Taking The War Out Of The Drug War

Remember this?

Things being as they are, and people as they are, there is no way to prevent somebody, somewhere, from concluding that “NATIONAL REVIEW favors drugs.” We don’t; we deplore their use; we urge the stiffest feasible sentences against anyone convicted of selling a drug to a minor. But that said, it is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial, and penal procedures associated with police states. We all agree on movement toward legalization, even though we may differ on just how far.

It was WFB himself who opined, in the symposium that followed the above announcement,

that it is outrageous to live in a society whose laws tolerate sending young people to life in prison because they grew, or distributed, a dozen ounces of marijuana. I would hope that the good offices of your vital profession would mobilize at least to protest such excesses of wartime zeal, the legal equivalent of a My Lai massacre. And perhaps proceed to recommend the legalization of the sale of most drugs, except to minors.

In a tart, potent update of his long attack on the drug war, Radley Balko brought it all rushing back to me with a grim bottom line:

As I explained in a column a couple weeks ago, this wasn’t a “botched raid.” It was a routine raid. The police got the correct house. They found the guy they were after. They arrested him. No one was killed. Most of these raids don’t turn up huge stashes of drugs or weapons. Most result in misdemeanor charges. If Krauthammer finds the Missouri SWAT raid video “harrowing and horrible,” he ought to find the drug war “harrowing and horrible.” Because the images in that video are typical of how we’re fighting it.

I’m in favor of the rule of law. But the way we’re struggling to enforce our present drug laws has begun to work against the purposes of the rule of law itself. If National Review could point to a way beyond this dilemma in 1996, couldn’t — and shouldn’t — we make the effort to do so again today?