21 March 2011

The "War on Drugs"

I'm preparing for a symposium at the University of District of Columbia School of Law. The title of the symposium "Life After the War on Drugs" (scroll down the page to get the info). It will be interesting because I'm sure that I'll be exposed to a much different perspective than I'd run into in Virginia.

Anyway, it's my hope that this is the harbinger of the death of the analogy "War on Drugs." I hate this comparison. Wars are eventually won or lost. Wars involve the invasion of, and holding territory. Wars threaten the actual destruction of the countries involved. The interdiction of illegal drugs is a policing action.

Policing never ends. Of course, where the line is drawn for policing is a policy / morality / philosophy decision. However, the enforcement of that line is an ongoing matter.

Drug abuse has been around for a long time. It will be around for a long time. Alcohol and opium have been around for a looooooong time. Distilled (more powerful) alcohol has been around since sometime around 2k B.C. Distilled heroin and cocaine have been around since the 1800's. Anti-drug enforcement goes back to at least the 7th century (Quran bans alcohol and hashish). U.S. enforcement goes back to 1875 when San Francisco tried to ban opium dens.

Unless we just walk away from drug enforcement, adopt a "let 'em die in the streets" attitude, and let legal pharmaceutical companies flood the streets (and crowd the current illegal dealers out), we are going to be trying to find ways to stop abuse for all time. Police interdiction will remain a significant part of these efforts. Let's name it for what it is and stop calling a permanent effort a "war."


Anonymous said...

Not bad Ken, only off 3300 years.

The medieval Arabs learned the distillation process from the Alexandrians and used it extensively, but there is no evidence that they distilled alcohol.[6] The earliest evidence of the distillation of alcohol comes from the School of Salerno in southern Italy in the 12th century.[8][9] Fractional distillation was developed by Tadeo Alderotti in the 13th century.[10]

Ken Lammers said...

Well, I may be more wrong about the location than the date. The Middle East clearly had Arak before Europeans started distilling liquors, but I can only find a source that states it went back to the 10th century A.D. However, the Chinese were distilling rice beer into liquor by 800 B.C. In the East Indies there are pictures "from ancient times" of people making Arrak, although I could never find a date on this.

So, even if I'm off, the point is the same: distilled liquors have been with us for a long time.

Anonymous said...

Only a lawyer could consider being off by only 1200 years instead of 3300 and 5000 miles to boot as a victory.