utterly futile. Tens of thousands of law enforcements officers and civilians have lost their lives in the struggle and drug use in America has not declined. Rather the country is funding both sides of the war, with the government spending almost the exact amount on law enforcement and foreign aid as American citizens buy in drugs.

A just government doesn’t dictate what products its citizens can and cannot consume or enjoy. It is not the government’s responsibility to protect people against themselves. Read more “The War on Drugs Has Failed”

America’s Futile War on Drugs

For decades, the United States have been waging a war on drugs, both within its borders and throughout Central America. This struggle has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of law enforcements officers and civilians while drug use in America has not declined. So what’s the point?

On his Fox Business Network show last week, John Stossel asked precisely that question, noting that whenever the war appears to be successful, as it has been in Colombia, the problem simply moves elsewhere, to Bolivia and Mexico, where cartels up to this very day are engaged in fierce confrontations with police. Meanwhile, drugs are still readily available on America’s streets. In fact, the country is funding both sides of the war, with the government spending almost the exact amount on law enforcement and foreign aid as American citizens buy in drugs.

By any standard then, the war on drugs is a failure. What’s more though, it’s illegitimate.

A just government should not be allowed to decide what products its citizens can and cannot consume or enjoy. It is not the government’s responsibility to protect people against themselves. Proponents of strict drug laws may argue that drug use poses a threat to the community, because people on drugs, like people who are intoxicated with alcohol, have less control over their behavior and might indeed act erratically and aggressively. They further allege that drug use would undoubtedly rise when drug laws are loosened.

Both claims are demonstrably false. The most popular drugs, including marijuana and ecstasy, do not make people more aggressive. To the contrary. Drug addiction and abuse are serious problems but hardly more so than alcohol addiction and abuse. It makes no sense to criminalize the one and control the other with sensible laws, like not allowing drunk and disorderly conduct and not allowing drunks to drive.

As for the fear that drug use would increase if it were legalized; there is no evidence to support this claim. No matter the stereotypes, the one country that has practically legalized soft drugs, the Netherlands, has proven that the contrary is true. The number of teens and young adult who have experimented with drugs in the Netherlands pales in comparison with American statistics.

The Dutch drug policy has not been able to put a stop to related crime altogether but the legalization of certain kinds of drugs is not to blame here. Rather, the problem lies in the ambiguity of Dutch drug laws. While people are allowed to buy and use drugs in limited quantities, it remains illegal for sellers to purchase them — forcing them to resort to crime.

The Dutch tolerance of drug use was originally born out of the libertarian conviction that it is not the government’s place to try to condition its population. People should be allowed smoke, drink alcohol and use drugs, even if it’s bad for their health.

In the American approach, this notion is altogether lacking. Instead, unyielding drug laws, which include mandatory sentences for even the slightest of offenses, are driven by fear and ignorance and the ambitions of lawmakers who want to be considered tough on drugs.

The result is something of a police state as could be seen in John Stossel’s show last Thursday. Regularly, all across the country, SWAT teams barge into peoples’ houses on the suspicion of drug possession, arresting ordinary people, even parents, because they had the audacity to smoke pot in the privacy of their own homes. Teenagers who try marijuana once could be ruined for life. Every day, more people are arrested in the United States on drug charges than all other crimes combined. In 2008, 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug offenses. 500,000 were imprisoned. Marijuana constitutes almost half of all drug arrests. So naturally Stossel concludes that, “the drug laws do more damage than the drugs.”

No matter the futility of the war on drugs; no matter the thousands of deaths and lives ruined; no matter the fact that law enforcement is becoming evermore brutal in its pursuits and that America is slowly turning into a prison nation because of its prejudice, the question ultimately boils down to one of civil liberties. As Stossel put it, “Either we own our body or we don’t.” It is on this argument that the fight against those who favor government control in this regard should be waged and won.