Societies can put a certain amount of pressure on its members to conform to certain standards. But that pressure, which is reinforced by the media, and behavior by the vast majority, and by law, which is enforced by the police, cannot combat the desires of elements of that society who reject the established societal line.
When a society rejects certain social behavior with no plausible alternative but law enforcement then a social rebellion begins. The most famous is prohibition, almost a century ago, that led to members of our society often drinking inferior product when that was the only thing available, often leading to physical problems including blindness. Prohibition also accelerated and expanded organized crime in this country as the organized criminal element found importing and manufacturing alcohol (the banned substance) as a way to raise vast sums of money thereby buying politicians and law enforcement and expanding their underground empire. This is not to say that supporters of prohibition did not have legitimate reasons for their campaign but legislating aspects of social behavior, including enjoyment, is mostly doomed to failure.
We have had the last forty years an expanding parallel in the drug economy. Keeping substances illegal means that what government can do best, safeguarding quality and quantity has been lost. Also, vast gangs have replaced the mafia and mafia inspired organizations as conduits for the manufacture and distribution of drugs. This failure by government has certainly led to some deaths as inferior product hits the streets. In addition, the drug economy means that a larger percentage of the citizenry are forced into illegal behavior, thereby weakening society’s bonds and setting the potential for otherwise law-abiding citizens to go to prison.
I am not defending the drug economy. This column today is not about the righteousness of the society taking certain actions contrary to the desires to a sizable part of the citizenry. What this column today is about is democracy. When we make pronouncements affecting so many lives we better have a plausible alternative besides jail. Anyone denying the failure of our drug policy and the establishment of a drug economy is just not being realistic. And pragmatic as to what makes our society work.
“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black people, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
“It’s high time the presidential candidates took a more aggressive stand on drugs. With the exception of Rand Paul, who was promptly booted from his party, the Republicans are hopeless on this front. To his great credit, Bernie Sanders has said we must “rethink” the failed war on drugs, and he’s introduced legislation to take pot out of the Federal Controlled Substance act. He also supported Vermont’s recent decision to decriminalize marijuana.”
“Hillary Clinton, regrettably, has been too tepid. She supports a federal relaxation of marijuana combat the desires of research, but that’s not exactly a step towards ending prohibition. “I do support the use of medical marijuana,” she said during the first Democratic debate, “and I think even there we need to do a lot more research so that we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief.” This is a symbolic half-measure, the kind of position a moderate Republican would take. It’s not good enough, and Democratic voters ought to demand more.”
“Its racist and political origins aside, the drug war has been an abject failure – morally, legally, economically. It has to end, and Democrats must lead the way. If Clinton is the nominee, as she appears to be, she should be asked to clarify her position on drugs over and over and over again, until she finally arrives at a sane and defensible position. It’s the right thing to do, and, as Baum pointed out, it doesn’t require much political courage. This is an issue waiting to be owned by one of the two parties – let it be the Democrats.” http://www.salon.com/2016/03/23/former_nixon_aide_admits_racist_roots_of_americas_drug_war_bernie_and_hillary_must_own_this_issue_and_fix_this_injustice_now/