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Friday, April 6, 2007

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

Cheap drugs and
dynamite for everybody!

What would you think if I suggested that every man and woman above the age of 16 be allowed to purchase dynamite whenever they felt like it?

Hey, I’ll even put a little bit of regulation in the pot - I will arbitrarily limit all of us to three sticks of dynamite at a time - but there will not be any regulation or records of sales.

What do you think? Are you comfortable with all of your neighbors potentially driving around with three sticks of dynamite in the trunk of the family sled?

Now, hold that thought for a moment.

Last week I received a couple of responses to recent columns. Responses are always appreciated, even when the writers do not agree with my amazingly thoughtful, witty and perceptive analysis of the world as published once each week as Sage Views.

Honest. Even I do not hold a lock on all truth and knowledge, and I admit it. And, it is through discussion that good ideas are hammered out. That is what the opinion page of a newspaper is all about.

So, lets hammer a little.

One of last week’s letters took issue with my stance that drugs of all types should be legalized.

The writer made the point that it is absurd for me to make the statements that drugs are not ruining our society, and that drug use is a victimless crime, because family members get hurt when other family members exchange a good life for a life of drug use.

As well, he made the statement that almost all crimes are eventually related to drug use.

That’s honest enough, and not invalid at first glance. At least, I do not think so since I used to think the exact same thing.

My solution to the “drug problem” 20 years ago was simply to exterminate the vermin, or at least make the penalty for use so severe that only the mentally deranged would even experiment with drugs.

The final implication of the responder’s comments is that legalizing drugs would send our society into chaos. More and more men, women and children would choose meth or heroin or coke over productive lives. Crime would go through the roof as the wave of addicts robbed the non-addicts to pay for their next fix.

And this has been the standard line in our 40-year-old-plus war on drugs. Year after year, tax dollar after tax dollar, sacrificed constitutional protection after sacrificed constitutional protection - we are told that we have to escalate the war on drugs or else an ever growing number of our fellow men and women will become addicts.

I accepted this line as fact for years. Then I began to ask, “Why?”

Why do we think this? Does history bear this out? Does some other experience?

Booze is readily available, and addictive, and yet large portions of our society are not drunkards. Some are - but there will always be some people who decide to abandon what most of us consider a productive life and hide - legally or illegally, they will find a way to hide, ease their pain, or whatever.

You cannot save them.

But the vast majority of us does not crawl into a bottle and pull the cap down behind us. We could, but we don’t.

So, why do we think drugs will lead us down a different path?

Our founding fathers, and all Americans before our crusade began, had access to just about any kind of drug you can imagine from opium to marijuana.

How do you think Coca-Cola got its name?

And yet, the vast majority of pre-drug-war Americans were not drug addicts.

So, what changed?

Very little, as I can tell. People are still people, and mind-altering drugs are still mind-altering drugs.

So, when did we transform from a society full of competent individuals who did not readily fall for dope, into a society full of simpletons eager to shoot, snort, pop and smoke our way into oblivion?

I do not think we did. We have been told this is the case, but so far I can find no proof.

I think the drug war has turned out to be exceptionally profitable for several different outfits, from government agencies to drug runners, and legal (and hence cheap) dope would wipe out a whole segment of our economy and tax base.

I think when it is convenient, the government and we ourselves, are perfectly content to allow people to make competent decisions regarding very serious matters.

Remember the question about dynamite?

Well, five gallons of gasoline has the same explosive potential as a stick of dynamite, and in real terms, is far more volatile. It is certainly a better weapon for destruction. What better way to kill your enemy than to soak his doors with 10 or 15 gallons of gas at three in the morning and then light him up?

And it will explode. You just have to put it under pressure and any nine-year-old with a will can figure out how to do that. Ask me how I know.

The stuff is dangerous.

Yet, I can buy all I want, at anytime of day or night, with no regulation what-so-ever.


Because a commercial, consumer driven society like ours cannot produce and consume like it does without cheap, individual transportation.

Locking down gasoline purchases would cause a lot of rich people to lose a lot of money.

So, as a society, we “trust” each other with a fantastically flammable explosive, and, amazingly, we have not blown ourselves up, or incinerated our neighbors.

I bet we would see the same result with legalized drugs. A few people would burn themselves out, but most would not. And, the ones that would are burning themselves out today.

But, I admit, I might be wrong. So, I propose an experiment.

We have had a fifty-year war on drugs, and the result is higher taxes, a militarized police force focused completely on drug trafficking and tax collection, a severely gutted constitution, and thousands of laws and regulations.

And no result. Things are just getting worse, according to those that want to continue the fight.

So, lets legalize the stuff for one year. No limits. No taxes. No crimes.

If, at the end of a year there are VW microbuses filled with crazed addicts terrorizing the few non-addicts for their next fix, I will admit I was wrong and we can pick up the war right where we left off.

If not…

Well, if not, perhaps we can start giving people the credit I think they are due and stop treating ourselves like immature children incapable of not sticking our hand in the fire again and again and again.

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