A War on Drugs? Definitely not...
Current world-wide 'drug policy' is a deception that underpins an ongoing human-rights abuse. A valid conversation cannot occur until the truth is known and acknowledged.
Following is a comprehensive explanation of the so-called 'War on Drugs'. It may take approximately forty minutes to read.
The stated aim of the so-called 'War on Drugs', is as a response to harm brought about by the use of psychoactive substances. This is obviously not the case however, as supply and possession of the two most dangerous drugs, alcohol and tobacco (and caffeine), is not addressed by the policy.
The policy mechanism that facilitates the phenomenon is the application of criminal sanctions to the supply and possession of drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. These are the drugs of a minority in society.
THE 'WAR ON DRUGS' IS FUNDAMENTALLY, A CRIME-CREATION AND MAINTENANCE SCHEME BASED ON THE CRIMINALISATION OF A MINORITY.
It is a policy which delivers political advantage through the allocation of public money and financial benefit from the black market in drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
The 'War on Drugs' is simply a world-wide economic system based on the criminalisation and subsequent exploitation of a minority.
The 'War on Drugs' has not failed. It is, in terms of its true motives, an outstanding success. A lucrative black market in 'controlled' substances, billions of dollars of public money allocated annually and the political advantage this brings. This is why it continues.
THE ONLY WAY THE 'WAR ON DRUGS' COULD BE A RESPONSE TO DRUG-RELATED HARM, IS IF THE SUPPLY AND POSSESSION OF ALCOHOL, TOBACCO AND CAFFEINE WAS ADDRESSED IN THE SAME MANNER AS ALL OTHER DRUGS.
For a nine-minute presentation on the true nature of the 'War on Drugs' click here.
The people pictured above are using their drug of choice without the fear of being 'punished' by society. They can use alcohol, tobacco and caffeine freely and without penalty from the criminal justice system. They can possess and use their drug of choice and not be subject to any of the following: arrest, being brought before a court, being fined, having a criminal record imposed upon them, imprisonment or having their assets seized and forfeited. They will not have their employment jeopardised because they happen to use a 'recreational' drug.
Why are people who use drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine criminalised, when the users of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are not?
The answer given by governments and authorities is that users of drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are criminalised in order to provide for punishment and deterrence regarding use of the drugs. The justification offered for this strategy is that drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are dangerous and a unique threat to health and welfare.
Therefore, users are punished and use of the substances is thereby discouraged, with the apparent aim being the protection of health and welfare. The substances are portrayed as a threat to mankind, therefore requiring control and eradication: hence the 'War on Drugs'. The 'flagship' substance in all of this is heroin. The decades-old assertion is that heroin is responsible for the sudden deaths of people who take 'too much'.
The assertion that current 'drug policy' is a response to harm caused by the use of drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, is a complete and utter deception. The following two pieces of information are fundamental to understanding why the justification for the 'War on Drugs' is untrue:
Firstly, the two most dangerous drugs in society are undeniably alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol and tobacco are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide annually and a huge burden of disease.
Alcohol is so toxic, it kills bacteria on contact: this is why it is used as a disinfectant. It is associated with organ disease including brain and liver damage and undesirable behaviour due to its dis-inhibitory effects. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can result in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, with the child suffering from a "... range of physical, cognitive, developmental and emotional deficits ...". (8)
The most dangerous drug in existence, yet it is exempt from 'control'
When smoked, tobacco introduces scores of cancer-causing chemicals to the body. The consequences of its use fall into three general disease categories: cancer, cardio-vascular and respiratory. It has an association with approximately twenty percent of all deaths annually in the United States of America.
So, based on these facts, if the basic premise offered to justify current 'drug policy' were to be applied equally and without exception, the users of alcohol and tobacco would be criminalised and subject to the criminal justice system for using the most dangerous drugs in existence. This would be done in order to punish them for using the substances and as a deterrent to use of the drugs.
Secondly, an 'overdose' of heroin (morphine) does not 'stop people breathing'. Heroin is portrayed as the most dangerous of the 'illicit' drugs. However, fatal 'heroin overdose' is a falsehood. It has been conclusively proven that heroin is not dangerous in overdose. When opioids are involved in a drug-related death or adverse event, the cause is a combination of drugs leading to heavy sedation and airway obstruction, with the result being asphyxiation (oxygen starvation). This situation can occur as a result of many combinations of substances that do not involve heroin or other opioids.
That heroin is not dangerous is one of the most important pieces of information required to enable understanding of the 'War on Drugs'. Refer to Heroin - the truth on this website for more detail.
So, the phenomenon known as the 'War on Drugs' cannot be about punishing and deterring users of dangerous drugs. Firstly, alcohol and tobacco are the two most dangerous drugs, yet the users and suppliers of these substances are not criminalised. Secondly, heroin (morphine) is not a dangerous drug: it causes nausea and constipation. It does not kill. Yet its users are subject to the full brunt of the criminal justice system and the scorn of society. Therefore, regarding the danger of the substances and the treatment of their users, obvious inconsistencies and double standards exist.
CRITICAL POINT - Clearly, the aim of the 'War on Drugs' is not related to reducing harm due to the use of psychoactive substances (drugs). The two most dangerous drugs are alcohol and tobacco, yet the behaviours of using and supplying these two substances (and caffeine) is not addressed by the policy.
CRITICAL POINT - Fatal 'heroin overdose' is a myth, but most importantly, it is a lie. Heroin is falsely portrayed as a uniquely dangerous substance, requiring 'control' measures to prevent and minimise its use.
Before we address the true nature of the 'War on Drugs', there is one point of interest that requires discussion and acknowledgement. This is the process that leads to people who are exhibiting a particular behaviour (using their drug of choice), being categorised into two different groups, which are treated in two very different ways.
We are aware that when it comes to so-called 'drug policy', there are two relevant categories of behaviour. The first is the behaviour of using the drugs alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. This behaviour is not criminalised, even though two of these drugs are supremely dangerous.
Alcohol: an extremely dangerous drug whose supply and possession does not attract criminal sanctions
The second is the behaviour of using a drug other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. This behaviour is criminalised. However, both behaviours are fundamentally the same. People are merely using their drug of choice. Some drugs are truly dangerous (alcohol and tobacco) while others are relatively benign (opioids). There is only one type of behaviour being exhibited, whatever the substance.
What then, leads to the situation where one type of behaviour (using a drug of choice) is subject to two very different sets of consequences? In regards to determining the consequences for those people who happen to use substances other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, there are two relevant points of interest. Both are fundamentally related to self-interest:
LAW MAKING AND SELF - INTEREST
Let's say as a hypothetical, that the 'War on Drugs' was to be an actual strategy to prevent the use of dangerous 'recreational' drugs. It is decided to use criminal sanctions to achieve these goals. Of course, the focus will be on the two most dangerous drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Firstly, laws will be drafted and then enacted to make supply and possession of these drugs, a criminal offence. An interesting point is immediately apparent.
Let us assume that eighty percent of politicians use and enjoy alcohol. It is certain that no politician would support the formulation and enacting of laws that make possessing and using their own drug of choice, a criminal offence. They would not allow a situation where their own behaviour would be subject to criminal penalties such as fining, imprisonment and asset forfeiture. It is almost certain that the majority of their colleagues who do not use alcohol would also not support measures such as this. Obviously, this hypothetical would not proceed past the conceptual stage.
Needless to say, if the possession of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine were to be made subject to criminal sanctions, society would be largely dysfunctional. Let's say that as a conservative estimate, eighty percent of society would be engaging in criminal behaviour on a daily basis. A situation such as this would not even be suggested as being plausible or desirable.
VOTING AND SELF - INTEREST
In a democracy, politicians are installed by the populace and ultimately are answerable to the populace. Would a politician in a democracy support the formulation and enactment of laws that would make the drug-taking behaviour of the majority (use of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine), a criminal act?
No, they would not. Voters would not re-elect a political party that made their drug-taking behaviour subject to criminal sanctions. They would not vote for such a political party due to self-interest. The mere suggestion of such a policy would result in its proponents being immediately relegated to a position of political irrelevance.
President Richard Nixon is generally accepted as the figurehead of the modern day escalation of the 'War on Drugs'. In the early 1970s he announced his "total war" and "all out offensive" on "america's public enemy number one in the United States". The enemy was described as "dangerous drugs" and "drug abuse".
However, his strategy notably omitted three drugs: the two most dangerous (alcohol and tobacco) and caffeine. The drug-taking behaviour of his administration, its agents and the general populace in respect to the three most popular drugs was therefore exempt from the policy.
Two incorrect notions were also reinforced. Firstly, that the word 'drug' has a negative connotation and primarily defines substances other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. This invalid and deceptive semantic distinction between the drugs used by the majority and those used by a minority, is a fundamental propaganda tool of the policy regime.
Secondly, use of a drug other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine constitutes 'drug abuse' (which infers a deviant and inherently self-destructive behaviour), rather than merely use of a drug of choice.
Let's focus on the 'behavioural double standard'. We have just discussed how a politician would not be involved in the formulation of legislation that would be harmful to themselves or the majority of society. They would never permit the formulation of legislation that would criminalise their own drug-taking behaviour or that of the majority of society in respect to alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
But, as history has shown, the majority are certainly prepared to criminalise the drug-taking behaviour of those whose drug of choice is other than the three most popular drugs.
The instrument of law for categorising all but three psychoactive substances (drugs) and thereby the treatment of their respective users in the United States of America, is the Controlled Substances Act. Each country subscribing to the 'War on Drugs' has its own variant.
The purpose of the Controlled Substances Act and its international equivalents is portrayed as being the protection of health and welfare in regards to psychoactive substance use. Accordingly, certain drugs are 'controlled' apparently on the basis of their capacity for harm, in order to protect the health and welfare of people.
However, the two most dangerous drugs in existence, alcohol and tobacco (and caffeine), are not included and therefore, not 'controlled'. So obviously, the purpose of the act cannot be related to addressing harm resulting from psychoactive-substance use.
"There are also a number of substances that are abused but not regulated under the CSA [Controlled Substances Act]. Alcohol and tobacco, for example, are specifically exempt from control by the CSA."
Drug Enforcement Administration (1:p33)
The Controlled Substances Act and its international equivalents, primarily define two circumstances:
Firstly, the creation and maintenance of crime: the supply and possession of every drug other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine is a criminal act
The point of interest here is that a minority of people are criminalised. A majority of people, including those who make and enforce the laws, typically use one or more of the drugs alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. These people are not criminalised. The strategy is therefore politically achievable.
Secondly, the creation and maintenance of a black market for drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine
The point of interest here is that the users of drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are forced to obtain their drug of choice from a highly lucrative black market.
For the Controlled Substances Act and its equivalents to have credibility as policies concerned with drug-related harm, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine would have to be included.
An age-old way to garner support for a political strategy is to create the perception of a threat and then appear to provide protection to the masses from the perceived threat. If a war is believed to be a strategy that is desirable from a cynical economic point of view but undesirable from a humanitarian perspective, the illusion of an enemy can be created to provide justification for the conflict.
President Nixon achieved this with great effectiveness in 1971 when he announced that "... public enemy number one ..." was "... drug abuse" (use of drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine). He created the illusion of a threat and instilled fear in the people. He then announced that he would protect the populace by waging "... total war ..." on the threat.
The fact that the threat did not exist and that the 'war' actually had entirely different motivations, would not have been appreciated by the vast majority of the general public.
An inconvenient truth will always exist for proponents of policy that applies criminal sanctions to users of psychoactive substances with the stated aim of protecting health and welfare: the most dangerous drugs are alcohol and tobacco.
A fundamental instrument of propaganda is the use of the word 'drug'. The word is used almost exclusively in reference to substances other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. The drugs of the majority (alcohol, tobacco and caffeine) are generally not referred to as being 'drugs', even though they are. The word, through its association with the drugs of a minority, is given a negative connotation.
This allows a false and self-serving distinction to be made: that alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are not 'drugs' and therefore are a lesser threat to health and welfare. This incorrect distinction allows the majority to believe that their drug-taking behaviour in respect to alcohol, tobacco and caffeine is not what it actually is, that is, drug-taking behaviour. This act of denial (failing to recognise what is obviously the case) allows the majority to justify and ignore the mistreatment of the minority.
Often used in combination with 'drug' is 'abuse'. 'Drug abuse' is a term almost exclusively used in reference to use of drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. The term infers that use of other substances is an act that is somehow deviant, self-destructive and inherently different in nature. In actual fact, use of other drugs entails exactly the same fundamental process as does use of the three 'legal' drugs.
The term 'drug abuse' is rarely applied to the use of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. Use of these drugs is portrayed as normal, generally positive in nature and a basic right that any adult can and should be able to exercise.
Current 'drug policy' is commonly referred to as 'prohibition', which was the term given to the alcohol control policy of the early twentieth century in the United States. There is however, one fundamental difference between the two policies. Under U.S. federal 'prohibition' (1920-33), possession and therefore use of alcohol was not subject to criminal sanctions.
New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watching agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition
The amendment stated: "... the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States ... for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited." The 'War on Drugs' is fundamentally different to 'prohibition' because it involves the criminalisation of substance users via the provision of criminal penalties for possession.
The 'War on Drugs' is not concerned in any way with preventing the supply and use of drugs that present a danger to people's health and welfare. If the 'War on Drugs' was about controlling the supply and use of drugs on the basis of them being a threat to health and welfare, alcohol and tobacco would be its primary focus. The two most dangerous drugs (alcohol and tobacco) and caffeine, are not included in the policy regime.
The two most dangerous drugs (alcohol and tobacco) and caffeine are the drugs of the majority, including importantly, those who make and enforce laws concerning psychoactive substance use. Drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are the drugs of a minority of people.
In generalised terms, current 'drug policy' or the 'War on Drugs' is portrayed as a policy device in particular, to protect people from heroin (morphine). The long-standing myth is that death or injury may occur if 'too much' (an overdose) is taken, due to the effects of morphine on breathing. The concept is however, completely untrue. Heroin is proven not to be dangerous in substantial 'overdose'.
The so-called 'War on Drugs' is not concerned with addressing harm related to the use of psychoactive substances (drugs) of any kind. If its purpose was to reduce and prevent harm due to use of psychoactive substances, obviously, it would address supply and use of the two most dangerous drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Supply and use of these two drugs (and caffeine), is not addressed by the policy.
So obviously, the policy has intentions other than the reduction and prevention of harm due to drug use. The actual intention is simply to create political advantage through:
The allocation of large amounts of public money to 'control' a contrived problem. This amounts to about fifty billion dollars annually, in the U.S. alone. The problem is portrayed as the supply and consumption of drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. The 'control' is enforcement activities such as arrest, imprisonment, 'treatment' and interdiction. These activities constitute a world-wide industry that employs a large number of people and provides profits for many private organisations.
The creation and maintenance of a lucrative world-wide black market in substances other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. This amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars annually, worldwide.
The so-called 'War on Drugs' is actually an intentional, world-wide economic system of enormous proportions. The resource that is exploited is people. It is an aggressive and unrelenting exploitation of a minority, built upon a foundation of deception, hypocrisy and hostility.
Two groups of people are utilised as an economic resource under the guise of them doing something that is harmful to themselves and to society:
Those who use drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine
In order to enable and sustain vast economic systems, these people are able by law to be detained, fined, imprisoned and have their assets seized, for instance. They are denied a legal and regulated supply of their drug of choice, therefore obligating them to obtain it from the black market.
What makes the 'War on Drugs' legally possible in terms of these people? Quite simply, the criminalisation of a minority. A class of people that are lawfully able to be used as a resource and whose treatment enables financial and political gain. These things occur simply because they are a minority and it is therefore politically achievable to impose upon them things that would never be imposed upon the law-makers, their agents and the majority of the population.
Suppliers of drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine
The strategy intentionally ensures supply by the creation and maintenance of a vibrant black market. It is neither possible nor desirable for those prosecuting the 'War on Drugs' for supply to be completely curtailed. An absence of supply would result in the collapse of an intentional world-wide economic system, with the magnitude of many hundreds of billions of dollars.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer detaining person during 'Operation Pipeline Express', 2011
Of course, the double standard that underpins and enables the phenomenon is that the drug-taking behaviour (in respect to alcohol, tobacco and caffeine) of those who make the laws and carry out the arresting, imprisoning and asset seizure, is not subject to criminal sanctions.
Again, the 'War on Drugs' has nothing whatsoever to do with the nature of any substance or its capacity for harm: substance use is merely a convenient way of defining those who comprise the economic resource.
CRITICAL POINT - Primarily, the 'War on Drugs' is about money, whether it is derived from the black market or government. It is also about political advantage. It is not concerned in any way with preventing or reducing harm related to the consumption of psychoactive substances (drugs) of any kind.
CRITICAL POINT - The creation of a minority legally able to be exploited for financial and political gain is achieved by the application of criminal sanctions to the behaviours surrounding drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
In the 'War on Drugs', substances other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine play the following roles:
The drugs are simply a way of defining a minority. Drug use itself cannot be used as a way of defining those who are to be arrested, fined, imprisoned or have their assets seized etc., as the vast majority of people use drugs (alcohol, tobacco and caffeine). Therefore, the strategy used to define the minority is the type of drug used.
Opioid users are the obvious example. A very small number of people use opioids due to their unpleasant side effects: nausea and constipation. These people are portrayed as an undesirable segment of the population and as engaging in a uniquely dangerous and unnacceptable behaviour: use of a drug other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. A small number of 'demonised' people has no political power, therefore it is possible to treat them in a way that the majority would not accept being treated themselves.
An enemy to be feared is created, in this case, drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. In reality, alcohol and tobacco are the most dangerous drugs by far. However, to create the illusion of an enemy, drugs other than these two (and caffeine) are falsely portrayed as being uniquely dangerous and therefore to be feared. The 'enemy' status of the substances is transferred to the users, who are ostracised and scapegoated merely through an association with a substance other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
Demand for psychoactive substances will never cease: a fact that delivers certainty for the economic activity created by the 'War on Drugs'.
The 'War on Drugs' is not a policy device to reduce the supply and use of dangerous psychoactive substances. It is a cynical system of contrived economic enterprise based on the criminalisation of a minority. The drugs themselves are merely the commodity that happens to be convenient as a way of defining the minority. The minority is thereby arrested, fined, imprisoned and in some countries, executed, using the false justification of the particular drug they use.
Having determined that the 'War on Drugs' is actually an intentional political and economic strategy, an appropriate term should be used. A discussion using a term that is deceptive (the 'War on Drugs') is pointless. The acronym that will be used from this point on is:
(The minority referred to is those who use a drug other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.)
It is basic economic theory that if demand for a product exists and the supply is restricted, the price increases. In regards to psychoactive substances, the principle is equally relevant. Demand for drugs of any kind will remain strong regardless of any controls placed upon their supply. This situation occurred during alcohol 'prohibition' and led to the involvement of organised crime in the supply of alcohol due to the large, tax-free profits able to be made.
$205 million 'drug' money seized by the Mexican Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration in Mexico city - largest single 'drug' cash seizure in history (2007)
A 2014 report estimated the amount spent on cannabis, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine in the U.S. alone, to be $100 billion annually. (2) As far as the worldwide amount spent on 'illicit' drugs of all kinds, the figure must be truly staggering.
Beneficiaries of the black market in drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine may be broadly categorised as follows:
Those who are prepared to risk criminal penalties including imprisonment and even execution to profit from the supply of substances. The endeavour can be lucrative, with substantial tax-free profits possible, but obviously for some, it can entail substantial risks. There are always those who will accept the inherent risks to engage in such an enterprise.
If we remove the double standard, what is the fundamental difference between a supplier of alcohol and a supplier of opioids? Absolutely nothing. Both parties are supplying a central nervous system depressant drug. One (alcohol) is far more dangerous than the other (opioids), but they are both drugs of choice taken voluntarily by people for their psychoactive effects.
Those who form part of the legitimate economy but who benefit from the money that the 'illegitimate' or 'black' economy produces. The black market in illicit substances generates enormous profits. Much of this money is subject to laundering processes and is then deposited in banks as legitimate money.
As regards money derived from government, the DECOM is quite simply a massive re-distribution system for public money. The expenditure is justified as being required to address a 'problem' that is created by those who subsequently profit from addressing it. The 'problem' is portrayed as the supply and use of psychoactive substances other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
However, the substances themselves are inanimate objects: it is the people who exhibit the behaviours of supplying and using them who are subject to exploitation and oppression. The people that use the substances are portrayed in a patronising manner as needing 'treatment' or punishment for doing something that is deemed wrong or deviant. In fact, they are exhibiting exactly the same behaviour as most of those who arrest and imprison them: they are merely using a drug of choice.
No person in America is imprisoned due to lawful possession or supply of alcohol, tobacco or caffeine
Enforcement agencies are charged with the task of apprehending and supposedly punishing people apparently on the basis of the drug they have used or supplied. However, this is merely pretence to conceal the true motive. The true motive is economic activity funded by public money, involving addressing a 'problem' that is intentionally created to enable the economic activity. All of this is based upon the criminalisation of a minority.
Since the industrial revolution and the advent of mechanisation, there has been a huge reduction in the amount of manual labour required to produce goods and services. With increasing population and decreasing demand for manual labour, a way of supporting those who were surplus to the economy's requirements was required to prevent a continuing situation of humanitarian disaster. Welfare was thereby introduced. In applicable societies, the government assists monetarily, those who cannot support themselves via employment or economic enterprise.
In many societies however, the distribution of welfare can be dishonest and selective. Welfare to the poor and unemployed is portrayed as being a financial liability and therefore to be minimised, whilst at the same time, money is generously distributed to others under the guise of an accommodating strategy. These strategies attempt to hide the fact that the money being distributed is indeed, welfare. One of these strategies is unfortunately, war. Hence the 'War on Drugs'.
In Australia in 2009-10, it is estimated that $1.123 billion was spent on enforcement of 'drug policy'. (3a:p33) What does this mean? It simply means that a number of Australians were employed to hunt down fellow human beings and arrest, make formally criminal and imprison many of them. It is to be noted that many of those involved in the arresting and imprisoning of others apparently on the basis of an association with a psychoactive substance, exhibit exactly the same behaviour, involving the drugs alcohol, tobacco or caffeine.
The false justification for this treatment of others is that it is a necessary measure designed to protect health and welfare. The actual purpose of the policy is financial gain and the political advantage this brings. An astonishing amount of money is devoted to the DECOM each year in the United States, with "... a total of more than $31.1 billion dollars ... requested for Federal drug control programs for 2017". (3b) A considerable sum is also spent by the states, with the total amount spent comprising around $50 billion.
The number and nature of people that benefit from the money expended on the DECOM is significant and varied. Following is a brief outline of the mechanisms and beneficiaries of the policy regime:
Law enforcement organisations. The obvious example is the Drug Enforcement Administration in the United States, as it is solely concerned with enforcing 'drug control' laws. It is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, and employs "... more than 9000 men and women ...". (5) In 2015, DEA agents arrested 31,027 people in the United States alone. (4) It had an annual budget for the financial year 2016 of $2.98 billion. (5) The organisation has an international presence with "... 89 offices in 68 (2016) countries around the world." (5)
Imagine a world in which there was a government organisation whose sole purpose was to forcibly involve in the criminal justice system, people who chose to be involved in the supply of alcohol, tobacco or caffeine. Obviously this would only ever be a hypothetical scenario. It would not be seriously considered, as apart from being untenable, it would rightfully be identified as a human-rights abuse. This situation is however, happening right now in regards to the drugs of a minority.
Arrest during 'Operation Mallorca', 2005
Law enforcement organisations worldwide are involved in an ongoing human-rights abuse as part of their work. This is their enforcement of so-called 'drug laws'. This involves them forcibly involving in the criminal justice system, those who happen to be associated with substances other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
As an indicator of the inequity of the situation, consider the hypothetical scenario of a law-enforcement officer being arrested for possession of their drug of choice, be it alcohol, tobacco or caffeine. This would obviously be an untenable and undesirable situation from their and society's perspective.
The prison industry. In the U.S. in 2015, 92,000 people were in federal prisons due to "drug offenses." (6:p15) This was almost 50% of prisoners. The average sentence duration for 'drug offences' was an alarming 11.3 years. (7:p6) Categorised on the basis of race, "three quarters of ... drug offenders were black or Hispanic." (7:p3) In state-run prisons in 2015, "twenty-five percent of female ... prisoners (23,500 persons) and 15% of male ... prisoners (182,700 persons) were sentenced for drug offenses." (6:p14)
This is a staggering total of 298,200 people imprisoned in one country alone apparently on the basis of their association with a drug other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. Mass imprisonment of people who comprise a minority in society, defined by an association with a drug of choice: something taken as a basic right in respect to alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
Image: Officer Bimblebury
But the association with the particular drugs only serves as the false justification for involving a minority in the criminal justice system and thereby one of its mechanisms, imprisonment. The imprisonment of these people is an industry. This is the obvious and obscene human tragedy of the DECOM.
If the 'War on Drugs' was actually what it is portrayed as being, the assets of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine companies would be confiscated and their executives jailed for lengthy terms.
People and organisations that supply goods and services to those involved in the DECOM. The resources required to enable the functioning of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the prison industry for example, are considerable. The businesses which supply them with goods and services are numerous and diverse. From uniforms and weapons to asset construction and information technology, the opportunities for business are significant.
The 'drug treatment' sector. The mandated 'treatment' of people from the court system is now essentially an industry. The circumstance that leads to people being forced into 'treatment' is simply use of a drug other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
The drug testing sector. The testing and detection of substances for employment-related and enforcement purposes has evolved into a lucrative industry.
(This list is by no means conclusive.)
The mechanism that underpins the DECOM could be described as the perfect business model. In relation to enforcement agencies, their task is primarily to ensure the existence of the black market and to reduce but not eliminate supply. When supply is reduced for a commodity for which there is constant demand, the price increases. The higher the market price, the greater the incentive for people to supply the commodity, especially in light of a zero-tax environment.
Thereby, a guaranteed economy of illicit drug supply is created and along with it, a perpetual supply of substances to interdict and people to arrest and imprison. Enforcement agencies, by reducing supply, are simply creating work for themselves. This simple economic cause and effect scenario provides the perfect, self-perpetuating economic model. If the substances were supplied by a legal and regulated market, the agencies would be instantly unemployed and there would be no justification for the outlay of vast amounts of public money.
In a document listing important organisational statistics, and under the heading "Revenue Denied", it is stated that the Drug Enforcement Administration "stripped drug trafficking organizations of approximately $33.1 billion in revenues through the seizure of both assets and drugs" between 2005 and 2015. (5) Asset forfeiture laws enable governments to remove the financial gains from those who have been apprehended, by forcibly taking money, assets and unsold drugs.
US Coast Guard personnel with seized cocaine
For those who benefit from the DECOM, interdiction (hunting down and seizing illicit drugs) achieves the following:
It portrays substances other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine as a unique threat to the populace due to the existence of a government led supply reduction strategy, with the stated aim of protecting people's health and welfare. This creates the illusion of a valid justification for the activity. In actual fact, the most dangerous drugs are alcohol and tobacco.
It provides the basis for thousands of jobs and related economic activity, sustained by huge amounts of public money
It provides the illusion that the 'war' is being successful and that there are tangible results for the vast amount of public money spent. In actual fact, only a fraction of the total supply of illicit drugs is intercepted.
Above all else, it perpetuates the trade in illicit substances by keeping their market price high due to supply reduction. The continuance of the activity is essential for those sustained by it.
Enforcement has evolved into a substantial world-wide sector, sustained by large amounts of public money. Agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration have been created and the funding of existing entities has been greatly supplemented.
CRITICAL POINT - The 'War on Drugs' is not a 'failure' or 'failed policy'. It was never intended to control psychoactive substances (drugs) of any kind due to harm resulting from their use. Its aims are political advantage through the distribution of public money and a highly profitable black market.
It is and has been, an outstanding success in relation to its true motives. This is why it continues. Those who profit from and are sustained by the policy either politically or monetarily, have no desire for its ending, irrespective of the fact that it is a human-rights abuse.
Current 'drug policy' suits the alcohol, tobacco and caffeine industries admirably. They (particularly in the case of alcohol and caffeine) are able to benefit from essentially unrestricted advertising and marketing of their products. They are able to freely link their products with sport and other types of entertainment and gain widespread coverage with little in the way of regulation.
The greatest advantage for the 'legal' drug industry is that supply and use of alternative drugs and therefore the commercial competition, is subject to criminal sanctions. It also serves them well by portraying drugs that are an alternative to alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, as uniquely dangerous and socially unacceptable. It is the perfect commercial situation for the alcohol, tobacco and caffeine industries.
It could be suggested that their greatest fear is that drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine become 'legal' and freely available. Market share of the currently 'legal' drugs would be threatened by increased competition. Increased regulation from a policy and regulatory regime that treated substances according to their actual danger would also be a less than ideal situation for the alcohol and tobacco industries in particular.
The policy regime that above all else is a human-rights abuse, continues essentially unabated. Following are some reasons why:
Political advantage. The policy is politically advantageous on two main fronts. Firstly, it allows politicians to give the impression that they are protecting their constituents from an 'enemy'. However, the enemy is contrived and the 'war' to fight it has different motives altogether.
Secondly, government is able to dispense money and create jobs and profits using the contrived 'war' as the justification. The money is able to be justified as necessary expenditure required to fight the 'enemy'. The strategy therefore largely escapes being correctly identified as welfare and blatant largess.
Money from government. Notably, those employed in law enforcement and those who support them, benefit from billions of dollars of public money annually in the U.S. alone. A constant supply-reduction campaign, along with demand that will never cease, ensures the price of substances remains high. This guarantees the continuance of the trade. The result is a self-sustaining and perpetual false 'war' that employs and sustains thousands of people.
Money from the black market. Those involved in the black market for drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine benefit from a multi billion-dollar trade. Profits in a legal and regulated market would be far less than those found in the present black-market situation. Money from the black market also finds its way to the regular economy and benefits those involved in legitimate financial endeavours.
The 'War on Drugs' continues primarily because it is financially beneficial to many people. It has direct parallels with the 'Military Industrial Complex', where war or the threat of war provides a justification for massive government expenditure. This results in a situation where many people become reliant on the funding and subsequently it is difficult to cease or scale back the process.
The DECOM is not about the control and eradication of drug use due to the substances being a threat to health and welfare. If it was a response to a threat to health and welfare due to the use of psychoactive substances, it would apply primarily to the users and suppliers of alcohol and tobacco.
It is primarily about the acquisition of money, whether that is from the black market or public money from government. It sustains tens of thousands of jobs with tens of billions of dollars of public money annually, in the U.S. alone. It is in terms of public money, a distribution system based on a human-rights abuse.
It is not 'failed' policy. It is entirely intentional and extraordinarily successful in terms of its actual goals, which are monetary gain and political advantage. It continues because it is successful regarding these aims.
It results in a minority being treated in ways that the majority would never accept being treated themselves. The majority would not accept being subject to criminal sanctions for use or supply of their drugs of choice (alcohol, tobacco and caffeine) or being denied a legal and regulated supply of these drugs.
There is only one humane, logical and sensible strategy to end the current destructive madness. This is a return to the regulated manufacture and sale of all psychoactive substances. They would be available to people of 'legal' age at appropriate retail outlets. This might best be achieved in an incremental way, substance by substance. This would allow people to become accustomed to the situation and realise that the functioning of society would not be negatively affected.
For most people, the usual reaction to the suggestion of 'legalisation' is an onset of fear. This is purely due to an ingrained perception of threat and the resultant fear that has been instilled by decades of propaganda. A simple response is as follows:
Currently, the two most dangerous drugs (alcohol and tobacco) and caffeine, are freely available to people of 'legal' age from appropriate retail outlets. Society functions normally and no-one is concerned. Those whose drug of choice is alcohol, tobacco or caffeine, can use their drug without fear of being forcibly involved in the criminal justice system.
The mere suggestion that users of any of these three drugs be criminalised as a response to their drug use, would rightfully be dismissed. The scenario would never and should never eventuate. Therefore:
"No person should be subject to criminal sanctions due to the act of using or being involved in the regulated supply of a 'recreational' drug, whatever the nature of the substance"
Currently, people whose drug of choice is other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, are obligated to obtain their substance from an unregulated black market. Therefore:
"All psychoactive substances, without exception, must be supplied by a legal and regulated market"
Current 'drug policy' or the 'War on Drugs' acts in large part, as a mechanism to justify the distribution of public money for political gain. Therefore:
"The distribution of public money should never be based upon the inequitable and inhumane treatment of a minority"
The vast majority of currently illicit drugs (including heroin), are not as dangerous as alcohol or tobacco. The 'War on Drugs' is not related to the control of any psychoactive substance as a response to its effects on health and welfare. Therefore:
"Society as a whole must be honest about the nature of all drugs and the right of people to use substances irrespective of their nature and effect on health and welfare"
Current 'drug policy' has its roots firmly in the oppression of people in order to facilitate the acquisition of money. It can only ever be the vehicle for ulterior motives, none of which are positive in nature.
The 'debate' about whether drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine should be 'legalised' is a misleading and dishonest conversation. The more relevant suggestion is that since current 'drug policy' is allegedly about protecting health and welfare, it follows that supply and possession of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine should also be criminalised. This simple and obvious suggestion instantly exposes the fraudulent nature of the policy regime.
The situation in Portugal, where only possession is decriminalised, is often cited as a model for other countries to adopt. This paradigm is however, deceptive, as it is based on the self-interest of those who profit from the existence of the black market. Under this system, supply of substances other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine remains illegal. This model retains the black market.
The flaws in this approach for users of illicit drugs, is that manufacture of the substances and therefore their quality, is not regulated and the price is set by black-market prerogatives. The model retains a fundamentally inequitable aspect of current policy: users of drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine are denied a legal and regulated supply of their drug of choice.
Administratively, two basic actions would allow change:
Abolishment of the three 'drug control' treaties that obligate signatories to participate in the DECOM. These are the Single Convention on Narcotic drugs of 1961 (as amended by the 1972 protocol), the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
Changes to the Controlled Substances Act in the U.S. and its international equivalents. A classification must be created that includes all 'recreational' substances and that does not involve criminalisation of supply or possession. For the Controlled Substances Act and its equivalents to be relevant and functional on a practical and humane basis, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine must be included.
That the DECOM has to cease is beyond debate. Exploiting a minority for financial and political gain is obviously unacceptable. The world-wide cruelty, suffering and corruption created by the policy is immense. The primary impediment to the cessation of the DECOM is the loss of money by those currently profiting from it. Those who have no wish for the policy to end are:
People who are sustained financially by the policy. These people see the cessation of the policy primarily in terms of loss of money either from the removal of government spending or the collapse of the black market. This would take the form of loss of profits and employment, whether legitimate or illegitimate. These people can be expected to lobby aggressively for the DECOM to continue.
The 'War on Drugs' is a failure? The manufacturers of this equipment may not agree.
People who are sustained politically by the policy. There are many forms of political advantage offered by the DECOM, all of which politicians would be highly reluctant to relinquish. It provides a pretext for the distribution of government money, which translates as jobs and profits and therefore, votes. This pretext is the portrayal of politicians as providing protection to the populace from an 'enemy', providing them with a basis on which to court votes on an agenda of community protection.
Regarding the possibility of political impetus for change and the ways it might come about, it is highly unlikely that politicians will ever admit that the policy is fraudulent and that they have lied about its true motives for decades. To admit to the true nature of the DECOM would be extremely damaging in terms of the public's perception of their governance structures.
It must end however, and only open, honest discussion and acknowledgement of the issues will allow this to happen.
It would be ideal for society (including government and the populace) to be honest about the distribution of government money and its role in the economy. One of the greatest impediments to ending the DECOM would be the major reduction of money flowing from government and the subsequent loss of employment and profits.
An example would be that if all prisoners in the U.S. with a 'drug' conviction were released, federal prison populations would be instantly halved. Obviously, this would have major ramifications for the workforce and those involved in supporting the prisons. The political difficulties arising from a situation such as this would be substantial.
There is no doubt that ending the DECOM will result in a large reduction in jobs that were previously justified as being necessary to fight the 'War on Drugs'. The question is: are these people to become unemployed or redeployed? Whatever the strategy, the distribution of public money should never be based on a human-rights abuse as is currently the case.
There will hopefully come a time when the human race becomes civilized enough to not prey on each other by way of a contrived obscenity that has been described here as the DECOM or as it is popularly known, the 'War on Drugs'. No society that participates can dare call itself civilised or humane. It is a complex, self-perpetuating and abhorrent phenomenon that bares witness to man's inhumanity to man.
There is an answer and that is simply to stop it.
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