Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Solution for the War on Drugs

Some days back, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein had an opinion piece published at The Hill. Her solution to a black market in drugs caused by prohibition? Convince people not to want to the drugs.

We must pull back the curtains on the false debate between legalizing drugs and current drug policy. The real answer lies in our ability to aggressively reduce the U.S. demand for illegal drugs.

Why is the debate between legalizing drugs and current drug policy a false one? She does not say directly. As best I can determine, her reason comes a few sentences later.

Latin-American leaders are rightly outraged that their citizens continue to suffer because of America’s drug habits.

At the Summit [of the Americas in April], President Obama acknowledged this and accepted the United States’s share of responsibility for drug violence. But, legalization will not solve this problem. More drug addiction is not the answer.

Apparently Senator Feinstein believes legalization would result in an increase of drug addiction. As I understand it, places where these drugs are decriminalized, not even legalized mind you but just decriminalized, drug addiction levels are actually lower than they are here. But in any case, the senator gives no support for her assertion. She simply makes it and moves on.  And that is as far as she ever gets in explaining why the debate between legalizing drugs and current drug policy is supposedly a false one. Needless to say, I find her argument severely lacking.

She moves on to explaining that the U.S. should instead “focus specifically on what the United States can do to eliminate the constant demand for illegal drugs.” She mentions the “Just Say No” program without mentioning whether it did any good. She then suggests

Next, Congress should refund the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s youth media campaign — the only national media campaign dedicated to reducing youth drug use. Funding for this program was eliminated last year in spite of the fact that 85 percent of teens are aware of the advertising campaign.

Again, no mention of effectiveness. No mention of whether or not the campaign was doing anything to reduce demand for drugs. The best she can muster is to say 85% of teens are aware of it. So? Why is that a reason to keep paying for it? She does not say.

Later Senator Feinstein argues that reducing drug demand is cost effective.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, drug abuse and addiction cost the United States $193 billion in preventable healthcare, law enforcement, crime and other expenses each year.

Of course legalization, or at least decriminalization, would help cut back on law enforcement and crime expenses considerably. And if the news I hear from places like Portugal is any indication, drug abuse and addiction would decrease as well.

Then she makes another unsupported assertion.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2010 about 22.6 million — or 9 percent — of Americans age 12 and older were current illegal drug users. 

This is the largest proportion in the past decade. Marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs are the most frequently abused drugs. 

Without action, those numbers will surely climb.

Even if one accepts the first two statements as true (and I’m not sure I do), the last sentence has no support. Why will those numbers surely climb? She does not say. No reason at all is given as to why those rates of drug use will go up. She just says it and apparently expects the reader to accept it. Which means, I have to guess, that she thinks her audience already agrees with her. In which case, I have to wonder, why did she bother to write this opinion piece in the first place? She has not said a single thing that anyone not already agreeing with her would find persuasive.

Finally, she ends with this:

We can’t let the conversation end here. Rather than debate legalization and divide ourselves politically, let’s get to work on the heart of the problem.

Pooh yi. What the senator has missed is that the heart of the problem is not the demand for drugs, but the prohibition against them. Prohibition does not work. It has not worked up to now, and there is no reason to think it will some how start to work if we double down on “Just Say No”. But she is just being a typical politician. Her solution, as is typical for politicians, is to claim that if a government “solution” has not achieved its desired effect, then the answer is to do more of it and to spend more money on it.

Prohibition against drugs has genuinely not worked. The demand remains and the drugs are as available as ever. The violence stems not from the drugs, but from the prohibition. As as been pointed out by other people, in the 1920s, when the Prohibition against alcohol was the law of the land, criminal gangs were shooting each other over the distribution and selling of alcohol, but since the repeal of Prohibition the distribution and sale of alcohol is generally performed without violence. The prohibition against drugs is causing similar problems, and the solution is similar as well. End the prohibition.

The heart of the problem with Senator Feinstein’s solution is that it comes from the same root as the prohibition. Which is, the notion that government can and should solve problems by trying to control people. Good-hearted and well-intentioned authoritarianism, however, is still authoritarianism. And the solution to the problems caused by authoritarianism is not more authoritarianism. The solution is returning liberty to the individual.

7 Responses to “Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Solution for the War on Drugs”

  1. The War on Drugs Is a War on People

  2. missysubmits Says:

    The ‘War on Drugs’ is a complete sham. The US has 5% of the world’s population, yet incarcerates 25% of the world’s prisoners. How many of those individuals are imprisoned for petty marijuana usage? With states turning to private corporations to run these prisons, prisoners are now being used as an almost ‘free’ labor input to create goods for these corporations who in turn sell them at a profit. To me the ‘War on Drugs’ has turned into a socially acceptable form of slave labor or at least the mechanism by which this slave labor is recruited.

    Marijuana is California’s #1 cash crop. This state is $16 billion in debt. And yet, California continues to spend billions of dollars fighting its #1 export, instead of regulating and taxing it.

    It is an upside world and one that makes little sense to me.


    • Well, unfortunately, this is an issue that has to be dealt with at the federal level. All 50 states could legalize marijuana, but the federal government would still be enforcing federal law against marijuana use and distribution. And also unfortunately, only a few U.S. congressfolk are willing to oppose the war on drugs.

  3. missysubmits Says:

    There is a direct correlation between the time Nixon declared the ‘War on Drugs’ and the exponential increase of incarcerated inmates in our prisons. The fact that government and private industry are drawing up contracts over the use of these individuals as inputs of labor for economic growth–that strikes me as morally wrong. I use marijuana only as an example as why the ‘War on Drugs’ is completely irrational. Prohibition was an utter failure. The War on Drugs actually invites the drug cartel to set up shop in our borders. Not to mention the benefits that come with standardization, regulation, and proper identification of these substances, along with directions for proper dosages and limiting where these items can be bought. I am not a proponent of drug use. If junkies want to be junkies, then let them be junkies. I am accountable for myself and my family. Let them be accountable for themselves.

    • I agree that Prohibition was a failure. And the prohibition we have now in regard to drugs has turned out to be just as much a failure. Unfortunately, that is not the way most politicians see it.

      • missysubmits Says:

        Most politicians are liars and thieves. The only one I have found as of late that makes any sense to me is Nigel Farage. I am told he is made out to be a crack pot in the UK. Figures.

        Very nice blog. I am most impressed. And not because you are a Dom, but because you are introspective and rational. Being a Dom is an added bonus though. 🙂

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