They say there’s no more strident a prohibitionist than an ex-drunk.
What that says about George W. Bush’s attempt to tighten the thumbscrews in the war on drugs is entirely up for debate. What isn’t, according to the April 17 Wall Street Journal, is that the administration is bucking for an 8.3 percent hike in federal funds for the Bureau of Prisons. Such an increase would bring the allocation for federal pens to $4.66 billion, making it the biggest pig in the Justice Department sty.
Considering how many folks are already doing time in federal facilities for drug offenses, a big hunk of the money will go to house present residents and the huge number of reefer rookies and narcotic newbies who will be busted in the coming year, not to mention return visitors.
When the so-called crack epidemic of the mid-1980s hit the fan and federal mandatory minimums for drug sentences were passed back in 1986, the population of lawbreakers in federal prisons hovered around 40,000. Since the drug-war hype of the Reagan years, that number has swollen to some 150,000 dope offenders behind Uncle Sam’s bars.
“Thirty years ago,” as Slate’s Emily Yoffe notes in her April 18 “Explainer” column, “only 16 percent of the federal prison population was in for drug charges.” But as Bob Dylan sang, “The times, they are a-changing.” Today, according to Yoffe, the percentage is 60 percent in the federal lockdown with drug convictions.
To house all those dope offenders, Bush is finding, costs big bucks — hence the request for the budget bump.
Of course this is how’s it been since Day 1 of the drug war. “Late in 1986,” remembers Lewis K. Uhler, “everyone jumped into the drug battle. The President and Mrs. Reagan led the fight. ‘Just say no’ was the watchword. Congress was delighted — another new spending opportunity.”
Sure enough, a $6 billion hunk of change was approved that year to fight drugs.
“I fear this bill is the legislative equivalent of crack,” said Congressman Barney Frank in a rare moment of lucidity. “It yields a short-term high, but does long-term damage to the system, and it’s expensive to boot.”
Expensive is the right word. Congress has been jacking up the dosage of drug-war dollars at nearly every opportunity since the first shots were fired by the Nixon administration. It ballooned under Reagan and kept soaring through the Bush Sr. and Clinton administrations.
“In every successive year, I have proposed a larger anti-drug budget,” strutted President Clinton in January 1999, bragging in particular about a 30-percent spending increase between 1996 and 1999.
What Citizens for a Sound Economy said back in 1986 about the $6 billion allocation is true about most drug spending. “The true problem resides in Congress,” concluded CSE. “It is addicted to spending. The measure is just another opportunity for politicians to increase spending. If Congress wants to kick its spending habit, it should just say NO.”
Trouble is, Congress doesn’t want to kick the spending habit. Despite cues from every corner that the drug war is winnowing down any remaining competition for recognition as America’s social-engineering version of the Vietnam War, with U.S. liberty and the Constitution suffering as the chiefmost casualty, drug warriors press ever onward, allocating more and more money every year to battle dope.
If the number of people eating prison food is how we measure success then we seem to be doing pretty well, but by most any other standard we’re failing big time — especially if you look at the fact that dope use (which, I should think, a drug war would be trying to quell) hasn’t gone down regardless of how much money is intravenously injected into the bloodstream of the body politic to support its campaign to control the ever-growing chemical cornucopia.
Ecstasy use by military personnel, of all people, is even on the rise. According to an April 16 report in USA Today, the designer drug is being downed by 12 times more servicemen than it was in 1998. The increase comes despite the fact that drug use can land a doughboy-turned-dopeboy in jail.
Looking back at Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough’s Sept. 22, 2000, WND column, military personnel putting the “war” in “drug war” is nothing new. Use of Ecstasy was stepping higher then as well. According to a testing officer in the Pentagon’s Office of the Coordinator for Drug Enforcement Policy and Support, use of the so-called “club drug” had “increased markedly.”
Given the sociology alone, the level of drug use in the armed forces is something that the general population should consider with more interest and curiosity.
Wrap your cerebellum around these figures: Results from 2,273,998 urine drug tests conducted by the Pentagon in fiscal year 1999 included:
- Marijuana positives, 12,006
- Cocaine positives, 2,839
- Methamphetamine positives, 807
- Ecstasy positives, 432
- LSD positives, 325
As I pointed out in my column following on the heels of Gertz and Scarborough, the military is one of the most tightly regulated social environments in the entire U.S. — and drug use is still uncontrollable. More than 12,000 tested positive for pot, despite the fact that this is a stark no-no and the level of oversight and control in the military is night-and-day more strict than it is in the civilian world.
Given that, what on earth makes the drug warriors think that they can control drug use in the rest of society? They can’t even control it in the military, of all places!
Bush’s request for more federal prison funds is just part of the ongoing pipedream that somehow more money will result in victory in the drug war. It won’t. More money spent on fighting drugs will simply result in less money in taxpayers’ pockets and less liberty for the country as a whole.
By any standard, that’s a bad trade.
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