A Deseret News article quotes Frank Smith, DEA assistant special agent in charge of Utah, as saying those who grow marijuana on public lands are the “greatest threat to public safety”. He blames them for violent crime, stealing land and water, and “decimating the environment”.
But Agent Smith is wrong.
The act of growing a plant is not a violent act.
The act of providing products or services to peaceful individuals who want them is not a violent act.
The violence is initiated by the State, which intervenes because it has arbitrarily declared a certain substance to be “illegal”. Yet the demand for this substance causes a “black market” to be created to circumvent the State’s attempt at control. Attempts to increase control only result in more desperate means of getting around them. The violence, initiated by the State, escalates because sometimes the targets of this aggression attempt to defend their lives and property from it.
I do not condone the use of public lands or the destruction of the environment, but I think it’s important to place the blame where it truly lies.
If the government had not overstepped its Constitutional bounds, claiming ownership over our bodies and the power to declare what we can and cannot put into them, this problem wouldn’t exist. There would be no costly, deadly, and destructive “War on Drugs”. Agent Smith, instead of trying to violently enforce a bad law, might have instead turned out to be Farmer Smith, growing cannabis on his own land and supplying a product that has legitimate applications in medicine, fabric, and several other areas to many happy customers.
Instead, Agent Smith is engaged in a futile and violent attempt to treat the symptoms of a problem government created in the first place. And if the problem wouldn’t exist if not for the actions of government, who is the true threat to public safety?
Dallin agrees with Murray N. Rothbard: "Freedom is a condition in which a person's ownership rights in his own body and his legitimate material property are not invaded, are not aggressed against." During the 2008 elections he came to the realization that the greatest invader, the greatest aggressor, the greatest threat to freedom is The State. He is interested in learning about and promoting libertarian, voluntaryist, anarchist, and other similar liberty-centered philosophies. He has been working in computer and technology-related positions since 2006 and participates in several blogs and side-projects.
Anarchist activist Thomas L. Knapp recently published an article entitled “If You Have to Ask Why, the Answer is Usually ‘Money’” in response to the public’s general lack of support for military action against Iran and confusion as to the reasons for it. As Knapp points out, given the facts at hand, proposing war with Iran is, well, insane.
I have found that “money” is pretty much the answer to why government ever does anything. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I know that “greed” has become a bad word over the past decade as it is blamed for every problem our society has faced; but greed is merely the pursuit of self-interest, and a universal human trait. Blaming our problems on greed is like blaming the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on gravity. Anyone who claims never to pursue self-interest is a liar, because such a person would have died from starvation long ago. Greed in and of itself has no power to do harm without force, and there is no larger, better organized institution of force than government.
It is for this reason that when an honest soul asks, Why are we waging a “War on Drugs” and destroying so many lives? What business is it of mine what another person puts in their own bodies? – the answer, of course, is money. As I have previously observed, the drug war puts the United States in the unique position of incarcerating a greater percentage of its citizenry than any other nation, and this prison population is put to work at an extremely low cost building weapons for the U.S. military.
This large prison population is very beneficial to other parties, as well, it turns out. Corrections Corporation of America is a $2 billion company whose business is to build or buy prisons and house prisoners at the State’s expense. They have an incentive, therefore, to imprison as many people as they possibly can. They have been active members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the country, and they have spent millions over the years lobbying legislatures for stricter laws.
In an environment of shrinking state budgets across the nation, Corrections Corp. recently sent letters to 48 states offering to buy and manage their prisons, with the condition that they always be kept at least 90% full. At least one state has taken them up on this offer, and there is no reason for others not to follow suit. And there is only one way for them to guarantee that 90% figure: pass more and stricter laws, outlawing more victimless behavior, and enforcing those laws more strictly. This does not bode well for anyone outside the corporate and political elite.
There have been many movements recently to “get the corrupting money out of politics”. These efforts are admirable but misguided reactions to an increasingly authoritarian State. The proper course is to get the corrupting politics out of money. Money is not evil in and of itself – indeed, it represents the ingenuity and labor of voluntary exchange that has continuously increased humanity’s standard of living for centuries – but in the hands of the political means, the invasive and confiscatory and violent means of the State, it can be a powerful weapon for evil.
We need money; we don’t need politics.
The effectiveness of State legislation to solve problems caused by the State is debatable, but it is nice to see a government official headed in the right direction every now and then. Such is the case with David Butterfield, a lawmaker proposing to end random DUI checkpoints in Utah.
Despite the Fourth Amendment strictly prohibiting warrantless searches and seizures, the Supreme Court has ruled that DUI checkpoints are permissible as long as certain requirements are met. Ever chiseling away at civil liberties with the sharp tools of misguided utilitarianism, the court justified such checkpoints on the grounds of their effectiveness.
But what Butterfield has found, and what anyone will find with a simple Google search, is that DUI checkpoints aren’t effective – at least, not at deterring drunk driving. What they are effective at is raising revenue for police departments and the State. It is not surprising, therefore, that Butterfield’s proposal was met with sharp criticism from the law enforcement bloc. State police forces rely on tickets and fines as revenue, and DUI checkpoints have proven to be veritable gold mines for raking in dough for minor offenses that police can’t pull you over for, as well as asset forfeiture.
While Butterfield’s proposal is a step in the right direction, it’s difficult indeed to see the State ever making it to the destination that direction leads to: legalizing drunk driving. As libertarian activist Lew Rockwell explained:
“This is a gross attack on liberty that implies that the government has and should have total control over us, extending even to the testing of intimate biological facts. But somehow we put up with it because we have conceded the first assumption that government ought to punish us for the content of our blood and not just our actions…
“Bank robbers may tend to wear masks, but the crime they commit has nothing to do with the mask. In the same way, drunk drivers cause accidents but so do sober drivers, and many drunk drivers cause no accidents at all. The law should focus on violations of person and property, not scientific oddities like blood content.”
I hope Butterfield fights the good fight and gets his proposal codified, despite the overwhelming intimidation tactics the law enforcement cartel is bound to unload on him. Radical ideas are often met with radical opposition. But then, isn’t that how we know we’re onto something?
Before Brigham City doctor Dewey MacKay had even been criminally charged with illegally prescribing pain killers, federal prosecutors began seizing his assets, including his truck, SUV, and over $1 million of his retirement savings. That is because civil asset forfeiture legislation enables prosecutors and police to seize property without ever charging the owner with a crime. They simply must suspect that the property was used in illegal activity.
Now prosecutors are seeking a hearing with a judge to seek seizure of the doctor’s business property and assets. No one should be surprised by this. The “war on drugs” actually has little to do with drugs and more to do with plunder. It has given legislators and government agents strong incentive to criminalize and ruthlessly prosecute as many drugs and drug-related acts as possible.
In a document prepared by the ironically named U.S. Department of Justice as a guide to police officers, the real motivation behind the drug war is spelled out quite plainly under the heading, “The Need for Forfeiture”:
“For many years, law enforcement agencies around the nation have faced shrinking budgets. Police administrators have been forced to develop creative budgeting strategies, such as securing federal grants and partnering with community foundations. Though it is an enforcement tool, asset forfeiture can assist in the budgeting realm by helping to offset the costs associated with fighting crime. Doing what it takes to undermine the illicit drug trade is expensive and time-consuming. Forfeiture can help agencies target these difficult problems, sometimes without the need to seek additional outside resources to offset their costs.”
As usual, the “justice” imposed upon individuals by the State is focused not on retribution to the victim, but on funding State concerns. Indeed, the State’s actions cannot award damages to the victim when there is no victim. Drug use, production, and exchange by and between consenting adults are not criminal activities precisely because there is no victim. There is no harm in these activities to which consent is not given, and the actual crimes normally associated with these activities (gang violence, theft, etc.) are largely the results of drug prohibition, not drug use.
The State’s function is to benefit itself. This always has been its function and always will be. To pretend otherwise is intellectually dishonest at worst and naive at best, but always counterproductive to the pursuit of mankind’s welfare. The real criminal is the State as it uses force to prevent voluntary relations and transactions, seizes property from non-criminals, and seeks the lengthiest prison time possible as an example to others and as a source of revenue to the private prison companies that are so generous in their political donations.
Voluntaryists assert that the State’s monopoly on crime is illegitimate, that the use of violence against non-violent people is the true crime here. While voluntary transactions between two parties necessarily result in both parties being better off, the State’s system of coercion can only operate at someone else’s expense, and the costs can be dear.
As I read this article about Utah families struggling to find an adequate supply of Adderall, a drug used to alleviate the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, I couldn’t help but ponder the blaring irony.
In the article we are given an example of an entire family – 2 parents and 4 children – dependent on a mind-altering substance, frantically searching “every pharmacy in town” for any sign of the drug.
Here is the irony: all you have to do is remove the “Stamp of Legitimacy” given to Adderall by the State, and suddenly anyone who buys, sells, or manufactures this drug is a criminal. This family would be torn apart – parents hunted down and caged, children deemed “wards of the state”, separated, and given over to foster care. All because we’ve given the State the power to tell us what we can and cannot put into our own bodies along with a monopoly on violence to enforce it.
There’s another mind-altering substance out there that has been proven to improve the quality of life for many people, but has not been granted the State “Stamp of Legitimacy” in most places.
It’s called Cannabis.
There are thousands of non-violent “criminals” in prison at this moment, thousands of broken families out there, because they dared to handle Cannabis, one of the mind-altering substances the state hasn’t approved (yet). But by all means, step right up and get your (FDA-approved) Adderall and complain about the drug companies and government when there’s a shortage.
And don’t get me started on the government “protecting” us from the pernicious evils of – *gasp* – raw milk.
Utah Liberty Alliance does not normally concern itself with federal affairs, but a House bill ending federal marijuana prohibition desperately needs our support! If you are not opposed to participating in the political process, we urge you to contact your legislator to let them know they must do everything they can to get H.R. 2306 passed.
Drug Policy Alliance has a customizable form letter that automatically sends your message to your representatives based on your address information. Obviously, you should customize the message to reflect your own thoughts and feelings on the bill.
If you visit the bill’s page on OpenCongress.org, you can click “Support” in the right column to write a message to your representatives based on your address information.
From DrugPolicy.org’s message concerning this issue:
Multiple federal agencies are working in tandem to assault medical marijuana patients and providers. The DEA is raiding licensed and regulated dispensaries that are legal under state law. The ATF is discriminating against medical marijuana patients by prohibiting them from owning firearms. The IRS is rejecting standard business expense tax deductions from legitimate medical marijuana providers. And federal threats have intimidated banks and landlords into refusing to do business with the medical marijuana industry. Even free speech is under attack — at least one federal prosecutor is threatening to target newspapers that accept medical marijuana advertising.
Last week, for the first time ever a Gallup Poll found that 50 percent of all Americans want marijuana legalized. We have reached the tipping point — now let’s seize this opportunity!
For the first time in recorded history, support for the legalization of marijuana is now the majority opinion in the United States according to a recent Gallup poll. This follows hard upon the California Medical Association’s call for legalization, noting that “the consequences of criminalization outweigh the hazards” of marijuana use.
Mark Fotheringham, Vice President of Communications for the Utah Medical Association, said in a phone interview that the group does not have a specific stance on the issue, so it defers to the American Medical Association’s recommendation.
And what is that recommendation? The AMA has recommended that marijuana’s place under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act be reviewed so that the medical community can research the potential therapeutic benefits of cannabis. The group asserts that “effective patient care requires the free and unfettered exchange of information on treatment alternatives and that discussion of these alternatives between physicians and patients should not subject either party to criminal sanctions.”
It doesn’t take much research to find out why legislators and law enforcement officials so willfully ignore the advice of the largest association of medical doctors in America, as well as the voices of the general populace. For local law enforcement, marijuana prohibition enables a significant source of revenue through “civil asset forfeiture“, a process by which police can seize and sell your property to fund agency budgets without ever having to charge you with a crime.
At the federal level, marijuana prohibition has helped to create the largest prison population — in both numbers and percentages — of any nation on earth. This population has been seized upon by Congress as a vast slave labor force to inexpensively manufacture weapons for sale to Middle Eastern countries. The private prison industry has exercised great influence upon legislators and the justice system to criminalize as much activity as possible, as well as to mete out harsher sentences to maximize incarceration time (and thereby profit).
Our ancestors had to learn the hard way the negative effects of alcohol prohibition. In the 1920s, liquor consumption and expenditure increased dramatically during prohibition, as did the homicide rate and prison population. Each of these measures declined after the repeal. Unfortunately, subsequent generations chose not to learn from history, and we have more than repeated it.
The time has come to let fear and corruption give way to science and reason. In a time when so much is going wrong, it is good to see this one thing headed in the right direction.
Utah Liberty Alliance seeks to bring about a free society through journalism and activism, starting right here at home.
Recent Forum Posts
In development: Utah Copwatch (utahcopwatch.org)
posted in forum Incubator by Dallin Crump on August 14, 2012 at 1:09 pm
In development: Utahns for Privatized Education (u4pe.org)
posted in forum Incubator by Dallin Crump on April 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm
Utah juror information
posted in forum Incubator by Nicholas Hooton on April 30, 2012 at 8:56 am