Trey Radel must be counting his lucky stars for being white, prominent, influential, and powerful. He’s a Republican congressman from Florida who recently pled guilty of buying cocaine from an undercover narc in D.C. and received an absolutely sweetheart deal from the judge at his sentencing hearing. The judge deferred a judgment of guilty and placed Radel on probation. If Radel successfully completes his probation, the court can dismiss the case without any adjudication of guilt, just as if nothing had ever happened.
I don’t begrudge Radel, just as I don’t begrudge people other high government officials for never having been punished by the state for possessing illicit drugs. I think it’s great that Radel escaped any punishment for his drug offense.
My beef is with the fact that countless blacks and Hispanics don’t get the same treatment and never have and never will. America’s prisons are filled with poor blacks and Hispanics who have been convicted of non-violent drug offenses. Because they’re not white, prominent, influential, and powerful, they didn’t receive the same sweetheart deal that Radel received.
No, I’m not saying that things should be equalized by having Radel spend several years in the penitentiary for his drug offense. I’m saying that things should be equalized by pardoning all those black and Hispanics and everyone else who is serving time in jail for a non-violent drug offense. If no jail time is good for Radel, why isn’t it good for everyone else, including those who are not white, prominent, influential, and powerful?
The real question though — the one so many statists refuse to ask — is: Why should it be a criminal offense to possess, ingest, or distribute illicit drugs? Or to put it another way, why should this be any business of law enforcement?
We don’t bust people for possessing beer or liquor or for being alcoholics. We don’t bust them for smoking. Those things do much more damage to a person than illicit drugs do. Why don’t we criminalize them?
One reason is because we know that criminalizing those activities would just lead to a more violent society, without achieving an alcohol-free or tobacco-free society. We know that because the United States once tried it. That’s what Prohibition was all about. Americans learned the hard way that it just doesn’t work, which is one big reason that Prohibition was repealed.
But most Americans also take the position that if people want to drink or smoke, that’s their business, not the business of the government. People recognize that that’s part of what freedom is all about — the right to engage in conduct that others disapprove of that doesn’t involve trespassing on the rights of other people.
Then why not the same attitude toward illicit drugs? Look at all the violence that the drug war has produced — there has been far more death and destruction with drug prohibition than there ever was with alcohol Prohibition. Sixty thousand dead people in Mexico alone and just in the last six years, not because of drugs but because of the drug war! Add to that the vast amount of governmental corruption, including law-enforcement abuse of asset-forfeiture laws. Don’t forget the massive ruination of lives with felony convictions and inordinately high jail sentences, especially for the people who are poor and black or Hispanic.
What arguments are left for continuing the war on drugs? There aren’t any. Even “good intentions” goes out the window compared to the horrific realities of the drug war.
Sure, there are plenty of drug addicts. Congressman Radel is among them. But why not bring drug addiction out into the open, enabling addicts to more easily get help rather than drive them into the darkness where the person they think is a friend is actually an undercover narc? Why not treat drug addiction like we treat alcoholism or tobacco addiction?
One of the best reasons for ending the drug war is its manifest racism. For one thing, the drug war gives bigoted cops the perfect excuse for harassing and abusing blacks and Hispanics. The cops can always justify their racial bigotry with, “I’m just enforcing the law and trying to keep drugs off our streets.”
By ending the drug war, we also bring to an end the horrible disparities in treatment that have come with the drug war. No more jail time for poor blacks and Hispanics who have a drug problem while their rich, white counterparts get probation and deferred adjudication, as Congressman Radel has received.
There is no way to reconcile drug laws with the principles of a free society. After several decades of drug warfare, there is no way to justify the drug war from a pragmatic standpoint. It’s time to end it, not just for the benefit of people like Congressman Radel and other addicts but also for the benefit of those who haven’t received Radel’s sweetheart deal because of their race and status in life — and also for the benefit of everyone else in American society, especially those who would prefer to live in a free society rather than a drug-war police state.