Category Archives: The War on Drugs

Lives Destroyed

aka: Just Another Day in the War On Drugs

Federal Appeals Court: Driving With Money is a Crime

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that if a motorist is carrying large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. In the case entitled, “United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit took that amount of cash away from Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, a man with a “lack of significant criminal history” neither accused nor convicted of any crime.

On May 28, 2003, a Nebraska state trooper signaled Gonzolez to pull over his rented Ford Taurus on Interstate 80. The trooper intended to issue a speeding ticket, but noticed the Gonzolez’s name was not on the rental contract. The trooper then proceeded to question Gonzolez — who did not speak English well — and search the car. The trooper found a cooler containing $124,700 in cash, which he confiscated. A trained drug sniffing dog barked at the rental car and the cash. For the police, this was all the evidence needed to establish a drug crime that allows the force to keep the seized money.

Associates of Gonzolez testified in court that they had pooled their life savings to purchase a refrigerated truck to start a produce business. Gonzolez flew on a one-way ticket to Chicago to buy a truck, but it had sold by the time he had arrived. Without a credit card of his own, he had a third-party rent one for him. Gonzolez hid the money in a cooler to keep it from being noticed and stolen. He was scared when the troopers began questioning him about it. There was no evidence disputing Gonzolez’s story.

Yesterday the Eighth Circuit summarily dismissed Gonzolez’s story. It overturned a lower court ruling that had found no evidence of drug activity, stating, “We respectfully disagree and reach a different conclusion… Possession of a large sum of cash is ‘strong evidence’ of a connection to drug activity.”

The man was never charged with a crime. There was no proof offered or required that he was in any way connected to the drug trade. But in our war on drugs, that doesn’t matter. And he and his business associates are out their entire life savings.

Now, I don’t know whether his story is on the level. I’ll freely admit that someone driving a rented car not in his name, carrying $124,700 in cash, is a little suspicious. But who holds the burden of proof? If the government is going to confiscate $124,700, I’d say the onus is on them. But in the war on drugs, you have to prove your innocence. The government can come in, destroy your life, confiscate your property, and unless you prove a negative, the best you can do is ask nicely for them to make it right.

I wish I could say that any of this surprised me. But in the war on drugs, not much surprises me any more. I’ve stopped expecting anything approaching justice or common sense. It’s but one more example of our government disregarding the Constitution, disregarding individual rights, and disregarding sanity, in the quest for ever-greater power. I fear that it will get worse before it gets better, and in the meantime, I can only hope that nobody I know or care about gets hoisted on the pike as the next “victory” in the war on drugs.

But don’t just take my word for it. Below is a video from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition), a group of current and former law enforcement personnel. As the people who have spent years as the front-line force in the war on drugs, they’ve seen firsthand exactly what has been accomplished. A string of destroyed lives, non-violent people in jail, violent people enriched by the illicit drug trade, and at the end of the day, not a whit of improvement in the proportion of our population who are addicted to drugs.

How long do we have to continue this before we can finally admit it’s not working?

Hat Tip to Radley Balko on the video. If you’re also fed up with the damage to our society, our Constitution, and our civil liberties caused by this useless “war”, please pass this video along.

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Imagine

Eric recently provided this quote about Prohibition. One could equally relate it to the War on (some) Drugs:

“The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced. It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.”
— Albert Einstein
(1879-1955) Physicist and Professor, Nobel Prize 1921
Source: “My First Impression of the U.S.A.”, 1921

Let’s— for a moment— assume that it is correct for our government to in some way regulate the drug trade. It’s not a view I support, but one could make a case that criminalizing (at least to the point of fines, not imprisonment) drug use could be a method of internalizing the externality. Drug abuse causes wider societal problems, and thus imposing some penalty on the user could be seen as a way of making users pay for the wider costs of their use.

IF— and again, this is not an approach I advocate— you treat drug use in this manner, it can be compared to another law that is widely ignored: the speed limit. Excessive speed is one of those problems which can lead to increased crashes and costs to society (note: I am not arguing that speed limits are set correctly). Thus, imposing fines on speeders is a way of both influencing behavior and imposing costs on those who create a higher risk to make sure they pay for the costs incurred by that risk.

Which makes me wonder: What if we enforced speeding laws like we enforced drug laws? Now, you all must think I’ve drank far too much tonight to suggest such a thing, but if Americans did not need automobiles to the extent they do in our society, it’s not that far-fetched. After all, it’s not that difficult for politicians to claim, based on the statistics, that cracking down on speeders would be for the children. The only reason that speeders are not treated this way is that speeders are not a minority, as drug users are.

So let’s think about it. What abuses of civil liberties have we allowed in the drug war? What will we allow in the “speed war”? You think red light cameras are bad? Over in Britian they already have speed cameras, ready and waiting to nail anyone above the posted limit. I’m guessing that if you really pursue it, you’ll have GPS tracking implanted into cars to ensure that they’re following limits. But that’s simply detection, and that’s only the start.

When you elevate a common crime to eeevvviiilll status, particularly a crime that most people don’t feel is necessarily “wrong”, you run into a problem. In order to continue to enforce the crime and stop the behavior, you must continually increase penalties. The only way to get people who don’t feel like what their behavior is wrong is to make the penalties so high, and the detection so severe, that nobody dares get caught engaging in that behavior.

We’ve already gotten to the point where cars, houses, and any other property “used” in the commission of a drug “crime” can be seized. What happens when we do the same for speeding? You’re caught speeding? Lose your license and your vehicle. That should cut down on it, right? If you create a BS law that nobody feels is legitimate, the only way to enforce it is to create draconian punishment!

Sounds like the drug war.

Now, let’s imagine the opposite. I’m not going to go full-on with the legalization of drugs bit. Sure, that’s where my true ideological roots lie, but let’s move on with the thought experiment. What if, as I proposed at the beginning, drugs crimes were treated the way we currently treat speeding?

When it comes to speeding, there are those people who are truly reckless. When it comes to drugs, we have people who cannot responsibly use drugs, and are hopelessly locked into abuse. But with speeding, we have different approaches to the guy doing 9 over on the interstate and the guy doing 110 in a sports car. It’s the difference between a $75 ticket and going to jail. We don’t have different approaches to the guy smoking a joint at home and the guy high on PCP terrorizing a grocery store. Both are treated as if their crimes are unforgivable.

If we treated nonviolent drug use as a minor crime, solved by fines instead of draconian imprisonment, we might see a rise in drug use. But I don’t know if we’d see much of a rise in drug abuse. And if we considered the penalties to be a monetary fine, internalizing the externality of the social cost of dealing with drug use, we would stop seeing the imprisonment (a much larger social cost) of nonviolent drug offenders. Giving a non-violent pot-smoker a $100 ticket is revenue-generation. Putting a non-violent pot-smoker into jail for a year costs taxpayers thousands of dollars. Which is closer to a positive transaction for society?

But politicians aren’t interested in reducing costs to society while increasing freedom. They’re interested in control. A never-ending “War on Drugs” allows them to continually ratchet up control while fighting a chimera. The only way they can continue this is through propaganda. Einstein knew a little something about the destruction of rights by government. He also knew about the propaganda that made the rest of the populace complicit in it. He was smart enough to get out before it was too late. Will we have such foresight?

War on Drugs is a War on Freedom

I was listening to Boortz today, and he made the (not original, he admitted) point at the end of his show that we’re not really fighting a “War on Terror”. Terror is a tactic. That would be like saying we’re fighting a “War on Blitzkrieg” or a “War on Mutually Assured Destruction”. It makes no sense. However you define it, we’re fighting a “War on Terrorists”, not a “War on Terror”.

What other faux wars are we fighting? The “War on Drugs” comes to mind. Drugs aren’t our enemy. Drugs aren’t sentient beings out to destroy our culture. Just as we make the point that guns are just a tool, drugs are likewise just a tool. Guns allow you to project force well beyond that level which you could with your bare hands, and drugs allow you to get messed up well beyond that level which you could with your bare mind.

So we’re not really fighting a “War on Drugs”. We’re fighting a “War on Drug-Users, Drug-Producers, and Drug-Dealers”. Again, we’re not fighting some abstract thing such as drugs, we’re fighting PEOPLE.

Granted, (usually) we’re not trying to kill those people. But whether we’re trying to or not, our job is to use force to prohibit people from engaging in commerce and ingesting chemicals. We’re using force to fight voluntary, consensual behavior. Were it not for the violence that follows a black market, it would be peaceful behavior.

Can I call it a “War on Freedom”. Not really. This falls victim to the same problem as calling something a “War on Terror”. It’s really a war on people whose behavior we don’t like. Freedom, however, ends up being collateral damage.

The War on Drugs

I’ve never been a proponent of The War on Drugs. For quite some time, a decade probably, I’ve been actively opposed to The War on Drugs. I’ve long believed that it is horribly corrosive of our individual rights and liberties, destructive to the relationship between the government and the citizens and creates an incredibly powerful, influential and violent set of criminal organizations. To make matters worse, it is not a “war” that can be won. This “war” is as ultimately unwinnable as the war against alcohol, aka Prohibition, was. It is unwinnable because the average citizen recognizes that it is nothing more, or less, than an attempt by do-gooding Mrs. Grundies and power hungry government bureaucrats to legislate what we may, or may not, do with our own bodies. If you want more thoughts along those lines, check out our full War on Drugs category on this blog.

This post is not intended to convince you of the ultimately loss of The War on Drugs. Nor is it intended to convince that dictating what I may do with my own body is unconscionable if we are possessed of the rights to life, liberty and property. This post is intended to detail just a few, of the many, incredibly destructive events that occur because of this war. The destruction of our rights by agents of the government and the growth of massively powerful and violent criminal drug organizations. And one last thing to point out. Even a government as oppressive, intrusive and anti-liberty as the Soviet Union’s was could not win the Drug War. Keep that in mind as you read this. More government resources won’t help. In fact, given the horrific levels of addiction to alcohol in the old Soviet Union, they will probably make matters worse, not better. While the addiction to alcohol is high, Marijuana has a greater impact on peoples day-to-day functioning and many people are trying to get into a rehabilitation center in the hope to have a safe life. How to Stop Smoking Weed is a controversial topic of conversation as some people believe it does no harm while others do. There are various ways in which you’re able to tackle these addictions, both from the comfort of your home to going to a rehab center. If you were looking to try and stop yourself then you could have a look at https://www.payspi.org for some help.

Lest anyone think I’m simply a libertine who wants to get high, think again. It’s quite clear that these drugs are bad things, destructive of mind and body. The problem is, who gets to choose whether I will destroy my mind and body with cocaine? I’m continuously amazed that the same people who believe a woman should be able to choose whether to get an abortion, or not, the same people who believe in a “right to die”, are people who think it should be illegal for me to choose to smoke marijuana. Either my body is my own to do with as I please, or it is not.

By now many of us have heard of Eugene Siler, in Tennessee, but I think many more of us have not. Eugene Siler is part of the dregs of society, no doubt about it. Illiterate, poor, small time drug dealer in the past. Not a particularly nice guy. Although he’s certainly not as bad a person as some of the folks locked up in Guantanamo right now. Why mention that? Well, just keep in mind that Eugene has never tried to blow someone up because of their skin color, nationality or religion. Nor has he conspired with others to do anything like that. Or taken up arms against the US directly. Or any of the other things folks in Guantanamo have done. Yet, 5 employees of Tennessee law enforcement agencies, including 3 sworn police officers tortured and beat him for hours. They attempted to force him to sign a voluntary consent to search and seizure of his property. They hit him with their fists and guns. They threatened to use electric torture on his genitals. They threatened his wife and children. They abused him so badly that he was reduced to tears, begging them to stop. They tortured him far worse than any inmate at Guantanamo.

Think this might be made up? Fortunately for Eugene, his wife hid a tape recorder in the house and captured it all on tape for the permanent record. Want to see how your law enforcement deals with people they are involved with the drug trade? Read this transcript of Eugene Siler’s ordeal. Then compare it to Guantanamo. Which one should outrage you more?

Think this is just a fluke? You obviously didn’t hear about Cory Maye. Cory was sentenced to be executed after shooting a police officer who executed a no knock warrant of his home as part of a drug raid. Cory was not suspected of having anything to do with drugs, had no drugs in his possession and his sole crime was defending his home after someone broke in without identifying themselves. You might expect, considering those circumstances, that there would be no sentence, or a light one, not the death penalty.

That’s not enough? How about the violence that is a daily part of life in Mexico because of the power that we provide to drug cartels. If you happen to have a subscription to The Wall Street Journal, read this editorial. If not, here’s a few details for you from the recent past.

The problem is particularly acute for America’s southern neighbor. Drug violence is spiraling throughout Mexico and innocents are paying the ultimate price. One target city is Nuevo Laredo where eight months ago Mexican federal authorities arrived to quell unprecedented cartel violence. Today the murder rate is up; the Mexican general who was in charge of restoring order has gone missing; the news media has suffered atrocious assaults, including a grenade attack; and there is concern that the government’s anti-drug units have been infiltrated.

Last month four federal intelligence officers were gunned down in the middle of the day near a school. That’s about the same time some 600 federal police were sent to the city as reinforcements.

The rest of Mexico is under siege as well. In February the police chief of an upscale district of Monterrey was gunned down. An April 21 report in the Los Angeles Times captured the attitude of the drug lords: “‘So that you learn to respect,’ read a message scrawled on a red sheet attached to a Guerrero state government building in Acapulco, where passers-by in the early morning hours discovered the heads of former Police Commander Mario Nunez Magana, 35, of the Municipal Preventive Police, and another man, who was not identified.”

And just how do you expect Mexicans to build their own country to the point where illegal immigration to the US is no longer the best option for the average Mexican when their country is overrun with this sort of violence. The reality is that many Latin American countries are at the mercy of drug cartels, including Mexico. Political observers expect drug cartels to have enough money and influence to be a force in the upcoming Mexican elections.

If all of this doesn’t sound like something out of 1920’s Prohibition to you, it should. And this is precisely why we ended Prohibition. It never stopped anyone from drinking. It simply made them into criminals. And provided the Mafia with obscene amounts of money. And law enforcement with obscene amounts of power and corruption.

80 years ago, Ludwig von Mises wrote in Liberalism:

It is an established fact that alcoholism, cocainism, and morphinism are deadly enemies of life, of health, and of the capacity for work and enjoyment; and a utilitarian must therefore consider them as vices. But this is far from demonstrating that the authorities must interpose to suppress these vices by commercial prohibitions, nor is it by any means evident that such intervention on the part of the government is really capable of suppressing them or that, even if this end could be attained, it might not therewith open up a Pandora’s box of other dangers, no less mischievous than alcoholism and morphinism.

The intervening years of Prohibition, first against alcohol, and then against every drug we don’t like except alcohol, have proved Mises right beyond his most pessimistic. The Supreme Court has ruled that police officers may use drug sniffing dogs to check your car after stopping you for speeding, with no reason to believe that you have drugs in your car. Special task forces to “combat drugs” have been set up that lead to corruption and degradation of our law enforcement officers. The story from Tennessee involved police officers assigned to such a task force. It has led to the seizure and sale of private property by the state even when there is no conviction for any criminal activity. Such seizure is a civil action, not a criminal action. It has led to the death sentence for a man who was only defending his home against unknown intruders in the middle of the night. The War on Drugs has completely corrupted our neighboring nation to the South. It has led to the creation of a Federal law enforcement agency which has only one mission, to fight the Drug War. Prohibition creates so much power and money that terrorist organizations have become involved in the drug trade. It has led to gun battles on the streets of our cities.

And every additional dollar spent on fighting drugs has done nothing to stop the violence and the corruption. In fact, although violent crime per capita has dropped considerably in this country, it has increased in the inner cities where drugs and drug gangs fight their battles for turf and profits. The use of drugs and alcohol has increased, not decreased. The import and sale of drugs to this country has increased ten fold since the 1950’s. Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama and Colombia are virtually dominated by drug cartels.

This is a war we cannot win. Worse, it is a war we should not fight.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Marc Emery and the Seedy War on Pot (and drugs in general)

At first glance, if you’ve read my bio, you might wonder what the heck a gal like me could have to say about the war on drugs. If you really don’t know me, you might read to the first line of the fifth paragraph of my bio and immediately discount anything I have to say – but hey, that’s your right and your bias – not mine.

But in reality, I’m in a unique position to comment on this topic – for a couple reasons. First, I have no hidden agenda. I’m an almost 45 year old woman who has NEVER so much as smoked a cigarette. I’ve never eaten a pot brownie or smoked a joint. Never tried any mind altering drugs – other than the occasional glass of wine or mixed drink. To say I’m “squeaky” clean when it comes to the usage of drugs is an understatement, and the only things I can attribute it to are good parents and teachings, and a very strong sense of needing to be in control. So if and when drugs are ever legalized, I’ll probably still not partake. My need to be in control of myself and my actions far outweighs any curiosity that I have.

What has got me thinking about this today was watching 60 Minutes last night and seeing the segment on Marc Emery entitled “Prince of Pot“. It seems that Marc Emery (who may be far better known to others than he was to me) has been selling marijuana seeds for years over the internet to folks all over the world. He’s currently under indictment for selling and distributing marijuana (among other things) and is waiting to see if the Canadian government is going to extradite him to the US.

I truly, honestly believe that the “war on drugs” is a bogus waste of time and money, and we’d be much better off if we simply legalized at least marijuana and allowed it’s free and open use as we do alcohol. The only caveat would be that users would have to be aware that penalties for crimes or accidents committed under the influence would result in very stiff penalties.

The upshot of legalizing pot would be to put a lot of dealers out of business – the war on drugs as it stands right now is really good for their business – they don’t want legalization – and that’s what I see as a difference between Marc Emery and drug dealers. You see, Marc Emery WANTS marijuana to be legalized, and he’s spent the majority of his profits trying to institute change in a system he believes to be wrong.

One area that was not touched upon in the “Prince of Pot” segment was one I consider to be important – that of the need for marijuana for medical use, which is just as illegal in the US as non-medical use. If I had a friend or family member who had a disease which could be eased by the use of marijuana, (i.e. glaucoma, cancer, MS, chronic pain, etc.) I’d want them to be able to use it if it could ease their suffering – and that without being concerned that it was an illegal substance.

I haven’t had the time to fully examine the site, but the Drug Policy Alliance appears to be one of the best sites promoting common sense when it comes to a drug policy in the United States.

So, here I am, mother of two, straight arrow, fiscal conservative, social liberal and against the war on drugs. Whew. Politics do make strange bedfellows, eh?

Homeschooling Security Mom, Political Junkie, Believe in upholding the Constitution – and subscribe to the theory that gun control is the ability to hit your target!
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