Article 1 Section 8 of The Constitution lists what legislative powers the federal government has. It does not give the federal government authority to ban any substance. That is why the federal government amended the Constitution (18th amendment) to ban the sale or manufacturing of alcohol. The ban directly resulted in the increase of violent crime, most prominently murder, and the rise of gangsters and criminals. Whenever a substance is banned it creates a vacuum for a black market to exist, and opportunist will most assuredly fill the void. Bans lead to unknown purity, quality, and additives, resulting in deaths. After realizing the error of their ways the federal government repealed the ban on alcohol by ratifying the 21st amendment. The result? Crime went down, the murder rate dropped exponentially and the gangsters that controlled the black market on alcohol were now irrelevant in the supply. If the federal government needed to amend the Constitution to ban alcohol in 1919, where is the Constitutional Amendment banning certain drugs? Why have we, as a nation, allowed the government to unjustifiably sidestep and subvert the Constitution. Our Constitution is supposed to be the supreme law of the land.
We should aspire to live in a country where we all have the right to make bad decisions as long as those decisions do not infringe on anybody’s Liberty or personal freedom. Have we been so misguided as a country that we actually believe in such a thing as a victimless crime? If there is no victim, there is no crime. It creates a perilous criterion that the government needs to protect us from ourselves. If people don’t have sovereignty over their own bodies, mind and consciousness we cannot consider ourselves free at all. This dissonance takes our individual liberties and replaces it with authoritarianism.
Authoritarianism takes form in many ways. One way is civil asset forfeiture where the government can take your property, possessions, cash and most of all your reputation. All this can be done without a conviction of the crime of which you are accused. It takes form through the prison industrial complex where we have the highest incarceration rate in the entire world in sheer numbers and per capita. The United States represents only 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated. We also have the highest recidivism rate and the most people imprisoned for nonviolent crimes.
The United States government uses the War on Drugs as an excuse to take away people’s voting and gun rights. Some States go so far to take these rights away for simple misdemeanor possession. Pharmaceutical companies lobby Washington to keep pouring billions in taxpayer dollars to fund the War on Drugs. God forbid we find a cheaper or safer way to treat our pain or mental health problems. No matter how much we want to dissuade others from doing drugs. We need to realize it’s not our place to tell someone we know what’s better for them than they do. Nobody holds a higher authority on our bodies than we do.
The War on Drugs condones warrantless checkpoints to search through citizens cars, using drugs as a scapegoat. We should not be violating the Constitution no matter how good the intentions. It ends up undermining our civil liberties and personal freedom. The Fourth Amendment which Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once referred to it as “The essential right to be left alone is the most comprehensive of all rights and the right most cherished by civilized men.” The fourth amendment is supposed to protect us from unwarranted searches and seizures. We need to be very careful because violations of our Constitution puts us on a very dangerous path that we may not be able to recover from. Random warrantless checkpoints for drugs today leads to unwarranted searches for anything the government see’s unfit tomorrow.
All the drug war has done is exacerbate the problem. Instead of helping people we punish them, subsequently ruining their lives. Our main purpose in life should be to help one another. The approach we have taken as a nation helps no one and only creates more problems in the end. In countries like Portugal, that decriminalized all drugs in 2001 and shifted spending to treatment. The citizens of Portugal have seen savings in the budget by treating drug addicts rather than incarcerating them. Overdose has drastically decreased, injection drug use is down fifty percent, HIV and other intravenous diseases all dropped, and crime fell to an all-time low. In America, all these statistics continue to increase or stay the same and are precipitated by the War on Drugs. There has to be a better way to approach this problem. Step one we need to treat addicts not as criminals but with empathy as our fellow countrymen. Maybe then we can begin to heal from this deplorable tragedy that has turned into the biggest human rights violation of Our generation.