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Only One Way to End Drug-War Violence

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Two police officers in Kissimmee, Florida, were recently shot and killed while investigating illegal drug activity in a dangerous part of town. According to the New York Times, government officials praised the officers for their service and asked Floridians to pray for other law-enforcement personnel. President Trump weighed in with a tweet in which he offered his thoughts and prayers for the Kissimmee police and their families.

There is one big thing about that picture, however: It is the drug war itself, which Trump and, no doubt, most of the Kissimmee police department, favor, that is the reason that those two police officers are dead. If drugs were legal, those two dead police officers would not have been investigating illegal drug activity because there would be no illegal drug activity.

Take a look at this very interesting and revealing article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times about a DEA agent named Enrique Camarena. He too is dead, having been kidnapped, tortured, and murdered in 1985 by a Mexican drug gang. Not surprisingly, the DEA went ballistic over the murder and pulled out all the stops, including violent kidnapping, to bring the malefactors to justice.

One big thing to notice, however: It is the drug war itself, which most DEA agents favor, that brought about Camarena’s death. If drugs had been legal, Camarena wouldn’t have been in Mexico investigating illegal drug activity because there wouldn’t have been any illegal drug activity.

Consider this article from yesterday’s Washington Post, entitled “Acapulco is Now Mexico’s Murder Capital.” Why are there so many murders in Acapulco? Because of the drug war. If drugs were legal, there would be no more drug-war murders in Acapulco because there would no longer be a drug war.

In the early days of the drug war, proponents could innocently say, “We had no idea that drug laws would produce violence and, therefore, we are not really responsible, in a moral sense, for the consequences of this government program that we support.”

However, after decades of drug-law experience, no one can innocently make that claim. Drug laws have brought into existence drug gangs, drug lords, drug cartels, and drug violence, much like alcohol Prohibition brought into existence Al Capone and his spree of violence. At some point, the proponent of drug laws loses his innocence and must inevitably acknowledge that he himself is morally culpable for the death and destruction that accompanies a government program that he himself supports.

Mexico used to be a wonderful place to visit. And a safe place. American tourists in Acapulco and other parts of Mexico didn’t have to worry about drug-war violence because there was no drug war. The drug war changed all that. It converted Mexico into a hell-hole of violence, much like it has done in the Philippines.

Ever since the 1960s, we have become accustomed to those great big, well-publicized drug busts, especially when they involve some big drug lord. When that happens, there are all sorts of accolades for drug enforcement officers. They almost always call it a watershed event in the war on drugs. They send drug lords to jail for decades.

And then something interesting happens. The drug war goes on, as if nothing had happened. Those great big drug busts have had no effect on the drug-war process. The NYT article about Camarena explains why this is so. As soon as they bust a drug lord or a drug cartel, he or it is immediately replaced by new drug lords or drug cartels. If they are busted, they’re replaced by still more. The process is endless because the more they crack down, the higher the profits that are to be made from drug deals. The higher profits inevitably attract more unsavory and more violent people into the business.

There is only one way to put these people out of business, and it isn’t more drug busts and more criminal prosecutions. That one way is drug legalization. Legalizing drugs means no more black market, no more drug lords, and no more drug gangs or cartels. They immediately go out of business because they cannot compete in a legalized market. So, all the cops who are currently being killed investigating illegal drug activity will no longer be killed because there won’t be any more illegal drug activity to investigate.

The best thing Mexican officials could do for the Mexican people is to legalize drugs. Legalizing drugs would bring an immediate end to all the drug-war violence in Mexico. It’s what drug lords, drug gangs, and drug cartels fear most because they know that drug legalization would put them out of business immediately. Sure, U.S. officials would be livid and would scream to the rafters in protest. But drug legalization would restore a peaceful society to Mexico, one that American tourists would soon start returning to.

Why would U.S. officials be so angry? Because the drug war has become big business for many in the federal bureaucracy. You’ve got an enormous bureaucratic army of judges, prosecutors, law enforcement personnel, clerks, and CIA agents whose livelihood depends on the drug war. They know that if drugs were legalized, many of them would be twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do, which is precisely why they continue to support the drug war knowing full well that dead law-enforcement officers come with it.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.