Monday, April 13, 2009

Legalizing Pot, Point-Counter Point on CNN

I woke up this morning to CNN...nothing new there. What was new, was hearing two different segments on Marijuana. The first report was fluff...discussion of Snoop Dogg Shaking and Baking on Twitter, actually getting stoned for the whole world to see. Waves to Snoop Dogg who I follow on Twitter. Sadly, instead of having a serious discussion based on Snoop Dogg's willingness to bring the issue to the forefront by going on Twitter, the conversation was nothing but a fluff piece meant to poke fun at Snoop Dogg...shame on you CNN. (see embedded video below)

The second piece was more hard hitting. A Harvard Economics Professor, Jeffrey A. Morin was championing the legalization of marijuana, and ALL DRUGS. He made some very good points. (see his editorial piece below) For the opposition was a mean spirited, angry cantankerous former DEA Agent who looked like he's not smile since the day he was born, Robert Strang...wonder if he dropped the E? Robert did nothing more than beat the same old tired drums that our government hss been beating since the 30's. There is your commentary folks...A SEVENTY YEAR WAR ON DRUGS HAS NOT WORKED, why continue a war you have not won in 70 plus years?

The host stepped in briefly and pointed out how much drug abuse is costing American taxpayers. She quickly tossed in the figure of $140 Billion when she saw the DEA agent was floundering. How much are we spending on Drug Enforcement? Over a half TRILLION DOLLARS each and every year! How much are we spending locking up people for possession of drugs? Lealizing marijuana and other drugs would create a surplus as we eliminate enforcement and instead turn our efforts towards control of distribution and taxation.

It is obvious that the War on Drugs is heating up. Yesterday I saw a new Anti Drug commercial on television targeted right at Marijuana. This is a clear sign that the Federal Government realizes it is LOSING GROUND, and are scrambling to shore up their crumbling defenses. 90 Million Americans have tried Marijuana. 50 Million Americans smoke dope at least once a month...WE ARE NOT ALL ADDICTS, though the DEA Agent this morning tried to make that argument. Other nations are winning the research wars as more and more Medical uses for Cannabis are found...what happened to us here in America being leaders on the cutting edge of medical research and discovery, especially where Cancer is concerned. With Global Warming a reality, can we afford to ignore the numerous contributions that Hemp can make to solving the issue? Hemcrete is stronger than Concrete, and Bath University has developed a very good composite building material that has a LESS THAN ZERO carbon footprint. So why the war to keep Marijuana criminalized?

We can put the Mexican Drug Cartelss out of business in ONE GROWING SEASON if we legalize Marijuana/Cannabis/Hemp. Cancer research centers like Sloan Kettering could quickly become leaders in finding cancer cures using Medical Marijuana as they began isolating and investigating various cannaboids. Farmers could be growing Hemp to be used as biofuels, for home and commercial green building materials, while food companies could start marketings healthy hemp centered foods, oils and even home care products. The media could be leaders in changing public perceptions, in dispelling the propaganda that has been put out by our government over the last seventy years, or they can continue working with government to turn pot smoking citizens and medical patients into criminals. Lets end the war, just say no to the criminalization of marijuana. Make Cannabis Legal, unchain its potential.

Editor's note: Jeffrey A. Miron is senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University.

Economist Jeffrey Miron says legalizing drugs would greatly reduce violence.

Economist Jeffrey Miron says legalizing drugs would greatly reduce violence.

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Over the past two years, drug violence in Mexico has become a fixture of the daily news. Some of this violence pits drug cartels against one another; some involves confrontations between law enforcement and traffickers.

Recent estimates suggest thousands have lost their lives in this "war on drugs."

The U.S. and Mexican responses to this violence have been predictable: more troops and police, greater border controls and expanded enforcement of every kind. Escalation is the wrong response, however; drug prohibition is the cause of the violence.

Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after.

Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it's permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question.

The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs. Fortuitously, legalization is the right policy for a slew of other reasons.

Prohibition of drugs corrupts politicians and law enforcement by putting police, prosecutors, judges and politicians in the position to threaten the profits of an illicit trade. This is why bribery, threats and kidnapping are common for prohibited industries but rare otherwise. Mexico's recent history illustrates this dramatically.

Prohibition erodes protections against unreasonable search and seizure because neither party to a drug transaction has an incentive to report the activity to the police. Thus, enforcement requires intrusive tactics such as warrantless searches or undercover buys. The victimless nature of this so-called crime also encourages police to engage in racial profiling.

Prohibition has disastrous implications for national security. By eradicating coca plants in Colombia or poppy fields in Afghanistan, prohibition breeds resentment of the United States. By enriching those who produce and supply drugs, prohibition supports terrorists who sell protection services to drug traffickers.

Prohibition harms the public health. Patients suffering from cancer, glaucoma and other conditions cannot use marijuana under the laws of most states or the federal government despite abundant evidence of its efficacy. Terminally ill patients cannot always get adequate pain medication because doctors may fear prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Drug users face restrictions on clean syringes that cause them to share contaminated needles, thereby spreading HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases.

Prohibitions breed disrespect for the law because despite draconian penalties and extensive enforcement, huge numbers of people still violate prohibition. This means those who break the law, and those who do not, learn that obeying laws is for suckers.

Prohibition is a drain on the public purse. Federal, state and local governments spend roughly $44 billion per year to enforce drug prohibition. These same governments forego roughly $33 billion per year in tax revenue they could collect from legalized drugs, assuming these were taxed at rates similar to those on alcohol and tobacco. Under prohibition, these revenues accrue to traffickers as increased profits.

The right policy, therefore, is to legalize drugs while using regulation and taxation to dampen irresponsible behavior related to drug use, such as driving under the influence. This makes more sense than prohibition because it avoids creation of a black market. This approach also allows those who believe they benefit from drug use to do so, as long as they do not harm others. Do you think it's time to legalize marijuana?

Legalization is desirable for all drugs, not just marijuana. The health risks of marijuana are lower than those of many other drugs, but that is not the crucial issue. Much of the traffic from Mexico or Colombia is for cocaine, heroin and other drugs, while marijuana production is increasingly domestic. Legalizing only marijuana would therefore fail to achieve many benefits of broader legalization.

It is impossible to reconcile respect for individual liberty with drug prohibition. The U.S. has been at the forefront of this puritanical policy for almost a century, with disastrous consequences at home and abroad.

The U.S. repealed Prohibition of alcohol at the height of the Great Depression, in part because of increasing violence and in part because of diminishing tax revenues. Similar concerns apply today, and Attorney General Eric Holder's recent announcement that the Drug Enforcement Administration will not raid medical marijuana distributors in California suggests an openness in the Obama administration to rethinking current practice.

Perhaps history will repeat itself, and the U.S. will abandon one of its most disastrous policy experiments.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jeffrey Miron.

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues high-level talks with Mexico's leaders this week, her comments about responsibility in the U.S.-Mexico drug trade have struck a chord with officials familiar with U.S. anti-drug efforts.

Mexican federal police have been deployed openly in Ciudad Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas.

Mexican federal police have been deployed openly in Ciudad Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas.

Clinton said the United States' "inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border" was a major contributor in Mexican violence along the border. She went on to say that the United States has "a co-responsibility."

In an interview Wednesday on "American Morning" with CNN anchor John Roberts, former Drug Enforcement Agency special agent Robert Strang talked about the three-pronged approach needed to curb drug use in America and the need to bust distribution rings. Strang is also CEO of Investigative Management Group.

The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity:

John Roberts, CNN anchor: Everybody's blaming Mexico for [the U.S. drug trade], but the secretary of state yesterday said, 'Hey, the United States shares a lot of the blame because of the pent-up demand here, the insatiable demand for drugs.' Do you agree with her? Video Watch Clinton say, "We have to do a better job" »

Robert Strang, former DEA special agent: Let's face it, the average first drug use is 12 years old in our country. That means kids that are in the sixth grade are trying drugs for the first time. Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, all these drugs are coming across the border because we demand them. We have the cash to pay for them, and we really are pretty much the No. 1 consumer in the world for these drugs.

Roberts: Is the United States doing enough to try to curb demand? The Office of National Drug Control Policy, I don't remember much coming out of it during the Bush administration, and I haven't seen anything come out of it in the Obama administration.

Strang: We're trying all the time. I'm on the board for D.A.R.E. America, and that is teaching kids about the dangers of drugs and violence in schools. And constantly, we're trying to get money federally for this program and police officers go into the school. They teach the kids. It's a wonderful program in those trouble years, the fourth, fifth and sixth grade especially, and we need to have a little bit more money in this area.

amFIX: React to Strang's comments about U.S. anti-drug effort

There's three things, John: It's treatment, it's enforcement and it's education. And it's like a three-legged stool. If all three things don't work, it's going to fall down. So, we can send all of the agents in the world down to the border. We can seize all the coke, heroin, methamphetamine that we want. If we don't have treatment on demand, and if we're not educating our kids in our country about the dangers of drugs, the problem's going to grow.

Roberts: When you see the Department of Homeland Security prepared to spend these hundreds of millions of dollars on border security, what do you think?

Strang: I'm happy that they're doing something. This is a small piece of the enforcement operation. The best thing to do is like the case that we saw three weeks ago, when the DEA announced 750 arrests involving 250 cities between Mexico and the United States, mostly in the U.S., this huge distribution network.

Because when you dismantle those networks that constantly are putting drugs from the cartels to the street, when you can put those guys in jail, when you take their assets, then you have an impact. Video Watch how drugs from Mexico enter U.S. »


Roberts: But would you like to see them take some of that money, and you know, they take, I think, what, $700 million, and they throw it at the border. Would you like to see them take some of that money, maybe even just a fraction of it, and throw it into prevention programs?

Strang: Absolutely. Instead of going to some of the financial institutions, I'd like to see it go for the drug problem. I'd like to see enforcement, treatment and prevention. I'd like it to be evenly divided, and I really think we could have an impact on the problem. We've got to look at this a different way. And I think that it's a combination of these things, and we're moving in that direction. Let's hope that we make some headway here.

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