The same can be said of the American decision to criminalize drugs of every sort for public consumption. This moralistic overkill has resulted in the massive expansion of our nation’s imprisonment rate, created crime in the high-profit prohibition industries of smuggling, sales and rehabilitation and led to a world crisis as the drug cartels take control of whole nations for their production. The war in Afghanistan along with the Colombian crisis and the failure of the Bolivian dictatorship over the cocaine issue are but a few of the problems generated from the U.S. attempt to extend its domestic prejudice to international law.
The seeds of this international malaise can be found in the latent puritanism of our nation, largely a myth propounded by tales of the early colonists and their particular strict sectarian beliefs. The Victorians of the late 19th century believed that any social ill could be cured by the making of new rules and laws to enforce their moral code. The result was Carey Nation and her axe-wielding girl vigilantes and the deplorable decade-long experiment of Prohibition. The reintroduction of reality led to repeal of the alcohol ban, but by then the moral momentum that had spurred it on had led to the criminalization of drugs in general, from marijuana and cocaine to the multiple opiates and their derivatives.
This outlawing of a minor social ill created the organized crime that has always been attracted to high profits, from the bootleggers of the 1920s to the drug cartels of today. Our demands that all countries enjoying America’s largess in post-World War II foreign aid adopt drug laws similar to ours soon spread the crime cartels around the globe. Many governments are forced into near bankruptcy fighting the syndicates or becoming their minions, as in Thailand, Colombia and the current civil war in Mexico. It is interesting to note that Bolivia, whose first native president has legalized cocaine production, is enjoying the first economic improvement in a century.
Decriminalization would come with a price — derelict addicts and the increase in public intoxication — but that price is far cheaper than the one we are paying currently for our misguided attempt to make mankind into some sort of fundamentalist sect of self-denial.
With the info-anxiety of modern times, escape, however temporary, from impending disasters is already a growth industry among the pharmacological drug dealers of anti-depressants, tranquilizers and energy drinks.
Is a fat joint of pot all that threatening that we must imprison its users?
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views.