Aug 29 2007
Below is an expanded discussion that I started earlier today related to drug law enforcement and a WTF moment I had when I read Obama’s promises to New Orleans.
According to High Times, on Aug. 22, 2007 Obama made a statement that he “would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users, it’s not the best use of our resources.” The video proof can be found on YouTube. However, that statement is misleading. It appears that Obama is for the continuation of the war on drugs and establishment of Drug Enforcement Agencies. During his visit to New Orleans on Aug. 25, 2007 Obama said if elected “he would establish a Drug Enforcement Agency office in New Orleans that would be dedicated to stopping drug gangs across the region” (New York Times, Obama’s Plan to Restore New Orleans). WTF? Prosecuting people who make medical use of marijuana is a poor use of resources, but establishing yet another Drug Enforcement Agency isn’t? As Scott Morgan from Stop the Drug War said, “Well, Barack Obama, you know what else is a poor use of resources? Creating a second DEA office in New Orleans when people still have holes in their roofs and mud in their basements.”
jb1125 responded to my post with the following:
I agree that the long term goal should be legalization, but you can’t just let gang members roam the streets.
Hundreds of people are being killed in New Orleans due to gang violence. These gangs that sell drugs are empowered by the lack of enforcement.
The increase in criminal activity due to the lack of enforcement is a disincentive for people to return and makes it harder to rebuild infrastructure. So, you can’t fix roofs, if gangs steal your equipment. The best way to get rid of the gangs would be to eliminate their source of income by legalizing drugs, but that won’t happen anytime soon, so the best legal way is to increase enforcement.
I would argue that allowing gangs to freely sell drugs is against the interests of people opposed to war on drugs. In order to create real change, there needs to be a political consensus, and if drug dealers, who are killing people, roam the streets , then they can be used as an example of what will happen if you legalize.
My response is too long to put in the comments section, so here it is:
Drug enforcement agencies deal with all drug enforcement not just gang violence, and that, unfortunately includes a majority of petty users who don’t harm anyone but themselves.
Empirically speaking there are no conclusive studies to show drug law enforcement reduces violence. There are two camps to the debate on drugs and violence, those who argue prohibition causes violence and those who argue drugs themselves cause violence. So there are theories on what causes violence but no real proof on what reduces violence.
I personally like to quote Chris Rock, in that people don’t sell crack, but crack sells itself. In order words, I am of the camp that believes drug prohibition causes violence.
I base my theory on a number of peer-reviewed studies that show drug law enforcement is very expensive, cost-ineffective and may lead to an increase in violent crime.
A 2005 study published in Social Science Quaterly concludes that “increases in total per capita drug arrests and arrests for “hard drug” possession are accompanied by higher rates for all crimes except assault. Increased arrests for the manufacture or sale of marijuana are associated with increases in larcenies.”
The Independent Institute also cites a Florida study, “violent crime also increased markedly in response to greater drug law enforcement, as drug dealers displaced by law enforcement invaded the turf of established dealers, and residents of previously untapped markets fell prey to violent criminals. Since 1989, Florida has reduced its drug enforcement efforts, and its property crime rate has fallen.”
A Harvard study published in 2003 in the Journal of Public Economics concludes that, “increased drug incarceration has likely been a small (1–3%) reduction in violent and property crime … it is unlikely that the dramatic increase in drug imprisonment was cost-effective.”
And I could keep going…
Now, on to suggested solutions to the drug crime problem.
Economists Benson and Rasmussen recommend the following policies:
1. Reduce Crime and Drug Abuse by Cracking Down on Juvenile Criminals. Punishing youthful offenders early might divert them from further crime and remove them from the crime subculture where they are more likely to begin drug use.
2. Emphasize Treatment Over Drug Law Enforcement. Treatment is more cost-effective because it cuts consumption directly, whereas law enforcement works indirectly, by raising the price of drugs.
3. Abolish Civil Forfeiture Laws. Civil forfeiture laws give the illusion that drug law enforcement is self-financing. They give law enforcement agencies incentives to pursue counter-productive policies that violate due process.
4. Make Public Safety the Main Police Priority. Law enforcement agencies should be evaluated on the basis of their effectiveness in preventing crime, not merely in responding to it after the fact. Improved citizen cooperation and sense of public safety should also be high priorities.
5. Make Sentencing Guidelines Reflect the Highest Priorities. Sentencing guidelines must allow officials to consider prison capacity, so that dangerous prisoners are not released prematurely to make space for the less dangerous.
6. Decentralize the Prisons. Keeping prosecutors and judges in the same jurisdictions as the prisons to which they send convicts would reduce the likelihood of dangerous prisoners being released prematurely.
7. Decriminalize Drug Use. Decriminalization would free up scarce criminal justice resources in order to focus on violent and property crime. Prohibition, especially of less dangerous drugs, is ultimately a self-defeating policy.
4 responses so far