Friday, April 25, 2008

Drug Peace Marches On : Argentina

As the fruitless, wasteful, destructive "war on drugs" (e.g. the arbitrary criminalization of self-regarding personal conduct) rolls on in the good ole US of A, filling our prisons and/or stigmatizing 1000's of otherwise peaceful law-abiding citizens, other countries continue waking up and acting on the reality of the total failure of drug prohibition.

In one fell swoop an Argentine federal court effectively decriminalized personal drug use, at least in the nation's capital Buenos Aires.

[Translated from Spanish - El Financiero En Linea]
Buenos Aires, April 23 .- A federal court in Buenos Aires decriminalized individual consumption of drugs in the capital, cancelling thousands of cases of persons accused of possessing small amounts of marijuana.

The ruling states that Federal Chamber of Appeals declared unconstitutional sections of the law enacted in 1989 punishing drug users.

The rule punishes consumers on the grounds they are the backbone of a chain that ends in drug trafficker. But the court ruled that such a presumption only generated "an avalanche of records for consumers without achieving the goal of moving up the chain of trafficking" in drugs.

Before any of the dwindling minority of rabid irrational drug prohibition defenders get their knickers in (more of) a twist, this is hardly isolated judicial "activism". Though knocking down an unconstitutional and unjust law should require no political validation, the Argentine court's wisdom apparently also reflects the position of the Argentine government.

"Although the issue should be settled in the Supreme Court, the court's ruling in Buenos Aires is in line with government policy of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in favor of reforming the laws to decriminalize drug use.

During a Special Session of the Economic and Social Council of the UN, held last month in Vienna, the Argentine Minister of Justice and Security, Anibal Fernandez, raised the "complete failure" of the policy of punishing drug users."

Would that the United States could snap out of this drug policy inertia that exists whereby everyone, even the drug warriors, knows the "drug war" is a dismal unaccountable failure by any conceivable measure, but few politicians have the stones to stand up and act. Most are living in the past, fearful of that tired old "soft on crime" label that worked in the 70's and 80's. There are definite glimmers of hope, though.

Would that we could end, in one fell swoop, the dark consequences of drug prohibiton such as :

  • Unconstitutional, illegal property seizures flagrantly violating basic due process of law.
  • The aggressive militarization of civilian law enforcement, creating Gestapo-esque law enforcement units busting down doors and often causing collateral deaths of innocents in the process.
  • The cat-and-mouse law enforcement games waged between drug black market entrepreneurs and enforcement agents, resulting in an ongoing erosion of general respect for the rule of any law, much less drug laws.
  • Needless diversion and endangerment of law enforcement personnel generally.
  • The constant urban crossfire and gang turf wars caused by the lawless wild west black market drug trade that will never ever cease because prohibition inflates prices such that the reward is worth taking almost any risk, especially by those who have nothing to lose.
  • The illegal firearms trade that goes hand-in-hand with drug black market violence.
  • The scourge of deaths caused by adulterated drugs or street-drug-related disease (which, by the way, remain far less than those caused every day by prescribed approved pharmaceutical drugs).
  • The constant plague of property crimes as desperate addicts rob, burgle, and steal to pay smarmy street dealers prices inflated beyond reason or ration by the prohibition-created black market.
  • The wasting of billions in public resources, thrown down a rat hole of attrition all to the end of clogging an already over-burdened criminal justice system with non-violent "malum prohibitum" offenders.
  • Easier access by minors to drugs than to alcohol in many cases, because the black market never discriminates amongst paying customers.

All this for a system of laws that do nothing to curb drug use much less drug trade but rather merely criminalizes more and more people with no other result than making more people into criminals. It is socialism gone crazy in America.

When do we finally say : "Time Out! This isn't working" ?

Public policy about drug use should be limited to offering humane assistance and responsible regulation to prevent the three D's : disease, death, and dependency.

This need not come at the expense of the responsible self-regarding personal choices and civil liberties of millions who avoid these detriments because....well, they are smart enough to know better without need of brutal nannies with battle fatigues, face masks, tasers and submachine guns.

Nearly nine decades of escalating arrests, prosecutions, penalizations, and incarcerations have done nothing to achieve any real or measurable harm reduction in drug use. Zip. Zilch.

As long as drug abuse is not defined as actual ABuse but rather as any use of any prohibited drug, the arbitrariness of the drug dragnet will continue to indiscriminately grind up the unlucky 3-5% of users it happens to catch, rather than helping 100% of those who actually need it.

Even after the last 37 odd years (pretty much my lifetime) of this harsh expanded industrialized national drug prohibition regime there is absolutely no factual or statistical proof that there has been an iota of progress, even just in stanching the flow of drugs much less in any real harm reduction.

Arguably the "drug war" has inflicted far greater and far more numerous harms than any drugs have ever caused.

Let's wake up America. It is time to face reality and reform these ridiculous puritanical Victorian pseudo-morality laws and end their horrific unintended consequences.

The days of philosophical arguments are long over, the results are in. It is pointless to argue any more about the morality or propriety of personal drug use in the context of the drug war. This never-ending "war" has proven nothing but an unmitigated yet escalating failure down to its most basic stated goal of eradicating drugs or drug usage.

Even if you think drugs are the source of universal evil, the drug war ain't stopping them. Its price in blood, treasure, and social chaos can no longer be tolerated.


Anonymous said...

Viva San Martin!!!! This is welcome news, I just hope the other states like Chile follow suit so users who are spread out across the Americas will not be punished and that all the nations can focus on the problems of the huge narcotraffickers that the "war on drugs" regulation have created through the black market and who primarily come from Colombia. And all the gangs associated with drugs would collapse like a house of cards as legalization programs would 1. regulate drug use at the government level like alcohol and 2. create a depression in the black market for those on the criminal fringes and 3. finally get cancer patients the much needed medical marijuana they have been demanding. We could probably enlist all the OAS to support this kind of action to deal with the real source of the problem rather than incarcerating another 2 million pot smokers and penalize individual users and decrease the drug-related hyperviolence across Latin America. Brian

Tyler Nixon said...

Well said, Brian. The international scene is usually your bailiwick but I thought this was worth comment. We seem to be falling behind our American neighbors both to the north and south on coming to grips with a rational, reality-based drug policy, if any. Let's hope, as you alluded, that more dominoes fall in this movement to restore personal liberty to 100's of millions of people.

Alan Coffey said...

Nice post, welcome news, good job. Amen.