October 9, 2004


Official: War on Drugs at 'Tipping Point' (DAN MOLINSKI, 10/09/04, Associated Press)

Amid record seizures of cocaine and massive spraying of coca plantations, a senior U.S. official says the "tipping point" in the war on drugs has finally been reached. [...]

A U.S.-financed campaign in Colombia to fumigate coca crops, the main ingredient of cocaine, has cut the number of acres under cultivation to about half of 1999 levels, about 212,000 acres last year, according to the United Nations.

"I've been at this for 15 years and I have truly never been more optimistic than I am right now," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert B. Charles, the State Department's top anti-narcotics official, said from Washington in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Charles claimed the drug war is "at a tipping point both in Colombia and the region" and predicted authorities would "break the backs" of drug cartels within the next two years.

All it took was serious leadership in Colombia.

But here's how to really prosecute a drug war, Aussie student faces death penalty (Cindy Wockner, October 10, 2004, news.com.au)

AN AUSTRALIAN student faces the death penalty after being arrested in Bali carrying 4.2kg of marijuana allegedly hidden in a bodyboard bag.

Schapelle Leigh Corby, 27, from Tugun on the Gold Coast, was arrested on Friday afternoon at Bali's airport in Denpasar after an X-ray scan by customs officers showed an unusual package in her bodyboard bag.

When officers opened the bag, they found 4.2kg of marijuana leaf in a large plastic bag with dried flowers on top in a poor attempt to disguise the package.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 9, 2004 6:41 PM

The Bush Administration had a goal to decrease drug use in the United States by 10%. Drug use actually went down 11%, and it is still decreasing with an especially dramatic drop in LSD use.

Posted by: Vince at October 9, 2004 7:45 PM

They're killing the guy for 10 lbs of *leaf*?! To paraphrase Cleavon Little: "Man, are they strict!"

Posted by: Governor Breck at October 9, 2004 7:59 PM

They may be strict, but they don't have a drug problem.

Posted by: Vince at October 9, 2004 8:03 PM

When we decide to have a serious discussion about drugs, please let me know. The current situation is doomed to failure.

The only alternatives are legalization, which I prefer, or complete Singapore style draconian law enforcement, which would certainly end the 'drug problem' but would create constitutional problems galore.

One final point. Our drug problem is our drug problem. It is not Colombia's or Mexico's or Afghanistan's or whoever's. Our interdiction policy where we send our military and our purported 'intelligence' services to stomp around in a heavy-handed manner all across Latin America have created an intense animus in a region where people should see us as their friends and business partners. Our drug policy is the reason for Chavez in Venezuela, the coca farmers' rioting in Bolivia which toppled the government, the installation of nitwit populists in Peru and Panama.

But I guess if it gives us a chance to blame 'the wetbacks' for our own moral failings, the creation of hostility South of the Border such that al-Qaeda operates freely in much of Latin America is more than worth it. (sarcasm intended)

Posted by: Bart at October 9, 2004 8:45 PM


Of course you prefer legalization. Because you are a libertarian, you don't care about anything but yourself--which legalization would hurt also. The rest of us do care about our country, so we will keep fighting it. I guess what I am trying to say is don't hold your breath. We won't be contacting you.

Posted by: Vince at October 9, 2004 8:54 PM

Governor Breck:

I think the 'guy' is a she.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at October 9, 2004 9:05 PM


So I guess you prefer wasting our time and money, undermining our justice system, infuriating the neighbors, all in order to pursue the same policy we have pursued since the days of Harry Anslinger, all without even the merest soupcon, the merest hint, the merest scintilla, the tiniest fume of success.

Shouldn't we try a different approach? Like treating Americans like adults? If we were to adapt Harry Lee's approach in Singapore, at least that would have some logic behind it.

The only people who benefit from America's current drug policy are crooks, the politicians, cops and judges they pay off, and the terrorists who find safe havens in areas wherever America's racist, high-handed policy has pissed off the locals.

I hope you're proud.

Posted by: Bart at October 9, 2004 9:18 PM


Very few people use drugs today relative to the general population, and far fewer people use drugs today than they did 30 years ago. We are winning the Drug War. All of the problems you mention, would still exist if drugs were legal plus the exponential problems that would come if drugs were legal.

Posted by: Vince at October 9, 2004 9:28 PM

You're going to have to refer me to where there is any evidence that drug use is down for reasons other than demographic ones.

Anyone who has ever lived in a college dorm knows that there would be virtually no profit in drugs were it not for their illegal status. The main drugs used in the US like cocaine, pot and heroin can be raised practically anywhere. LSD is a few chemicals thrown together and its cost of production is zero. No profit=no organized crime. If it were treated like tobacco the cops, judges and politicians would have to stick their hands out someplace else.

The problem has always been a small one relative to the society as a whole, with certain sub-groups severely affected. The inner cities remain infested with the problem and any form of urban renewal by public or private sector forces remains completely ineffective as a result of the violent crime which is caused by our idiotic drug policy. You don't see anyone getting killed for selling booze or cigarettes, do you?

The vast majority of the people under the supervision of the criminal justice system suffer that indignity as a result of our drug policy, whether they were engaged in crime to get the exorbitant amounts of money needed to keep their habits going, or whether they were involved in violent activity in futherance of the illegal drug trade, and over 500,000 Americans are in jail today for non-violent drug offenses. In all, something like 2 1/2 million Americans are currently behind bars.

What is that costing us as a nation? About 100-150 billion a year in prison costs. That's money well spent. And that's not even counting the loss to GDP by keeping these folks behind bars.(Sarcasm intended)

Posted by: Bart at October 9, 2004 9:46 PM


500,000 Americans are not in jail for non-violent drug offenses; those are figures for arrests.

We would be spending far more money if drugs were legal.

Drugs, for the most part, remain in the inner-cities because we have prevented them from spreading into the suburbs.

Much of the violent crime is committed by people on drugs.

People do die from booze and cigarettes, far more than drugs because those two are legal products. Legalize drugs and those problems would skyrocket.

Anyone guilty of violating our laws should face the indignity of whatever happens to them.

Assuming that what you say is correct and only demographic figures shows a decrease in drug use, the truth would be that drug use is more taboo today than it was 30 years ago, and it is that way because of our success in keeping drug use a stigma, which keeps drug use out of our society.

Finally, since the vast majority of people who use drugs started before they were 21 or even 18, the drug dealers get much of their profits from kids. Even the biggest libertarians all agree that drugs should never be legalized for kids. Which means that the drug dealers will still be in the schools, parks, rock/rap concerts, dance halls, wherever kids hang out. Which means that the organized crime would still be there, which means that the cops will still be chasing drug dealers, which means that we will still need prisons for those people, which means we will still have a Drug War. Of course, all of those problems would be exacerbated since our society would no longer consider drug use to be a bad thing. Which means that all of the problems that may exist with a Drug War would still exist plus far more if drugs were legal.

Of course, none of this matters to you since you only care about yourself. As I said earlier, we won't be contacting you.

Posted by: Vince at October 9, 2004 10:02 PM

What's wrong with spending a modest sum to put the kind of people who would do illegal drugs and sell them in jail?

Posted by: oj at October 9, 2004 11:31 PM


It seems to me like a stunning waste of my hard earned and then taxed income to chase down and put people in jail for smoking (or possessing) marijuana. I'd rather have that money spent on other things, like moving forward the "ownership society" concept. That's just a personal preference, of course, and that's how I'll vote. I understand that society has decided otherwise, for now, and I can live with it.

Posted by: Bret at October 10, 2004 12:39 AM

What about the people who do drugs and sell them outside of jail? How did they get in jail the first place? Shouldn't they be treated the same no matter where they are doing and selling drugs?

Oh, nevermind.

But then there's this problem with violins on television...

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 10, 2004 12:40 AM


How many people are actually serving jail sentences for simple possession of marijuana? Why do you buy into the lie that cops do nothing else but arrest and imprison marijuana smokers, and why do you believe that all marijuana offenders are just smokers? The truth is if more marijuana smokers were imprisoned, we would have even far fewer people using drugs. The Ownership Society will not work unless there are far fewer people on drugs.

Posted by: Bret at October 10, 2004 1:23 AM

The previous thread was written by me. :)

Posted by: Vince at October 10, 2004 1:33 AM


I think Orrin misplaced the modifier. I remember watching "Clue." In the movie there is a scene where Mrs. White says, "He had threatened to kill me in public." Miss Scarlet asks, "Why did he want to kill you in public?" The butler chimes in and says, "I think she means he threatened in public to kill her." That was probably my favorite line in the movie.

Posted by: Vince at October 10, 2004 1:38 AM

OJ asked what's wrong with spending money on putting people who do illegal drugs in jail. Marijuana is an illegal drug. In the first part of my response, I wrote that spending money putting people who smoke marijuana in jail seems like a waste of money. Note that the the logic of my argument does not depend on whether or not people are actually currently put in jail for smoking marijuana, just as OJs question is not dependent on whether or not people are actually currently put in jail for any drug possession. In other words, it would, in my opinion be waste of money to put someone in jail for smoking marijuana, whether or not that was the current practice.

Someone else apparently named "Bret" then wrote in response to my comment:

"How many people are actually serving jail sentences for simple possession of marijuana?"

Doesn't matter, not material to my response.

"Why do you buy into the lie that cops do nothing else but arrest and imprison marijuana smokers,"

I don't believe I implied in any way that I think (or buy into the lie) that cops do nothing else but arrest and imprison marijuana smokers. I certainly agree that cops do things other than arrest marijuana smokers.

"and why do you believe that all marijuana offenders are just smokers?"

I don't believe this and didn't say anything of the sort. I only said that putting marijuana smokers in jail seemed like a waste of money. I didn't say anything else about marijuana sellers or users or dealers of other drugs. One argument at a time. Note that marijuana smokers is a valid subset of OJ's question.

"The truth is if more marijuana smokers were imprisoned, we would have even far fewer people using drugs."

I suppose, but if you imprisoned everybody in the country, there would be no drug users since we'd all be in jail. I don't think the statement is relevent to my answer to OJ's question.

"The Ownership Society will not work unless there are far fewer people on drugs."

Well, that's too bad - then Bush ought to give it up. Alcohol is a drug and the vast majority of people use alcohol. On the otherhand, I'm far from convinced this statement is true. What's the evidence?

Posted by: Bret at October 10, 2004 1:49 AM


We would not need to imprison everybody, just the small number marijuana users. The more marijuana users go to jail, the more other marijuana smokers will get the message and abstain, which means they save themselves from going to jail, and the less marijuana users means less marijuana buyers, which means less marijuana dealers, which means less availability of the drug, which means less marijuana users and so on...

Alcohol abuse is a problem. Just imagine how many more problems we would face if we legalized marijuana. Remember, people drink alcohol for a variety of reasons which have nothing to do with getting drunk. People smoke marijuana just to get high. Another words, marijuana use equals intoxication, alcohol consumption does not neccessarily. Also, there is growing evidence that marijuana use causes problems which do not occur in alcohol, and there are far more people checking into drug rehab for marijuana use alone than for other drugs and alcohol combined.

If you really do care about the Ownership Society, then you must realize that it will not work with a nation of drug addicts.

Posted by: Vince at October 10, 2004 2:09 AM

The ownership society works regardless of how many people do drugs; that's the point of it.
Everyone can be responsible for bettering their own situation, regardless of how badly the rest of society is messing up.

The news from Columbia is great, but I'll wait a few years to celebrate. As long as Americans are willing to spend billions on cocaine and crack, there will be people trying to get them some. This may be a very temporary victory.

Also, even if it does permanently reduce the amount of cocaine and crack used in the US, it doesn't necessarily mean that the drug problem will diminish; addicts might just switch to whatever else is available.

Nobody has ever died of a marijuana overdose, although hundreds die every year from alcohol poisoning.

If America ever gets to the point where we're executing people for possessing 10 lbs. of chronic, then we can forget about ever stopping abortion.

By examining what happened in American history before, during, and after Prohibition, we can see that any claims that corruption and enforcement costs would remain the same, or even increase, if marijuana were legalized, are a ludicrous fantasy, possibly drug-induced.

Roughly 80% of the 600,000 ( 100,000) annual marijuana arrests in the US are for possession only.
There are approximately 60,000 people in state and Federal prisons and jails for marijuana-related offenses; half of them, 30,000 or so, have been convicted of only marijuana related crimes, with no other illegal-drugs charges. Around 40% of the 30,000 are incarcerated for possession only.

The annual cost to imprison the 30,000 marijuana-only offenders averages $ 600 million.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 10, 2004 2:13 AM


The truth is that alcohol use and the problems associated with it did increase after Prohibition ended. Alcohol is not as dangerous as drugs, and its consumption does not neccessarily equal intoxication.

People may not die from a marijuana overdoes, but they do die from the long-term effects, and people die from what often happens while they are intoxicated--not to mention what happens to the innocent non-marijuana users. Also, people don't need to die to suffer from the problems of marijuana use.

I have heard of people getting so scared just from a simple marijuana possession arrest, that they abstained, which meant that the local dealer lost a customer.

Most people incarcerated for marijuana possession only offenses were marijuana dealers that plea-bargained down to marijuana possession offenses, which of course ended up saving us money.

Posted by: Vince at October 10, 2004 2:29 AM


You make an excellent case for banning alcohol and tobacco.

Otherwise, you're just pointing out the hypocrisy and irrationality of modern American society.
While that may be the current environment, proposing to continue the hypocricy and irrationality might strike an observer as mentally disturbed.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 10, 2004 5:51 AM


Just the lost productivity from alcohol use on the job costs more than enforcing Prohibition did.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2004 8:52 AM

I don't doubt it, considering that the population is three times as large now as it was during Prohibition.

Try enforcing an alcohol Prohibition today, (which I'd gladly support), and let me know how cheap it is.

We've spent $ 800 billion ( 200 billion) since '89 on the War Against Minorit... Er, War On Drugs, and at best 30% of the American population uses drugs even infrequently.

Again, although drug usage is a problem, what we've given up in an attempt to bail out the oceans is far too dear.

ONE year's budget spent failing to keep coke and heroin out of the US could have given us the Supercollider.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 10, 2004 9:25 AM


Have you noticed the one dominant topic of the 60s to the 90s that has not been so much as mentioned in the last three campaigns? Crime. Americans who were terrified of street crime for several decades no longer even think about it. Now it is a big issue in Europe, where more lenient attitudes towards drugs prevail. The incarceration of young black men has worked.

Posted by: at October 10, 2004 11:51 AM


And we are indeed moving towards a complete ban on tobacco. Alcohol has too many beneficial health and social effects for banning to be practical but its use is so severely circumscribed as to have vastly reduced its consumption.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2004 12:02 PM

Mr. Judd;

Do you support the use of confiscatory laws in enforcing the modern Prohibition? I find that the scariest part of the whole effort, because it is in effect tax farming. Making it profitable for law enforcement to simply arrest people for crimes is the kind of inducement to corruption that bedevils so many third world nations.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 10, 2004 12:52 PM


Absolutely. That's what the Sister Judd does.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2004 1:24 PM

It seems like using arson to fight rats, but it was a nice Bill of Rights while it lasted.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 10, 2004 1:37 PM


I'm unfamilisar with the provision in the Bill of Rights that requires that criminals be permitted to keep their ill-gotten gains.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2004 1:44 PM


Five to seven percent of the population uses drugs, and the number is going back down like it was until 1993 when the Clinton Administration took office.

Either way, what difference does any of this mean to you, Bart or any other loony libertarian. You don't care about our country, and the rest of us do. As I told Bart in an earlier thread, we won't be contacting him nor will we be contacting you.

Posted by: Vince at October 10, 2004 2:39 PM


Do you have some links to news reports on abusive confiscation by law enforcement?

I remember reading something but it was years ago.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 10, 2004 4:12 PM

Hmm, that might leave people like Chaney and Bush broke.

It's true that their offenses were minor, but their gains were still ill-gotten.


Improvements in Colombia, if real, are not quite the whole story, are they?

Last week, the feds busted 3 guys who allegedly were bringing in 20 POUNDS of ice/month into our small county.

And it didn't even make a dent.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 10, 2004 4:19 PM


Exactly. If Dick Cheney broke the law in order to get rich at Halliburton why shouldn't we take his ill-gotten gains?

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2004 4:24 PM

Mr. Judd;

So your view is that anyone arrested or accused by police is a criminal who deserves what ever monetary punishment the local DA feels is appropriate?

Now, as I remember the Constitution, it says that citizens have the right to not be punished unless convicted of criminal activity, and the the punishment should fit the crime (i.e., not be cruel or unusual). The confiscation of property upon arrest and return only on proof of innocence (where not being convicted in court does not constitute proof) seems just a tad beyond those bounds. Moreover, the confiscation is not of ill-gotten gains but what ever happens to be near the "crime" scene and regardless of how it belongs to.

All of that is bad enough. The fact that the police directly profit from it is what makes it truly corrosive. It makes it far better to just arrest a lot of people on flimsy or completely made up charges without caring about convictions. A cop can't really extort people by just threatening arrest, because of the follow on court case. But with confiscation, he can, because he gets to keep your stuff even if you win in court later.

And you're in favor of that? It's the stuff of a banana republic, not a liberal democracy. And it's all driven by the hysteria about recreational pharmaceuticals, which are for the Right what "The Children" are for the Left - a blanket excuse for any excess.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 10, 2004 8:53 PM

Annoying Old Guy:

We don't live in a liberal democracy; we live in a republic. The hysteria actually lies with those who think keeping dangerous, addictive drugs out of society is a bad thing.

Posted by: Vince at October 10, 2004 9:31 PM


So if dangerous, addictive drugs are bad, than anything that is done to prevent them is good? Is that really the logic you want to embrace? It is, of course, exactly what I meant in my final sentence. It is also the logic used by the Left, except they argue that hurting children is bad, so anything is acceptable to prevent it. The latter is frequently mocked here. Why not the former?

And let's be clear what you're in support of -- the severe punishment of people never convicted of any crime and giving the profits to the arresting agency.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 10, 2004 9:49 PM


The police don't profit, society gets back some of what was taken from it criminally. I'm quite comfortable with that.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2004 10:30 PM

The police do profit. That's the point. The arresting agency keeps up to 40% of whatever the confiscated item(s) bring at auction.

Also, sure, it's good for society to take back what was gained criminally, but most confiscated assets are not from convicted criminals !!
The assets are from people who, in some cases, aren't even brought to trial, much less convicted.

What you're embracing is a system whereby your vehicle could be seized at random, you're never charged with any crime, and you have to hire an attorney to attempt to prove that you're innocent of any wrongdoing.
That's exactly backwards from our normal presumption of innocence.


If you'd like to keep spending an average of $ 50 billion a year on failing to keep 15 million people from using drugs, be my guest.
Just stop taxing me for it, and it truly won't be any of my business.

Your use of the Royal "we" is hilarious. Are you a King somewhere ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 11, 2004 4:07 AM


That would be the police department, a public institution. It would be troubling if policemen got to keep it.

If they were innocent they'd try to get the stuff back.

Posted by: at October 11, 2004 8:39 AM

Monsieur Anonymous:

They do get the stuff back.

However, why should any American not convicted, or even charged, with a crime, have to go to court to defend their right to own property ?

What you're saying is the same as that anyone arrested must be guilty, which is a common enough attitude, but not very bright.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 11, 2004 11:47 AM


Our Drug War is why only 10-15 million Americans use drugs. If it were not for it, that number would be tripled, our problems would be exponential, and we would be spending at least ten times the 40 billion--not 50.

Go ahead, don't pay your taxes--you probably don't pay much anyways that it would make any difference.

Posted by: Vince at October 11, 2004 3:06 PM

Guy, Orrin is a Christian, so the idea of punishment fitting crime is anathema to him

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 12, 2004 9:54 PM