Crime, Issues, Regulation, Videos

More Inane Developments in the Drug War


When writing about money laundering laws, I’ll sometimes highlight gross abuses by government and I’ll periodically make the usual libertarian arguments about privacy.

But I mostly focus on how the laws simply don’t make sense from a cost-benefit perspective. Anti-money laundering laws and regulations impose large burdens on the private sector, which creates disproportionate hardship for the poor. Yet there’s no evidence that the laws actually hinder criminal activity, which was the rationale for imposing the laws in the first place.

I have the same attitude about the War on Drugs. Yes, I get upset that people are mistreated and it irks me as a libertarian that people aren’t free to make their own choices (even if they are dumb choices) about what to put in their bodies.

But what really gets me angry is the absurd misallocation of law enforcement resources. Consider this info from a recent WonkBlog column in the Washington Post about the ever-expanding efforts of government to harass drug users.

Federal figures on drug arrests and drug use over the past three decades tell the story. Drug-possession arrests skyrocketed, from fewer than 200 arrests for every 100,000 people in 1979…, hovering near 400 arrests per 100,000 people. …despite the tough-on-crime push that led to the surge in arrests in recent decades, illicit drug use today is more common among Americans age 12 and older than it was in the early 1980s. Federal figures show no correlation between drug-possession arrests and rates of drug use during that time.

But here’s the part that should upset all of us, even if we don’t like drugs or even if we think they should be illegal.

Instead of focusing on the fight against crimes that actually have victims (such as robbery, murder, rape, assault, etc), the government is squandering an immense about of time, energy, resources, and money on drug arrests.

…arrests for drug possession continue to make up a significant chunk of modern-day police work. “Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime,” the report finds, citing FBI data. “More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year.” In fact, police make more arrests for marijuana possession alone than for all violent crimes combined.

That last sentence is breathtaking. Does anyone think that busting potheads is more important than fighting genuine crime?!?

Do you want an example of law enforcement resources being misallocated?

Well, this story from New Hampshire tells you everything you need to know.

…an 81-year-old grandmother had been growing…the plant as medicine, a way to ease arthritis and glaucoma and help her sleep at night. Tucked away in a raspberry patch and separated by a fence from any neighbors, the plant was nearly ready for harvest when a military-style helicopter and police descended on Sept. 21. In a joint raid, the Massachusetts National Guard and State Police entered her yard and cut down the solitary plant…authorities are using budgeted funds, prior to the end of the federal fiscal year Saturday, to gas up helicopters and do flyovers. …“Is this the way we want our taxpayer money spent, to hassle an 81-year-old and law-abiding patients?” Cutler said.

Gee, I don’t know about you, but I’ll sleep more comfortably tonight knowing that lots of taxpayer money was squandered to seize a pot plant from this dangerous granny!

Still not convinced that law enforcement resources aren’t being wasted? And still not upset that lives are being disrupted and harmed by heavy-handed government.

Then consider this horror story from Reason.

James Slatic, a California medical marijuana business owner, found out all his family’s bank accounts had been seized by the government one day in January when his 19-year-old daughter tried to buy lunch at the San Jose State University cafeteria and her card was declined. Slatic’s wife tried to transfer money to their daughter, figuring she had simply overdrawn her account, as teenagers are wont to do, but her account wouldn’t work, either. What the Slatics soon learned was the San Diego police had frozen all of their bank accounts: $55,258 from Slatic’s personal checking and savings account; $34,175 from his wife Annette’s account; and a combined $11,260 from the savings accounts of their two teenage daughters, Penny and Lily. …The Slatics’ crimes? None. Or at least, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office hasn’t charged them with any in the nine months since it seized their accounts.

His business also was shut down, which wasn’t good news for him or his employees that are now out on the street.

The trouble for James Slatic began five days before his family’s accounts were frozen, when around 30 San Diego police officers and DEA agents raided Slatic’s medical marijuana business, Med-West Distribution, and seized nearly $325,000 in cash from a safe. …The raid was a crushing blow to Slatic—not to mention his 35 employees, who lost their jobs and benefits without notice.

Here’s a video detailing this disgusting abuse by government.

There is some good news. Voters in several states voted last week to decriminalize pot.

And for those who worry that legalizing marijuana will be a gateway to decriminalizing harder drugs, I encourage you to read this Cato Institute study on what happened after Portugal legalized all drugs early last decade.


This isn’t an argument about whether you should use drugs, like drugs, or approve of drug use. You can be the drug equivalent of a teetotaler like me and still realize that it makes no sense for the government to squander lots of money and hurt lots of lives simply because politicians want to control what people choose to put in their own bodies.

This is a guest post by Dan Mitchell “a high priest of light tax small state libeertarianism”
  • Robert

    I do believe it is the Conservatives that want drugs to be illegal, when persons are going to use them legal or not

    Prohibition should have taught the Government you can not stop people from doing what they want, you may punish but you can not stop it.
    In the mean time the Government could have made enough off of Drug taxes to pay off the national debt with ease.
    No we have one small influential, group of persons who want to tell every one else how to live their lives.

    • RLTMLT

      . . .and Obama just issued presidential pardons to a slew of individuals previously convicted of drug related crimes ! Wonder how much tax payer money we spent to convict them and then pay for their confinement ! Truly a strange legal system in the only Western Country that continues to maintain a death penalty !

      • Robert

        The costs of keeping Federal prisoners enormous drag on the finances of this country, and we have the highest percentage number of Federal prisoners in the world according to Amenest International.
        Look at how much state money go to house non violent criminals right to the same degree as the violent ones, My neighbor went to jail for 4 DWi convictions and he was cell mated with someone who was in there for attempted murder and swore to my neighbor that he was still going to kill the SOB first chance he got.
        We also have the highest % number in the industrialized world of arrested protesters, called political arrests
        Prohibition proved to the Government that the people will have what they want and because of that the criminal element get rich with out the Government collecting a cent of tax from their ill gotten money, and we waste tax payer dollars, trying to fight it because a very small minority want drugs made illegal to stop people from using them, if that is not a laugh.
        If drug had been made legal and substance control standards set, and taxes collected on them like on Alcohol, the amount of taxes collected on Cocaine alone would have exceeded the National debt, and all the money spent on the people in the drug wars would have been a bonus.
        Yes I keep Reminding the Christian Coalition that the 10 Commandments say thou shall not kill or murder depends on who you talk to, yet the support the death penalty.A few years ago in Texas they executed a man for burning down a house with. his wife in it. The innocence project proved it wrong and also found out the fire inspector was a close friend of the prosecutio0n, and they often dined and played golf together as family affairs.. Before innocence project could examine the evidence the state had it destroyed. How about why Illinois got rid of the Death penalty, 46 men on death row proved totally innocent and 5 not even in the area where the crime happened, and just this year a person was released from Prison after 20 years after the District Attorney decided to reopen the case and interview witnesses that proved he was in Florida when the person was killed in Philadelphia.
        For a prosecutor the worse thing that can happen is him loose a case after they have blown it out of the water in the papers.
        The trouble with the whole process is there are people who get fired up by false rumors and want vengeance

        • RLTMLT

          Plea bargaining is a legal atrocity that allows local district attorney’s to pile up convictions while often sending innocent people to jail who are forced to use a public defender because they cannot afford competent private legal assistance. I served on jury duty one time years ago and I learned one thing from that experience, don’t even think about breaking the law – the odds are not in your favor ! The incidents of non-violent prisoners being used as indentured labor in private prisons harkens back to the debtors prisons of 18th century England. Crooked judges working with private prison owners to supply them with a constant stream of cheep labor. Most of those judges who were caught dealing in this slave labor trade where given the usual slap on the wrist and remained on the bench !

          • Robert

            That is another reason I like Democratic Socialism, the Prosecutor today may be the Defense attorney on the next case, they in England are know as Queens Council and they work both sides of the item when assigned, an old English show would show how it works better than i can explain it. {Rumpole of the old Bailey.} all barristers as they are called have to equally qualified to prosecute you or defend you in court.
            I do know what you are talking about as far as juries, who picks the Jury pool the state that is prosecuting you.the stat.

            some 20 years ago my son got arrested for passing a stopped school bus on a 6 lane highway, 3 lanes in either direction, and we chose jury trial there were 3 school bus drivers in the pool of 4 people fro a 6 person jury, luckily we are financially able to get a lawyer from another state that could practice in our state and we won the case,, because there were 2 tractor trailers between my son and the school bus and he could not see that the bus had stopped.
            Texas srtill has that system so i am told where you can go out and work off your fine while you are working they charge you fro your room and board in prison, so you end up with about 35 cents n hour for working that goes toward your fine..
            Look at the Police superintendent and judge in Chicago that put all those innocent persons on death row, all they got was a slap on the wrist, and some innocent people were most likely executed.
            Look at our own legal system we have a General in the Army who mishandles Classified material and he gets fired and threatened with jail time, and Clinton does the same thing and there is not enough evidence for charges.
            HAVE A NICE DAY

          • RLTMLT

            All valid points that I agree with !
            I live in Texas and right now they are going after school bus drivers that have accumulated a ton of tickets for running red lights. Yet another exposé by a media that can’t find enough liberal causes to rant about ! School Systems around the country have never paid these people any real money and in many small rural school districts volunteers drive the buses. Larger cities have installed expensive camera systems on school buses that work much like Red Light Cameras. Big Brother’s expensive electronic eye in the sky that have significantly boosted city revenue yet they have been repeatedly ruled illegal over the past forty years by various courts that found them in conflict with existing law that requires a human observer from the local police department to confirm the charges !.
            I can’t believe your state wastes money for a criminal trial when this is a misdemeanor charge in most states. When I look at my cities annual report, I’m always amazed by the level of revenue that is obtained through fines, traffic and otherwise. I fully support the long time common sense law that protects children departing school buses but given your son’s circumstance, this leans toward the ridicules !
            HAVE A NICE WEEKEND !

          • Robert

            In this state the School buses are all state contracts with he bus owners, and they supply the drivers.
            We have Red light Camera’s everywhere, my grand daughter has been caught about eight times, but being no points are assessed she just pays the fines.
            If you do not pay the fines then they will take your license, I do not know exactly what the grounds for taking your license would be being no points are assessed never had a reason to delve into it.
            Majority of the school buses here have internal camera’s to monitor the children, some are connected directly to the school so the school can monitor what is going on on the buses. About two years ago three of the the school’s football players were forcefully felling a 14 year old breasts and took her top down for access to her breasts, and it was amazing the camera on the bus was not working at the time so they had no proof it happened.
            My Oldest Daughter teaches school in Texas, some where in the Fort Worth- Dallas area, she lives in Grand Prarie , probably did not spell it correctly. we had a falling out over money that disappeared from my house while she was visiting and when she returned home she bought a brand new pickup and paid cash, yet I had to send her money to come home for a visit because her mother was in ill health.
            Our whose system of Government is Oligarchy, where a few influential person control everything, but are immune from the same laws.
            HAVE A GOOD DAY

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