Sunday, December 19, 2004

Prohibition Profiteers

This editorial by Froma Harrop is worth going through the tiresome free reg to read. She's come up with the numbers on how maintaining the prohibition budget profits those who fight to keep it.

About $69 billion of it last year went to police, federal agents, judges, jailers and other drug-law enforcers across the United States. These are the good guys, but most are not so good that they will admit that the war on drugs is a waste of money and lives. The war is how they make a living.

She points out the hypocrisy of Judge Breyer's admonition in the Raich case, that reformers should go to the FDA for approval, while the DEA is blocking the ability of scientists to do the research to prove its efficacy.

Do the math: The DEA has nearly 11,000 employees and a $2 billion budget. America last year arrested 1.6 million people for nonviolent drug offenses. Half were for marijuana (with 80 percent for possession). The number of marijuana arrests, 734,000, nearly equaled the population of South Dakota. Imagine what legalizing marijuana would do to the DEA's cash flow.

The profits go beyond law enforcement.

Marijuana has yet to kill anyone, yet anti-drug advocacy groups like the Partnership for a Drug-Free America portray it as a scourge. And why not? Condemning marijuana helps score $20 million in annual revenues for the Manhattan-based nonprofit. Its president makes a quarter of a million, and the next five highest-paid employees rake in close to $200,000 apiece.

And think of the other peripheral businesses like drug testing companies. Harrop sums the problem up well, ..."the smallest retreat is billions in lost revenues for the warriors. And that's why the bureaucrats and every player in this war will fight against legalizing medical marijuana, for as long as it takes."

As I've said before, prohibition is about private profit, not public safety.


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