US drug policy is racist, but not how you think…

Posted on May 1, 2010 by

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DEA Operation Mallorca, 2005
Image via Wikipedia

In my continuing discussion of the Libertarian Party platform, today I will be discussing section 1.2, Personal Privacy.  The views expressed in this blog are my own, and should not be taken as official Libertarian Party views.

“1.2 Personal Privacy

We support the protections provided by the Fourth Amendment to be secure in our persons, homes, and property. Only actions that infringe on the rights of others can properly be termed crimes. We favor the repeal of all laws creating “crimes” without victims, such as the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes.”

The first part of the Personal Privacy platform item is specific to the Fourth Amendment, which states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This means that law enforcement can not just enter a house, or take articles, without a warrant and probable cause, and then can only search the areas or items specified in the warrant.   However, there is a stronger statement made by the Fourth Amendment that carries into the remainder of this section of the party platform.  “The right of people to be secure in their persons,” means what?  It means Right to Privacy!  A person must be secure in themselves, meaning they have no fear of doing anything to themselves and it being judged a crime.  Another way of saying this is what I do in my house is my business.  And that carries us into the next part of this platform plank…

I should be able to do to myself what I choose, and NOT have it be a crime unless it infringes on another persons rights. Sometimes this is called a ‘victimless Crime.’  I prefer to call it a ‘consensual crime.’  What is the difference?  Those who feel their morality should dictate law will say “It’s not a victimless crime.  It effects your family, your friends, and yourself.  So there are victims.”  But if I am consenting, whether to myself or someone else, is it still a crime?  Is it a crime if it doesn’t infringe on someone’s rights?  I say no.

The final statement of this part of the platform is the one that everyone focuses on, for better or worse.  The Libertarian Party favors the repeal of ALL laws that create crimes without victims.  The fact that the statement specifically states the use of drugs makes this a controversial statement. However, whether it is just for example or not is not the point.  This is the most prosecuted ‘victimless crime’ in the United States.  Police time, government money, and prison space are wasted, to the point that $17 Billion has been spent on the war on drugs JUST THIS YEAR!  623,000 people have been arrested on drug charges JUST THIS YEAR!  At the end of 2008, 2.4 million people were in the US prison system, and 25% of them were drug crime offenders. That’s 600,000 people at the end of 2008!  When we consider that the 10 year average of prison inmate increase is 3.4%, we can estimate that as of right now, there are almost 650,000 people in our prison system because of the ‘War on Drugs‘.

We should also consider what happened when alcohol was prohibited.  Gang wars, government money spent on finding and destroying illegal alcohol, increase in crime.  Pretty much the same things we see with the war on drugs.  But I think a fundamental question needs asked here as well: Why is marijuana illegal? Let’s review the history of Marijuana.

Marijuana has been around since before 7,000 BC.  The first marijuana law in the America was in 1619, believe it or not.  It was passed by the Jamestown Colony making it a law that all farmers HAD TO plant hempseed.  Between 1763 and 1767, Virginia routinely had mandatory plantings of hempseed to offset shortages of other products.  In fact, you could be jailed during these times if you DIDN’T have hemp!  Hemp was even legal tender.

Marijuana was considered a significant part of American industry until the 1900’s.  It was during this time that a situation started occurring that we hear a lot about today also: immigration of Mexicans into the western United States.  These Mexican immigrants were usually hired by large plantation farmers, who could hire them for cheap, and then outprice the small local farmers.  Outrage ensued.  And, again much like today, people needed a way to ‘punish’ these immigrants for their evils.  And that way was to make marijuana illegal.  Mexicans at that time commonly brought marijuana across the border with them to smoke.  And so it came to pass, that in the early 1900’s, the first law making it illegal to ‘prepare hemp, or loco weed’ was passed in California.  Via Why is Marijuana Illegal? – Drug WarRant.

Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Iowa, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Arkansas and Nebraska all followed suit by 1927.  In every case, the intent of the laws was to target the Mexican-American populations.  But, this didn’t spread to the Eastern US. There weren’t many Mexicans in that area.  So why did they outlaw marijuana?  Same reasons, different race.

As the Jazz musicians moved from New Orleans, to Chicago, and into New York City, they brought an indispensible tool of the trade with them: marijuana.   A newspaper in 1934 stated “Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice” Via Why is Marijuana Illegal? – Drug WarRant.

And thus began a series of events that would culminate in 1930 with the creation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which was a subdivision of the Treasury Department.   Why the Treasury?  Because at this time, it was a common belief that the federal government could not outlaw drugs.  But they could tax it.   The head of the new agency was an ambitious, ruthless man named Harry Anslinger.  His ultimate goal was to make drugs illegal.  Here are some quotes of statements he made to achieve the goal of making marijuana illegal:

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”

“…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”

“Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death.”

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”

“Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”

“You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.”

“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.”

“In the year 1090, there was founded in Persia the religious and military order of the Assassins, whose history is one of cruelty, barbarity, and murder, and for good reason: the members were confirmed users of hashish, or marihuana, and it is from the Arabs’ ‘hashashin’ that we have the English word ‘assassin.’”

As I’m sure you can see, the main ammunition used to make marijuana illegal was simple racism.  And so, on August 2, 1937, Marijuana became illegal at the federal level. It should be pointed out that during the Senate hearings to determine whether or not to make marijuana illegal, there was an interview with a Dr. Woodward, who represented the American Medical Association at the hearings.  After he told the committee that these statements were lies, that marijuana did not cause violence, did not cause ‘crazy thoughts’, and did not make people mindless drones, he was ridiculed by the committee, and asked why he was trying to stand in the way of the federal government doing what it had to do.  Some things never change.

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