America. It is the supposed land of the free. A shining beacon of democracy unto the world, a place founded upon the ideals of great men — men who fought to escape tyranny and oppression. Men who were not afraid to stand up for their own truth when equality and liberty were threatened by an oppressive regime. These men believed it was not the government that should rule the people, but the people who should rule the government.
Looking at the current political system it is easy to feel as though something has gone horribly wrong. There is an inefficiently run war based upon faulty information and continuously forced down an unwilling world’s throat. We have an ever-growing pile of debt that has reached several trillion dollars. There is also a war being waged on our own citizens. This war targets individuals for something as silly as choosing an intoxicant other than alcohol, tobacco or caffeine.
Of course, I speak of none other than the war on drugs — one of the few wars that is fought in our own home. It is a war in which our own people are dying and we are doing the killing.
The government claims that this imprisonment of the people is for our own good. It seems that they believe it better for a person to be locked away than to make their own decision about what goes in their bodies. It is claimed that certain drugs are dangerous to the user’s health. Funny how we are free to choose the two drugs that rack up a larger death toll than all illegal drugs combined.
People may argue that illegal drug use causes crime. And they may be right — when something is made illegal, more crime is bound to spring up around it. During alcohol prohibition, overall alcohol consumption increased, deaths attributed to alcoholism rose and alcohol-related crime rose dramatically as gangsters used booze to fund other endeavors. One of the more ironic facets of this war is how the TV says that drug users fund terrorists. Right. And the current black market turns controlled substances into a business that funds guns. At least the recreational substance users are not just handing guns over to Osama bin Laden like the government did in the 1980’s.
The war on drugs is one of the least efficiently run, most unsuccessful campaigns in United States history. One of the aims is to decrease drug supply by locking up dealers. It’s strange that despite increasing the budget for the drug war by billions of dollars over the past 20 years, drugs are still just as available as they ever were. In fact, the most current data available shows that price of pure methamphetamine has dropped steadily over the last four years. Another aim of the war is to decrease “dangerous” drug use among the public. (Dangerous drug use refers to any type of drug deemed illegal by the government).
It’s strange that overall drug consumption has been on the rise since 1990. And it’s hard to believe that a government efficient as ours would create an environment that has seen the number of hallucinogen users more than double in 20 years.
So what exactly has the war on drugs accomplished? Well, the number of marijuana arrests has more than doubled in 25 years. In 2007 we hit the all time high: 872,720 arrests. In fact more people are arrested for simple possession of marijuana than of all total violent crime arrests. Thousands, perhaps millions, of people have been denied access to a medicine that will heal them, and in some cases may have even saved their lives. We have the highest incarceration rate in the entire world.
We have a measly 5 percent of the total world population, but that doesn’t stop us from holding 25 percent of the entire world’s incarcerated population. Go USA! The citizens of the U.S. were already blessed with a wealth of propaganda before the war on drugs started. Drugs have just provided a good channel for the government to funnel false information to terrorize a population so that they are distracted from real issues.
Hopefully the picture painted is not so bleak as to cause despair. After all, there are still the means by which we can reclaim the right to choose our own way of life. Please vote yes on Proposition 5 and encourage others to do so. Check out UCSB’s National Organization of Reform of Marijuana Laws chapter Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. in North Hall 1105. Write to our representatives in the state and federal legislature. Speak out to others about the injustices in place when opportunity presents itself. Most importantly do not to be afraid to do what is right for you. Live your lifestyle without fear because it is what you deserve.