End the War on Drugs by Changing our Approach to Drug Users

For the last several years I have been advocating for ending the war on drugs. Many people have asked how, as a member of the LDS Church (Mormon), I could advocate for this. Church doctrine, after all, teaches that we should follow the Word of Wisdom, which includes not partaking of mind altering substances without a doctor’s prescription. The answer to that question comes from another doctrine within my faith. That doctrine is that of agency.

So long as you are not harming anyone, crossing the line where your rights end and another’s rights begin, you should be able to have the agency in your life for what you would like to do. And you don’t have to use drugs, simply because they are legal. That’s the beauty of agency.

We have learned in the past that prohibition only makes things worse. When alcohol was prohibited, violent crime went up, more dangerous products wound up for sale, and otherwise peaceful people were labeled as criminals. It cost more money than it was worth for enforcement and ruined more lives than it was trying supposedly to save.

It is often said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We are repeating the Prohibition Era with the war on drugs, and it has been one of the most monumental failures in history. Cartels have grown in power, violence grows as gangs fight for turf, and people who have not harmed others are placed in prisons for consuming something someone else doesn’t like.

What would be the benefits of ending the war on drugs be in the United States?

  • Violent crime rates would drop. This has been shown to happen in countries that are more tolerant toward possession and consumption. Portugal is one of the latest examples.
  • Overdose deaths are shown to decrease drastically when people are not worried about going to jail.
  • Bringing these products out of the Black Market will create jobs for individuals and cycle more money into the legitimate economy.
  • More dangerous products are less frequently used because if the goal for individuals is to get their high, and a safer product is legal, they are less likely to use something man-made like methamphetamine.
  • An addict is more willing to seek help, since the risk of jail time no longer exists.
  • Taxpayers would not be paying in excess of $60 billion a year on interdiction efforts.
  • The cost for prison and jails would drastically drop, as nearly 2/3 of the incarcerated population in the United States have been convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

Monetarily speaking, the savings alone on what we spend in the federal and state budgets should be enough for anyone looking for ways to avoid driving further into debt.

We also need to break the stigma that individuals who use drugs are somehow bad people. I have talked about some of the struggles I have had, and I am not afraid to talk about the realities of life. I am a great father to my kids; I’m on the national board of the third largest political party in the United States; I have run several businesses in my life; I served on an education board in my county; and I have been on the board for a couple of non-profits over the years.

I am also a recovering drug addict of opiates. I got hooked after a knee injury in 2009. After I finished my prescription, I bought from other people who had left overs, and eventually started buying them on the street.

From 2010 until 2012, I also regularly used cannabis to assist me with PTSD while navigating the process through the VA.

Neither of those things made me a bad person. There are doctors, lawyers, mothers, fathers, police officers, veterans, teachers, business leaders, and so many more who have gone through similar processes. They are not bad people.

The stigma associated with individuals who have used, or may still be using, drugs needs to end, and we can only do that by changing the narrative. By definition, a person who commits a crime is a criminal. But a person who is addicted to pain killers or who chooses to use drugs is not wicked or evil. I do not want people encouraged to do drugs, but we cannot look at those who have as if they are lesser beings. They are not.

Sometimes it is a case like mine, where there was an injury. Other times it could be someone self-medicating due to severe depression. Perhaps they are trying to escape some sort of trauma. Or maybe they just decide that they would like to have a little cruise on the weekend. Regardless of the reason, they are not bad people because of their choice.

I will end with this:

Ultimately, where there has been no victim, there can be no crime. Where an individual has not harmed another, morally speaking, we should not be taking away their lives and locking them up. We should not attempt to legislate morality. There are a simple number of things, where governments exist, that they should worry about: life, liberty, and justly acquired property. That is the true scope of government if it must exist.

Craig Bowden has dedicated his life to the preservation of liberty, both economic and social as a candidate, activist, and member of the Libertarian Party. His stance in politics is fairly simple: An individual cannot delegate rights that he, or she, does not possess, themselves. Rights include life, liberty, and property, nothing more. Any violation of individual consent is immoral, unjust, and unethical. Craig Bowden is a Libertarian candidate for the United States Senate out of Utah. His session at FreedomFest 2018, “How High is High? Does Marijuana Legalization Go Far Enough?” with Jason Stapleton, Walter Block, Rebecca Gasca, Jeffrey Tucker and Zoltan Istfan was well attended.