Letter: War more costly than drugs

A recent letter defending drug laws was pure sophistry.

Criminal laws loosely fall into two classes:

1) Crimes that injure or endanger others, such as murder, rape, robbery, DWI, running red lights/stop signs etc. These laws are overwhelmingly supported because people don’t want to be harmed by others’ misdeeds.

2) Crimes that many at any given time consider to be wrong or, often for religious reasons, immoral. Alcohol use, drug use, gambling, contraception, cockfighting etc., have been legal/illegal at various times as opinion has swayed.

Two classic examples:

Into the 1860s, most Americans actively or passively endorsed slavery. The core arguments were that the enslavement of pagans, such as Africans, American Indians etc., was allowed, even required, under long-standing Christian theology, ultimately based on Lev. 25:44-46; various Bible verses explicitly or implicitly condoned slavery, so opposition was an attack on God’s laws and therefore blasphemy and atheism; and slavery civilized savage Africans. The abolitionists were a small minority who generally were either real atheists or Christians who interpreted some Scriptures as condemning modern slavery; both groups regarded slavery as the real savagery. It took a war to sway majority opinion to make slavery a crime.

Homosexuality was a crime generally in the West until recently, when changing public opinion overpowered right-wing objections. The trend toward equal rights for gays, including same-sex marriage, is winning despite strong opposition by religious believers.

Opinion is changing on drug laws because of their obvious flaws:

The “drug war” has caused far greater damage/costs to American society, and to other nations, notably Mexico, Afghanistan and Venezuela, in general than the drugs ever possibly could have. Prohibition Part II has been as much a national disaster as its predecessor.

The fact that many people have tried these drugs, including several presidents, without long-term harm undercuts drug foes’ fear-mongering. (Ever been to a major concert at the Jazz Fest Acura stage?)

Even more disturbing is the legal system’s flagrant racism in enforcing the drug laws. Although studies show white people use drugs at the same rate as black people, police, prosecutors and courts mostly target the black community, with destructive results. All drug-related crime, including violence, is a product of the laws, not the drugs.

Finally, many people recognize that treatment, not jail, is the appropriate way to handle people with drug problems, just as for people who abuse alcohol.

I wish these illegal drugs did not exist, but they do and the drug laws have not dented their use. If “drug war” defenders want to be taken seriously, they should address its flaws with credible arguments, not snark.

William Sierichs Jr.

retired newspaperman

Baton Rouge