Friday, June 19, 2009

Balance the Budget? End the War on Drugs

Talking to a beer industry person yesterday -- I'm going to skip their name for obvious reasons -- who dropped this bomb: instead of raising taxes on booze -- which historically results in lower tax revenues, not higher -- why not balance the budget by legalizing recreational drugs? Here's his thinking:
  • Tax them and sell them in 'drug stores': source of revenue, safer purchase, safer drugs (meaning more money and less costs and no financial reward for drug dealers)
  • Release all non-violent drug offense prisoners immediately; stop arresting new ones (huge savings in prisons, and more attention paid to violent and property crime...which decriminalizing drugs will also lower)
  • Eliminate the DEA and drug enforcement arms of police forces, end Coast Guard search and seizure (huge savings, greater personal liberty, return focus to protecting the nation from terrorism)
  • End the huge flow of money to criminal producers and suppliers (ends huge flow of money to destabilizing groups and terrorists and the Taliban...)

Talk about your win-win. Before you start to scream...think about how much the War on Drugs looks exactly like Prohibition enforcement, and how futile, expensive, and corrupt that was, and what a great thing it was for organized crime, and how that eventually wound up. And then think about how relatively harmless smoking weed is: the most dangerous part is growing it, selling it, or buying it! And think about the main reason we got Repeal: jobs.

Food for thought. At least for discussion. As Rahm Emanuel said, "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Let's talk seriously about legalizing drugs. And while we're at it, let's abolish the PLCB.

27 comments:

Rustmeister said...

That makes too much sense - it'll never fly.

Tom E said...

I'm all for ending any war against something that cannot actually be defeated. Some politician declares war against something and it sounds great. Everybody loves him for it and thinks he's the tough guy they want in office and he gets elected. And then the war never ends and a lot of money gets wasted. Way to go, America!

http://destinationbeer.blogspot.com/

Jonny said...

From a strictly political and sociological perspective, I've been saying the same thing for quite some time. Here's why the state and those in power won't do it. Recreational drug use keeps prisons open, full, and growing--and there's a lot of money in that. Angela Davis calls it the Prison Industrial Complex in her book, "Are Prisons Obsolete?" Excuse the leftist bent.

jb said...

HEAR HEAR!

Hopefully enough people will start to clue in on this, look at what other countries have done, and realize the distinction between legalization and endorsement.

Joe said...

That's crazy talk. It makes too much sense.

EvilchurchdOc said...

Bravo to you for posting this. Prohibition certainly still exists today. The debate has been raging lately and this needs to get around the beer world as well. Regulate It, save our economy. Law enforcement has been speaking out as well. see www.leap.cc (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)

Rob K said...

It'll cut the huge amounts of drug related violent crime too.

sam k said...

One of the potential stumbling blocks to this well-reasoned approach is the increased privatization of our prison system. When prisons are run as profit-making machines, there is no incentive to have them less than full, which totally defeats the purpose of prison. Ideally, you'd want LESS prisoners every year. Not these days.

The whole system is full of crap. Every day we pass laws that make people criminals who were law-abiding citizens the day before. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy of pork that has more piglets suckling on those tantalizing teats every day.

I agree...it all makes too much sense to even be considered, Lew, but thanks for your effort.

Patrick said...

I agree with every single idea proposed.

How happy would you expect the narcotics agents, lawyers and various other employees be? Self-preservation for such large vast agencies is a hard battle to fight.

Lew Bryson said...

Sam, Patrick,
These are some of the same arguments advanced by the opponents of abolishing the PLCB. To which I reply, these are not jobs programs.

This may take politicians with heart and courage. I refuse to believe that such are not with us. I only wish some authoritative voices would pick this up and run with it.

jb said...

Patrick, there will still be plenty of other crimes to keep most of those officers and their offices busy.

Lew Bryson said...

I'm also surprised no one has protested against the idea of "drug stores." Any idiot can grow free weed (why do you think they call it "weed?"); why should they pay the government for it? How do you tax it without creating a new sub-economy of criminal smuggling? My suggestion: tax it at a low rate tagged to the price of beer. Keep the tax low enough to discourage cheating, high enough to make some money. If you get greedy, smuggling starts and you have to spend money on enforcement.

Lew Bryson said...

Yes, jb: crimes worth their time. White collar crime. Arson. Sex crimes. And those filthy bastards who write the viruses that make Jim Weber's PC continue to send out spam. (Jim, dude, you gotta fix that...)

jb said...

No to mention that you can take a bunch of those displaced officers and retrain them or hire others in chemical dependency to actually HELP these sick people get better and stay off the stuff.

Anonymous said...

"This may take politicians with heart and courage."

And that is where the problm lies with this plan... Just as temperence movements got the ball rolling on prohibition, so too the pressure from the god-fearing masses will snuff this idea out before it ever begins. Too many politicians worried about votes and image.

I had a sociology professor back in college who advocated for this notion constantly. I personally have no stake in recreational dug use, but the economic benefits could literally be staggering. I'm buying what your seling here, but only in theory. I'm not about to hold my breath.

Marc said...

Not to be the Devil's advocate for this discussion, but this all seams like a very logical way to raise money, eliminate crime, etc. But the reality is that our great representatives will just spend the additional money made and still insist on raising taxes, and something else will replace drugs for organized crime. The thought that legalizing alcohol and taxing it would solve all the problems...look where we are at now! It would be like creating peace in the middle east!

Harry Spade said...

No time for an an in-depth comment, so I'll just say that I'm in favor of ending the "war on drugs". Who do I holler at to voice my opinion? My government reps obviously; anyone else waving this banner?

First Stater said...

I fought on the opposing side of the war on drugs for years. It's a battle that will never be won and I cannot foresee a draw. Too much money involved. Ending this 'war' makes perfect sense. I am all for legalizing drugs which are natural, synthesized or refined drugs are another ball of wax. Maybe the 'drug' stores should be required to display before and after shots of Keith Richards.

Geoff said...

I talked to someone who works for the NJ US Attorney. I'm not sure if the prisons are really filled with recreational drug users. He said they mainly use the lower level people to get to the higher level people.

I'm still sympathetic to eliminating the War on Drugs, but I think this point is exaggerated.

Lew Bryson said...

"2007 Justice statistics showed that nearly 60 percent of the state prisoners serving time for a drug offense had no history of violence and four out of five drug arrests were for drug possession, not sales." That's from Dahlia Lithwick's recent piece in Slate (I think it ran in Newsweek, too). That's a lot of prisoners.

JessKidden said...

Yeah, sounds all well and good re: the current economic problems- but have you considered what affect legal marijuana would have on the brewing industry?
The Brewery Workers Union (and a Catholic priest- go figure) did

sam k said...

Jess, you may have no personal history with the use of marijuana, but I can tell you that my prior experience says that using pot actually INCREASES the consumption of beer! No worries, mate!

Anonymous said...

I'm all for ending the War on Drugs – or at least the war on marijuana – but I'm wary of all this tax talk.

I'm against all so-called "sin taxes" because I think they create conflicts of interest for the government.

Do we really want the government to depend on people doing drugs the way the government currently depends on people gambling, drinking and smoking?

Let citizens decide how to use their own bodies and money.

That said... I'm not opposed to some gentle regulation of drug sales.

Let people grow and process whatever drugs they want for private use and maybe allow states to levy regular sales taxes on drugs.

The federal government should butt out. Forget bailing out California. Let them legalize pot and their economy will bloom again.

JessKidden said...

Yeah, well, I could see that, I suppose. My experience "pairing" the two substances goes back to the 1960's and an evening that also featured... I want to say cases of Schaefer or Rheingold quarts, but it may have been Bud.

Still the "dscw" ("dope smoker common wisdom") at the time was to match it with cheap jug wine. I have no comment on the current culture having dropped out of it when a ounce hit $25 or so. I've stuck with craft beer, despite a case going well above that mark...

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

"This may take politicians with heart and courage."

WAAAAA-HA-HA-HA-Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha...... Good one, Lew. Unfortunately, the closest I've ever found to such creatures are in the Libertarian Party, and technically I don't think they qualify as "politicians" as a result.

Rich said...

Legalize it? Sounds very hippy and libertarian to me.

Yeah, I'm all for it. It would be refreshing to turn on the news and NOT see a story about a 7 year old getting caught in the line of fire from a drug deal gone bad.

azorie said...

God that's a great idea, sadly the drug INC will never let that happen.
Not to mention I think some the cops love to bust pot smokers. On top of that it MAKES TOTAL sense so that not what Washington is about, so it will never even get written into law. So on top of that lets end all wars and get the heck out of the middle east. WAR costs more than all that other shit combined.