Burt Prelutsky

I believe it is long past time to end the War on Drugs. That’s not because I approve of drug use or have any desire to encourage it. But this particular war has already gone on longer than the ones in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, put together, with no end in sight and far less to show for it.

I would not only decriminalize drug use, I would give it the same legal status as tobacco and alcohol, and with the same age restrictions. For one thing, this would provide a great source of new tax revenue. Also, it would free up jail space for non-drug related crimes.

With the legalization of drugs, the profits that currently accrue to dealers, who use a portion of their ill-gotten gains to pay off politicians, judges and corrupt cops, could go to American companies and American workers.

In Mexico, the majority of murders and kidnappings can be traced directly to the illegal drug trade. Here in the U.S., just in the past two years, over 700 drug-related kidnappings-for-ransom have taken place in Phoenix, Arizona, and those are just the ones we know about. That city can now boast that in addition to all that sunshine and all those golf courses, it is the number one drug gateway to America.

In spite of what the bleeding heart liberals would claim, it’s not poverty, but greed, that has turned most of our big cities into shooting galleries where innocent bystanders seemingly get plunked more often than the punks battling over drug turf.

I realize that among those people opposed to my suggestion are those who’d see it as the government’s endorsing drug use. Considering all the rotten stuff the government has been up to, ranging from the confiscation of private property to the redistribution of wealth, I don’t think many people look to the government for their moral guidance. I would suggest that such people are not only naïve, but dangerously shortsighted. First of all, the War on Drugs has been going on for decades, and the good guys aren’t winning. I wish we were, but that’s simply not the case. Prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s and it’s not working any better today. And as was the case 80 years ago, it only works to the advantage of the criminal class to keep the price of the product so much higher than it would be if the drugs were made legal.

One of the most irksome aspects of the War is that we Americans are always claiming the moral high ground, righteously condemning the poppy growers in Afghanistan, the drug czars in Colombia and the Mexican cut-throats, as if they all conspired to turn us into a nation of junkies. The fact is, if so many of us weren’t infantile hedonists who can’t even go 24 hours without snorting, shooting or smoking, this crap, the Afghanis would start planting potatoes and the Latino criminals would have to find another way to make a living.

Besides, when millions of us go through as much booze, nicotine and Prozac, as we do, we’re hardly in a position to be casting stones at someone else’s habit.

Furthermore, without the high cost that goes with the stuff being contraband, there wouldn’t be such a major campaign to hook school children. Actually, if the drugs were as legal as soda pop, a good deal of their present allure would evaporate. And not just for the kids, but for most of the overpaid louts in Hollywood and on Wall Street.

If drugs were legalized, we could all finally stop pretending that addiction is an illness, and that those who commit crimes while under the influence are automatically entitled to a Get Out of Jail Free card. Using drugs in the first place is a choice, not an imperative. By this late date, even 10-year-olds know that the damn things are addictive.

I would think that rational people, whatever their political affiliation, could agree that legalizing drugs would be beneficial. After all, Libertarians don’t think it’s anybody’s business -- let alone the government’s -- what people elect to do to themselves. Conservatives, who already believe in smaller government and individual responsibility, should also be delighted by the additional tax burden that would be carried almost exclusively by liberals.

But even for Democrats, there’s a huge upside to my proposal; namely that there would be far fewer laws for scofflaws to scoff at and, as a result, far fewer of these pinheads would be sent to prison. And, as a result, they’d be free to vote.