According to President Nixon’s Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, back during the Nixon Administration the choice was made to pursue an incarceration approach to drug problems instead of one involving treatment, even though they knew that treatment worked and incarceration did not. Why was this done? Because Nixon anticipated that the political benefits he would reap in being perceived as being “tough,” and fighting against something that could not fight back, would be significant. And, again according to Keindienst, the actual political benefits were far greater than anyone anticipated. But we all have been saddled with many tragic results from that choice ever since that time.
Of course, the presence of mind-altering and sometimes addicting drugs in our society brings harms. But reasonable estimates are that the drug usage itself brings only about 10 percent of those harms. The other 90 percent comes from the drug money. In addition, since no society has ever been without some of these substances, except maybe the Eskimos because they couldn’t grow anything, we should recognize as adults that harms will result from the presence of those drugs – and invoke a policy to reduce those harms. Think of it this way: we can’t even keep these drugs out of our prisons, so how can we expect to keep them out of our communities? (Charles Manson was transferred from one California state prison to another because he was found to be selling drugs from his prison cell – and he was in solitary confinement!) And since, as stated above, one of the approaches that works is drug treatment, which also includes overdose prevention and care and needle exchange programs, those approaches should be emphasized. (The old saying is that dead addicts can’t recover.) Of course, this approach includes enforcement through some incarceration for those whose addictions push them into criminal conduct, such as driving under the influence, burglaries to get money to purchase drugs, etc. So please use your Liberty and actions to help us steer away from the mindless incarceration of drug users we have followed since the Nixon Administration.
Father, Retired Judge, 2012 Libertarian VP candidate, Author.