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May. 12 2010 - 12:01 pm | 433 views | 0 recommendations | 12 comments

The Overzealous Enforcement Of Drug Laws Is Not An Argument Against The Drug War

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After a brief hiatus, Epstein’s Razor is back on drugs.

As I’ve pointed out in this space previously, opponents of the Drug War make a number of misleading and illogical claims in pressing their case for legalization. Their’s is a case built on sand – or rocks, as the case may be. They claim that the Drug War “causes” drug violence, disregarding the nature of people who sell hard drugs in the first place. They foist misleading statistics, downplaying the dangers that heroin, cocaine, and other hard drugs present. They claim that the Drug War’s failure is a reason to stop the Drug War – as if the fact that there are still poor people is a reason to call off the War on Poverty. They say that drug addiction is a “disease,” and that therefore drugs should be legalized. (I’m still scratching my head over that one, too.) And they say that legalizing drugs will halt drug smuggling, disregarding the fact that booze, tobacco, and Louis Vuitton purses – all legal substances – are smuggled in mass quantities.

This week, opponents of the Drug War have seized upon a video of a drug raid that recently took place in Columbia, Missouri. It’s a disturbing tape, and one that shows the police in that city acting in an overzealous, and downright appalling manner. (They shoot the damn dog, for crying out loud)! Indeed, it is clear that the police acted far too aggressively. Many opponents of the Drug War have said that the video provides yet another reason to end the war on drugs. E.D. Kain, Allison Kilkenny,  and Radley Balko (who broke the video in the first place) of Reason Magazine have all said as much.

Yet again, the logic of the anti-Drug War case is lacking. After all, the overzealous enforcement of a law is not an argument against the existence of that law in the first place.

In 1991, Rodney King was beaten senselessly by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department after being pulled for for drunk driving. The behavior of those police officers was disgusting. But does that mean drunk driving should be legalized? Just last month, a murder defendant in North Carolina was allegedly beaten up by the police officers that arrested him. Does that mean that murder should be legalized?

The issue here is not the Drug War at all: it’s police brutality. The police of Columbia, Missouri enforced anti-drug statues in a brutal and disgusting manner. But that does not logically invalidate those statutes.

Indeed, Columbia’s police department quite possibly engaged in gross police misconduct. And opponents of the Drug War are – yet again – engaging in gross logical misconduct.


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  1. collapse expand

    As I’ve pointed out in this space previously, opponents of the Drug War make a number of misleading and illogical claims in pressing their case for legalization.

    And as has frequently been pointed out to you, to no response from yourself, it’s actually your arguments that are misleading and illogical.

    Indeed, Columbia’s police department quite possibly engaged in gross police misconduct.

    Of course, the problem here is that despite the brutality and shocking nature of the Columbia raid, the officers involved in it broke absolutely no laws. When the laws legalize such conduct, they need to be changed. The Columbia raid was not “overzealous” enforcement of drug laws – the conduct of Columbia officers demonstrated precisely how officers are supposed to enforce those laws – in a dangerous, paramilitary manner.

    Hence the need for drug law reform. I wonder, at this point, if you’re even capable of honesty dealing with the arguments being put before you. Your posts are a steady parade of Drug War strawmen.

    • collapse expand

      Users want the drug war to end to de-stigatize their habits that they so indignantly want to believe is jsut a past-time. They refer to their controlled substance with gentle terms of endearment like “herb”, “cannabis”, and “flowers”. They make the specious argument that booze and cigarettes are legal therefore everything poisonous should also be legal. In previos posts, Justin St. Gile Payne even trivializes drug use by minors. He even goes so far to promote drug abuse by declaring it heralthy behavior, stating: “Recreational drug use can be good, just as recreational exercise can be good, recreational reading can be good, and recreational sex can be good.”
      Medical drug applications can be easily explained and defended. The argument that there is nothing wrong with pre-adults using drugs or that recreation drug use is therapeutic is totally just wanting your personal weakness to be something that it is not. Arguing about economics and prison populations veils the true ambition of the user: legal stigma-free dope consumption for non-medical purposes. That is sick!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Users want the drug war to end to de-stigatize their habits that they so indignantly want to believe is jsut a past-time.

        You keep saying that, Leon, but you’re never able to explain why that’s a bad thing. Yes, they do want their harmless and completely natural behavior to be de-stigmatized! And that’s a completely legitimate policy aim. It’s you who has the burden of explaining why the use of some drugs for pleasure should be stigmatized and other rugs for pleasure – alcohol, nicotine, caffeine – shouldn’t be.

        They refer to their controlled substance with gentle terms of endearment like “herb”, “cannabis”, and “flowers”.

        How dare they not use its proper name: “brain-eating death weed”! How are we supposed to stigmatize pot users if they insist on using disingenuous euphemism like its actual scientific name!

        He even goes so far to promote drug abuse by declaring it heralthy behavior, stating: “Recreational drug use can be good, just as recreational exercise can be good, recreational reading can be good, and recreational sex can be good.”

        So prove me wrong – prove that recreational drug use is, in every instance, wrong and harmful. Starting with the recreational caffeine you got high on this morning.

        legal stigma-free dope consumption for non-medical purposes. That is sick!

        Why?

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Alcohol is a factor in the following

    * 73% of all felonies * 73% of child beating cases * 41% of rape cases * 80% of wife battering cases * 72% of stabbings * 83% of homicides

    Ethan Epstein; these are hard facts! So are you now going to campaign for a return to the prohibition of alcohol? I think not, for even you must realize that the prohibition of alcohol was far worse than what we have now which is the proper regulation of alcohol.

    Go back to high school economics class, and learn about supply and DEMAND. Learn that you cannot up DEMAND simply by upping supply. Contrary to popular held superstition, drugs are not PUSHED, the drug dealers are filling a DEMAND not creating one. The DEMAND is here in the US and is impossible to control, but what is possible to control, is the income from that DEMAND. All we have to do is allow legal businesses to meet that DEMAND. Under proper regulation drug use will not rise, as it couldn’t get any worse than it is at present.

    This war has failed! It has been nothing but a plague or an experiment in how to divert intelligent energy away from dealing with the problem of drug use and addiction. It has wasted our resources whilst encouraging civil, judicial, and penal procedures associated with police states. Even calling it a drug war is grossly misleading; this is a war on all of us and everything the USA once stood for.

    Of course, if a drug user commits property theft or assault , he should be dealt with accordingly. It is not just unnecessary but also counterproductive to preemptively attack drug users on the basis that they might be criminals. We know that the overwhelming majority of drug users are law -abiding people. They are quite often our close family members, our friends or our neighbors. We have filled a significant portion of the prison system with such people. And where has it got us?

    The drug war will end soon, make no mistake about that; totalitarianism always collapses under the weight of its own incompatibility with human nature. But will it end peacefully due to the adoption of a more sensible policy, or will we allow the already severe and chronic symptoms to worsen beyond a point of no foreseeable return.

    I know you feel it sucks to see support for your beloved prohibition fading rapidly, but sloppy thinking like yours is what got us into this mess in the first place, so to continue to spew your cognitive dissonance isn’t going to help at all.

    Kindly find yourself another lost cause, and preferably one which is far less dangerous for the rest of us.

    • collapse expand

      malcolmkyle… You obviously suffer from acute obsessive cognitive dissonance. Your incredibly simplistic argument in no ways balances the complexity of the implications of legalizing the sale and consumption of all forms of controlled intoxicants. Think before you post! The inanity of your repeated cut and paste put-down screed is boring whilst dense.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    They didn’t beat Rodney King because they hated drunk driving.

    They did terrorize Jonathan Whitworth because he smoked pot. There was a single baggie with pot residue in his curbside trash, which they took to the police station and went through at taxpayer expense; they then determined this made his family a menace to society, and dispatched SWAT to his house–only about a half mile from mine!

    Current law allows law enforcement to tax 100% of drugs and drug-related paraphernalia, such as that hated and dangerous commodity known as US currency, when they confiscate your property and keep or sell it for the arresting department. The government doesn’t need imminent domain to seize your home, your car, or your cash (or gold): they only need a few ounces of marijuana.
    That’s not very libertarian of you to support.

    http://reason.com/archives/2010/01/26/the-forfeiture-racket

  4. collapse expand

    Ethan – Your command of scholarship is highly questionable at best. Your primary sources seem to be your own materials. Again, we must compare you to Ward Churchill. The only difference between you and Ward Churchill is that he was smart enough to write under a ghost name, and then cite the ghost as fodder for material written under his own name.

    In sum, we conclude your command of scholarship is worse than even Ward Churchill.

  5. collapse expand

    You also build the straw man with article and compare possession of cannabis (for example) to murder. Are you really so dense that you are unable to understand the difference between a victimless ‘crime’ such as possession of cannabis or cocaine, and a ‘victim-full’ crime such as murder, robbery, drunken driving (because of its potential for victims) or rape?

    I’ll stop for now. I am however, keenly interested in your inability to defend yourself when other posters rip you to shreds. I would like you to respond to Justin St. Giles Payne’s point that the entire premise of your article is in point of fact wrong. The policemen who terrorized that family and their child, and killed their dogs did nothing wrong. They broke no laws.

    Why are you claiming that the cops who conducted the raid did anything wrong? What if those officers had found a pound of cannabis? Would you then have thought the raid was acceptable? Would you then be making the point that the raid was inexcusable behavior? I think you are only saying it after the fact. If the officers behaved in exactly the same way, and had found cocaine or heroin in deal-able quantities, I seriously doubt you would be criticizing their thuggish, brutish behavior.

    So how about it Ethan? How about a response for Justin St. Giles Payne? I am betting you will however, remain silent. You prohibitionists generally aren’t much for public discourse. You will rant, and then probably sit at home a little flummoxed, and thoroughly disgusted that others would dare to point out the childish and pedestrian flow of your narcissistic logic. (Narcissistic as in incessantly citing yourself for your ‘sources’).

  6. collapse expand

    Really, did you take any logic (or statistics) courses in college? As your logic is quite fallacious in this article. Your arguments:

    1. They claim that the Drug War “causes” drug violence, disregarding the nature of people who sell hard drugs in the first place.

    The nature of selling something that has been deemed illegal (to a buyer that WANTS that illegal substance) makes the overall situation dangerous. Beyond that, the above argument is without merit. Unless you can show me multiple psychological studies that all show that anyone who gets into the business of selling drugs is, by their nature, a violent hard-hearted person, who would have been that way no matter how they chose to earn their money, then all you are doing is making a judgement call based on anecdotal evidence.

    2. They foist misleading statistics, downplaying the dangers that heroin, cocaine, and other hard drugs present.

    What you ignore with your article on statistics is that the fact that drugs are illegal is what makes them more dangerous. Alcohol is regulated. Tobacco, although less regulated – due to a strong tobacco lobby – but still regulated. If illegal drugs were made legal and regulated, you would see the rates of deaths from these drugs go down. People will always abuse alcohol, and many will die from that abuse. People will die from the use of tobacco as long as it is used, as nicotine causes cancer as well as other health related medical problems. But to argue that the rate of deaths from legal substances is less than the rate of deaths from illegal substances without looking at the details is an empty argument.

    3. They claim that the Drug War’s failure is a reason to stop the Drug War – as if the fact that there are still poor people is a reason to call off the War on Poverty.

    As there will always be poor people, there will always be people who WANT to use these drugs that have been deemed illegal by our government. Given that there will always be demand, there will always be supply. The War on Drugs has not been shown to be able to make a dent in either. These substances have been around since the beginning of human existence, and they have always been desired by humans. The War on Drugs has been able to make careers for law enforcement officers, as well as careers for the suppliers of these illegal substances.

    4. They say that drug addiction is a “disease,” and that therefore drugs should be legalized. (I’m still scratching my head over that one, too.)

    What “they” say is that drug addiction follows the “disease model”, and drug treatment follows the disease model. This says nothing for those who are able to safely use drugs while otherwise leading meaningful lives with good jobs and loving families. Hard to make a generalization about that, but I can say that the drug users in my life are not homeless addicts. Hell, the only addicts in my own family are addicted to alcohol, a legal drug.

    5. And they say that legalizing drugs will halt drug smuggling, disregarding the fact that booze, tobacco, and Louis Vuitton purses – all legal substances – are smuggled in mass quantities.

    “They” say that legalizing drugs will dramatically decrease drug smuggling activities. The same thing happened when alcohol was made legal again.

    Finally, you NEVER discuss the REAL issue here. The REAL issue is that these drugs should never have been made illegal in the first place, and there has been NO GOOD argument made yet as to why these substances that people WANT and should be able to get and consume ARE illegal.

    Please, focus on that argument. But do a better job than you have been doing so far, as I am not impressed.

  7. collapse expand

    The police SWAT team raid in Columbia, Missouri, causing so much consternation occurred a few miles from my home–in Columbia, Missouri. Earlier this week, I listened to several dozen citizens among a crowd of several hundred complain about the SWAT team raid and offer suggestions.

    My listening had a special purpose: I am one of nine Columbia citizens appointed by the City Council to serve on a Citizens Police Review Board created last year. We might eventually receive a complaint from the target of the police raid, or we might not.

    But whether or not we receive a complaint from an individual, the other Board members and I are already involved–the police chief has asked us to suggest changes in SWAT team policy beyond what he will implement unilaterally.

    You can eventually read more about the situation on my True/Slant blog, “In Justice.”

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    About Me

    I'm a writer based in Portland, Oregon. My work has appeared in the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, the New York Press, The Big Money, sp!Ked online, the Epoch Times, the Daily NK, and others. From 2005 to 2007, I wrote a column on culture and politics for the (alas, now defunct) Seattle-based Internationalist Magazine. In so doing, I filed dispatches from Berlin, Seoul, Paris, New York, and, yes, Reno - among other places. In 2009, I reported on business from Shanghai. I attended Reed College, in Portland, Oregon.

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