Solution to War on Drugs issue of civil liberties, rights
Take a walk in the park as a suburban white man smoking a joint, and you will most likely feel remotely safe. Now, take the same walk but in an urban area as a black man, and you might not feel that same way. In fact, you’re more likely to be disproportionately victim to America’s great War on Drugs. This is the reality of our nation’s desire to legislate morality and interfere in the free market. Since liberty is a whole, it is difficult to orchestrate social policy, which does not impact economic outcomes and vice versa. Today in the United States, we are experiencing what author Michelle Alexander coined in her book, “The New Jim Crow.” As the War on Drugs continues under both establishment Democrats and Republicans alike, it is time Americans looked inward and challenged themselves as much as they do their elected officials on exactly what it means to legalize drugs.
The reality of the War on Drugs is not successfully breaking down the Mexican cartel network or dismantling the violent gangs in our nation’s urban centers, but it is, in fact, the opposite. These anti-market policies actually fuel said violence. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any comparable developed country. About half of those imprisoned are there due to non-violent drug offenses, many of which are cases that would not have been seen as criminal prior to our nation’s War on Drugs. Not to mention, the majority of these inmates are black men, despite statistics proving there is a similar level of drug use across races. It is only natural to question the motive of statists when they pursue initiatives aimed at legislating morality, when the fruition of such policies is simply discriminatory. The War on Drugs has been championed and propelled by a coalition of statists in politics, or people who believe government should be in control of some or all parts of society and the economy. Although supporters of the War on Drugs will tell you such initiatives are necessary to fight crime, the reality of such policies is the discriminatory incarceration of nonviolent offenders and the flourishing of cartels that bear the illegal yet profitable burden of production under prohibition.
The nature of any war against drugs is an economic prohibition. That is the criminalization of producing, manufacturing, distributing and selling a particular good or service in the marketplace. These policies are antithetical to the free market and favorable to government. Just as American prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s resulted in gang violence and a huge black market of speakeasies and an underground culture, the current War on Drugs produces similar consequences. The mass prohibition of marijuana is the best modern example of this injustice. The drug cartel makes profit from the high demand for the substance in the U.S. black market. Additionally, just as some of our ancestors could tell stories about friends and family members who illegally profited off their sale of alcohol, today many could do the same with marijuana.
The enforcement of this prohibition does not come without greater financial or societal consequences. With the U.S. federal debt approaching $18 trillion, you would expect our officials to look at cutting costly failed programs such as those pertaining to the War on Drugs. Unfortunately, our crony friends in the government benefit from these programs. It is the government contracts to prison systems, civil forfeiture training organizations and weapons dealers that see this financial gain. Meanwhile, black men are being stripped of their voting rights for nonviolent felonies, young kids are having their future educations ruined due to charges that prevent financial aid and sick children cannot get the medicinal marijuana they need and deserve.
Today, desire for justice and a thirst for liberty and the free market have shifted momentum in favor of common sense solutions to the War on Drugs. In 2012, Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, and since then, many states have decriminalized possession or legalized medicinal or recreational pot. This is a great example of how federalism works. As many states reap the benefits of marijuana in the marketplace — be it jobs, medical benefits or simply individual choice — it seems more likely that the federal government will follow suit. In light of the upcoming 2016 presidential elections, keep in mind which candidates are actually dedicated to solving the civil rights issues of our generation. Keep liberty and prosperity in mind.
Matthew Boyer is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science. He is the NJ State Chair and Rutgers chapter president of Young Americans for Liberty. His column, “Legalizing Life,” runs on alternate Wednesdays. Follow @MattJBoyer on Twitter.