The Endless War


I’m a recovering drug addict. I’ve been in recovery for almost 23 years, and that includes alcohol, of course. A lot of times when I tell people this, they conclude that I must be “against” drugs. But that’s a mistake. One of the things I’ve learned about addiction is that it’s something inside of me—it’s not in the substance. In fact, my addictive nature was manifest before I ever used a drug, and it can manifest itself in behaviors as well, such as sex, eating, spending, or even work. When someone says to me, “So, you don’t like to drink?” I say, “No, I like it too much.” That’s the difference.

I liked getting high too much. It ended up consuming my time, my thoughts, my life. My drug of choice was pot, and that also surprises people. “What, just pot?” For me, it wasn’t “just” pot, it was what I wanted all the time. But the particular drug an addict prefers really isn’t the point. The problem is that the addict can’t moderate, can’t stop, so it becomes an obsession and a compulsion.

I’m explaining all this as a preliminary to my thoughts on America’s perennial anti-drug crusade. Even though I don’t use drugs myself, I know that this so-called “war” on drugs is a pernicious and destructive lie. Most importantly from my perspective, it criminalizes addiction. Instead of making a commitment to treatment and recovery, politicians have cynically promoted punishment as a solution, in order to make themselves look “tough” on crime, and thus win votes from the large idiot demographic. Stigmatized and forced to conceal their drug use, addicts end up filling the prisons and becoming further criminalized, rather than getting help.

Marijuana is a special case, and a very curious one indeed. In terms of social impact, it causes fewer problems than any recreational drug. Yet the government spends billions of dollars confiscating weed and busting people who sell and use it. About half of all the drug arrests in the U.S. are related to pot. The Federal government acts as if pot was more of a threat than cocaine or heroin. Yet the vast majority of drug-related crimes of violence or against property are committed by the users of either the so-called “harder” drugs, or alcohol, which is of course legal. Put succinctly, the official drug policy of the United States is to stick its head up its ass and keep it there forever.

My theory is that marijuana is illegal because of culture. This is why the law seems so irrational—it has nothing to do with a tangible threat to public safety, but only with a perceived threat to a cultural norm. Alcohol is a good drug for war-mongers: it loosens your inhibitions and makes you stupid. A drunk person is more apt to be violent and aggressive, tendencies that are sanctioned and reinforced in the culture. A drug that mellows you out, makes you feel peaceful, and stimulates thought and imagination, represents something alien to the cultural norm. Despite all the hedonistic hoopla, American culture is still anti-pleasure. That is, the ideas about “pleasure” that we are normally presented with are guilt-ridden, materialistic, and stupid.

In addition, the popular identification of cannabis with the 1960s, rebellion, and youth culture, has made it permanently hateful in the eyes of the reactionaries who own and run the country, even though its actual use in the population has gone beyond those stereotypes long ago. So we continue to be told that pot is bad, bad, bad, while we’re inundated with commercial messages telling us to drink, drink, drink.

Legalization of marijuana is a necessity if we’re going to shift from a prison society to a society that values education. Ultimately, some kind of legalization or decriminalization of all drugs will be necessary. The current situation only strengthens organized crime, and always will. The War on Drugs was in fact already a colossal failure twenty-five years ago. So why are they still waging it?

I think it’s obvious that many have a vested interest in keeping this phony drug war going. The Drug Enforcement Administration needs the war so as to keep getting funded and provide more and more jobs to its legions of employees. The more busts they make, the better they look and the more funding they get. If drug arrests were to go down or go away, they’d all be out of a job. The same goes for all the state and local drug police and their operations. Then there’s the prison industry. Since Ronnie Reagan came in and established toughness as our primary political narcotic, incarceration rates have kept climbing year after year. The number of prisons increased tenfold. If the incarceration rates were to drop because the drug war ended, what would happen to all those prison contractors, planners, wardens, guards, and all the other prison employees and their families? The state and federal corrections institutions don’t really want an end to the war, do they? It’s in their interest to have as many drug convictions as possible, year after year, into perpetuity.

The drug war also serves another important function: it helps maintain institutional racism. Every statistical study for the past several decades has confirmed the basic fact that African Americans represent a disproportionate percentage of drug arrests, convictions, and subsequent incarcerations. Poverty makes the use and sale of “harder” drugs more likely, which leads to more arrests, which perpetuates poverty. It’s a perfect little trap. The exploitation has sometimes been quite conscious and deliberate: the CIA allowed the infusion of drugs into black communities as part of their international covert operations, and this was documented by reporter Gary Webb, who was attacked and vilified for breaking the story.

If you told a group of people nowadays that the CIA has been involved in drug trafficking, they would probably nod their heads in agreement. It’s been common knowledge since 1972, when the CIA’s involvement in the Southeast Asian heroin trade was exposed by Alfred McCoy. Now, of course, we’re in Afghanistan, and there have been bumper crops in opium there since the invasion. Michael Ruppert claims that drug money has been keeping the American economy afloat for many years. Whenever Wall Street hits a rough spot, a bunch of new cash eventually flows mysteriously into the market to right the ship again. In other words, the spooks dip into their huge funds of drug money and pump it into stocks. Ruppert’s ideas can be far-fetched at times, yet the close relationships between CIA veterans and Wall Street movers and shakers are undeniable.

So when you consider all this—and I can only skim the surface of this murky swamp in the limited time I have—it becomes clear that the War on Drugs is nothing more than a way to prop up a corrupt establishment. Law enforcement and the prison industry are kept pumped up, a lot of people (including large numbers of blacks and other minorities) get put away and disenfranchised, while the bosses can make huge sums on the drug traffic themselves. It serves them well, but it’s very bad for the rest of us. Our education and health care go down the toilet while our money goes to cops, prisons, weapons, and war. The truth is that ending this war involves ending all the others too, and making a transition to a sane and peaceful society.

~ by cdash on June 2, 2008.

13 Responses to “The Endless War”

  1. Oh, this is such an excellent post, Dashiell.
    Another thing.
    Remember, felons can’t vote.

  2. astute. intelligent. thoughtful. well stated. best wishes for your next 23 years. and all the ones after that.

  3. Great post Dash. I particularly liked the contrast you made between pot and alcohol and could only think of all those soccer riots caused by pot-fueled hooligans.

  4. I think your post was right on! I have family members who were busted for drugs and they got more time than murderers. it wasn’t so the streets would be safer.No it was so the cops could make themselves look good for cleaning our streets up. The truth in my opinion is they are using the drug war as a way to get money out of people.Without the drugs busts they wouldn’y have much money to collect.

  5. I recently watched Reefer Madness and my kids came into the room and caught the end with me. The nine year old – the NINE year old wanted to know why it’s okay to smoke tobacco and but not okay to smoke pot. I tried and failed to draw the distinction. Nope, the logic isn’t there. It’s money and lobby power, I explained. Then I asked her to fetch me another martini, a little heavier on the vodka this time.

  6. dash

    i couldnt have said it any better — this is a fruitless, expensive and ridiculous war — much like iraq. there is absolutely NO reason why alcohol is legal but pot/cocaine etc arent except by law, decree and great pressure from Bacardi, Seagrams and a lot of other companies.

    the hypocrisy of it all is astounding – as there are STILL people who will tell you alcohol and tobacco are ok – but not pot. and as long as we as a society continue to allow this “war” (and elected people like bush who perpetrate it) — well you know the answer.

    it amazes me how we waste so much money on such awful things

  7. It would be interesting to know what the actual dollar number is, this “war on drugs,” when you factor in all the related parts of the puzzle. I’ll bet it’s a huge portion of GDP. Aren’t we one of the nations with the largest prison populations? We have even outsorced some of that–our black ops places, like floating prison ships.

  8. Great stuff.

    Imagine if all those chickenhawks had had a few hits.
    “Dude, should we blow the fuck out of ’em?”
    “Naw man, put that Foghat record back on.”

  9. Cdash – Great post. I grew up in cali during the early stages of The Contra crack epidemic and it was an overnight phenomenon. War was declared on (black people) drugs and i watched carloads of cops running around just like the gangbangin thugs and jumping out of cars slamming people, shotguns behind necks, knees on chins. I can see our war on drugs leading to Blackhawk law encforcement. Contractors keepin our streets clean. that is the next chapter to this mess. that is , if we continue on our current course.
    Call your congressman and tell him/her -‘legalize it!!!!’

  10. I think we should immediately release all violent offenders to make room for the potheads in our prisons.

    Doesn’t that just sound STUPID??? But we actually do a lot of that.

    Here in Missouri, my concern is crystal meth and the plague that has unleashed on our society. If ever there was problem in serious need of attention….

    Go into a junior college classroom in rural Missouri and ask a class of composition students which scares them worse: terrorists or the crystal meth epidemic. Guess which answer you’ll get, hands down?

    Not one of them will be scared of the potheads.

  11. You have the gift for putting what I think, but can’t quite articulate, into words. Another excellent post by you sir!

  12. Yes, largest percentage of population in prison of any country in the world and the reason is the war on drugs.. or is it the war on freedom?

  13. I am a medical marijuan pt. Here to tell you – the stuff is the BEST medicine, the side effects managable and when they are not, its simple NOT to smoke. I need it badly for appetite and muscular pain , it helps me stay active and be able to keep my home clean. It is far less toxic than alturnatives. And less expensive. In San Francisco i was a member of a cannibus that is civilization…as a recreational drug , IF one even desires it of course it is far less toxic and destructive then booze.

    The prison industry is one of the most immoral things we are doing right now – profit has no place in the prison industrial complex. and the penalties in some places , the schedule MJ is on is criminal in itself. We must get the non violent weed smokers out of jail , the punishment does not fit the crime..

    OH a further thought – Industrial HEMP could revitilize OUR ENTIRE Manufacturing and farming base…lets not forget this material is so versitile – Ford even made and entire car out of it. At one time it was a patriot duty to grow it – WE MUST have sane policies regarding this plant. Oh and it is NOT a gateway drug and the difference between Industrial Hemp and Cannibus is like night and day..

    Its past due , the War on Drugs must end. Once i worked in a Methodone Clinic. Only a certain percent of the population will ever be addicts…Take drugs off the black market, regulate for health and safety – and voila ! Crime stats way way down.


Leave a Reply to proudprogressive Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: