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  • The War on Drugs is a term for the legislative and law enforcement actions, in many countries and at various levels of government, to prevent people or punish them for using or consuming certain drugs which affect the nervous system. To prevent consumption, actions are also directed at people who supply or produce the drugs or grow the plants used to make the drugs.

    Although prohibitions on various addictive substances, such as the caffeine in coffee, date back to the seventeenth century, the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 began efforts against "controlled substances" at the United States federal level. The term "war on drugs" became popular after Richard Nixon spoke about waging "an effective war against heroin addiction" in a message to Congress in 1971. The crusade continued with the "Just Say No" campaign during the Reagan presidency which led to the enacment of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 [PDF] and the establishment of Office of National Drug Control Policy two years later.

    With the passage of California's Compassionate Use Act in 1996, legislation aimed at overturning the federal laws and enforcement actions began at the state level. For example, as of March 2023, 38 states allow use of cannabis for medical purposes and 22 states have made its non-medical use legal.


    A Drug War Carol
    Website for the 2003 graphic novel authored by Susan W. Wells and illustrated by Scott Bieser, based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, includes recommended reading and other suggested website lists

    Web Pages

    Drug War | Cato Institute
    Commentary, studies, articles, videos, podcasts and other research from the Cato Institute on the war on drugs
    Identification of a problem does not mean that the government should undertake to solve it, and the fact that a problem occurs in more than one state does not mean that it is a proper subject for federal policy. Perhaps no area more clearly demonstrates the bad consequences of not following such rules than does drug prohibition. The long federal experiment in prohibition of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs has given us crime and corruption combined with a manifest failure to stop the use of drugs or reduce their availability to children.


    The Bill of Rights: The Right to Keep and Bear Arms, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Aug 2004
    Discusses the fallacies in gun-control arguments, comparing possible gun prohibition to the war on drugs, highlighting the behavior of U.S. officials in occupied Iraq and concluding with several quotes by Founding Fathers and Framers
    One problem with [the gun control effectiveness] assumption is that it fails to take into consideration the free market or, more precisely, the black market that inevitably springs up in response to laws that attempt to restrict the supply of some product or service. Consider, for example, the war on drugs, a war in which the federal government has attempted to eliminate the supply of drugs for at least 30 years. Despite an increasing array of ever-harsher laws, those who desire drugs are still able to obtain them from those who are willing to take the risks to supply them.
    The Bill of Rights: Trial by Jury, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Jan 2005
    Explains why a trial by a jury of ordinary people was considered an essential constitutional guarantee and discusses jury nullification in real and hypothetical cases
    A good example of this phenomenon, which has come to be known by the term "jury nullification," once occurred during the 1960s in ... Texas. The feds were prosecuting a man for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The man ... confessed to the crime, explaining tearfully that he had needed the money because of financial difficulties suffered by his family. The presiding judge had a reputation for doling out maximum sentences for drug offenses. The jury, feeling sorry for the man, voted to acquit him. The judge screamed at the jurors telling them that they were the dumbest people ...
    Bush's Opium Boom, by James Bovard, Freedom Daily, Apr 2003
    Describes attempts by the Taliban (from July 2000 to October 2001—the U.S. invasion), the U.S., the United Nations and the Karzai government to control opium poppy production in Afghanistan
    The Taliban's opium ban was hailed as one of the greatest successes in the history of the world war on drugs. Bernard Frahi, director of the UN Drug Control Program, commented, "If this had happened in Colombia, where the U.S. is spending billions of dollars and reducing drug cultivation by maybe 5 percent, this would have gotten the Nobel Prize ..." ... In October 2002, UN officials warned that it would take a decade to eradicate Aghan opium production ... (American citizens may remember similar timetables for the achievement of a "drug-free America" ...)
    Cast a Giant Ballot, by Clifford F. Thies, The Freeman, Oct 1997
    Memorial and biographical essay on Roger MacBride, discussing his influence on the early Libertarian Party as well as his involvement in the Little House saga
    MacBride spoke with compassion for those who were victimized by their own decisions. Concerning drugs, MacBride wrote, "Why should not you and I, it is argued, who hate the very thought of drug addiction, and who would use every resource at our command to prevent a loved one's becoming addicted, why shouldn't we force our values on another? Hard case, I agree. But the rational answer is clear: force is no answer, love and persuasion may be ... [T]here are serious issues of moral conduct. Fortunately there are many institutions other than government that can appropriately deal with these matters ..."
    The Death of Politics, by Karl Hess, Playboy, Mar 1969
    Discusses libertarianism, contrasting it with both conservatism and modern liberalism, including specific policy differences
    The current laws against marijuana, in contravention even of all available evidence ..., are a prime example of the use of political power ... "Hard" narcotics must be subjected to the same tests as marijuana ... The person who uses drugs imprudently, just as the person who imprudently uses the politically sanctioned ... drugs of alcohol or tobacco, ends up in an unenviable position, perhaps dead. That, rationally, is his own business as long as he does not, by his actions, deprive you of your right to make your own decision not to use drugs, to assist addicts, or, if you wish, to ignore them.
    Drug Legalization: How to Radically Lower the Number of Murders in New Orleans, by Walter Block, 27 Jan 2007
    Suggests drug legalization as a remedy to the increased murder rate in New Orleans and then considers six objections to such a plan and its potential effects
    [Objection] 6. The Harrison Narcotics Act of 1917 was implemented for a good purpose: to save ourselves from the scourge of drugs.
    Has it succeeded? To ask this question is to answer it. People can purchase addictive substances in any major city ... No, this "war" has failed, like so many other such initiatives undertaken by government. The motivation behind this legislation had nothing to do with protecting the public in any case. It was pure and simple a racist anti-Chinese measure, in an attempt to criminalize them for using opium dens ... The drug war is an utter and abysmal failure.
    Related Topics: Children, Louisiana, Prohibition
    The Drug War as a Socialist Enterprise, by Milton Friedman, Friedman & Szasz on Liberty and Drugs, 16 Nov 1991
    Chapter adapted from keynote address at Fifth International Conference on Drug Policy Reform; examines why, 20 years after his admonition against the drug war, the government continues its attempts at enforcement, in spite of the predicted results
    [M]ost literature that I have read on drugs takes it for granted that the drug problem is a special case to be discussed in terms of specific issues associated with ... the substances involved and so on rather than a special instance of a more general phenomenon ... Such reformers believe that if they could write the law, the law would be enforced the way they wrote it. That is an illusion ... The people who wrote the law on drugs did not intend to kill hundreds of thousands of people in the process. They did not intend to have a system under which prisons and prisoners would grow like Topsy.
    Drug War Dementia, by James Bovard, Freedom Daily, Nov 1996
    Details various police, military and school actions and legislation in the government's war on users of certain banned substances, and the generally unrecognized side effects of these policies
    The government's war on drug users is annually jailing hundreds of thousands of Americans, ruining the neighborhoods of millions ..., and setting precedents for expanded government power in other areas. Most of the drugs outlawed are indeed harmful, but political grandstanding and endless crackdowns ... have failed to end widespread illicit drug use. Federal drug policy has been vastly more effective in punishing people ... than in reforming their habits. Government officials have responded to the failure ... with demands for ever increasing violence against drug users and suspected drug users.
    The Drug War Hits Home, by David Boaz, Freedom Daily, Jan 1992
    Reviews several cases of non-users caught in "the tentacles of the War on Drugs" and explains why civil forfeiture is attractive to law enforcers
    The war on drugs increasingly demonstrates the futility of efforts to prohibit people from engaging in peaceful, voluntary activities. There is an inherent problem with enforcing crime laws which entail no violence against another person: There is no complaining witness, ... so the police are forced to engage in undercover work ... [W]e are giving up our liberties in order to fight crime that is actually caused by the War on Drugs. A cynic might wonder whether restricting civil and economic liberties and expanding the power of the state is actually the point of the war on drugs.
    The Drug War's Immorality and Abject Failure, by Anthony Gregory, Freedom Daily, Jul 2006
    Discusses how drug use differs from criminal, property-rights violations, the justifications for the drug war and the many areas where it has had detrimental effects on society: inner cities, rule of law, foreign relations, etc.
    If the idea is to create a drug-free America, then we can safely say that after hundreds of billions of dollars spent, millions of arrests, and decades of escalating police and military efforts, the war on drugs is a complete failure ... The attempt to use government force ... to effectively mold society by preventing people on an individual basis from growing, producing, transferring, and ingesting drugs of their choice, is a ridiculous fantasy and always has been. There will forever be ways to circumvent the law. There will never be the resources to put an end to the lawbreaking.
    An Economic Perspective on Illegal Drugs, by Paul Heyne, "Are Economists Basically Immoral?" and Other Essays on Economics, Ethics, and Religion, Feb 1990
    Chapter 25, originally published in Forum; suggests various policies for dealing with the negative externalities of drug use
    Think how many more muggings there would be if muggees sought the experience as eagerly as muggers do! That's roughly the situation today with the trade in illegal drugs. The law is a weak deterrent because the absence of a self-identified victim drastically lowers the probability of apprehension, conviction and eventual punishment ... This essay is simply a suggestion for looking at what we are doing in a somewhat different way. Perhaps it offers a middle ground on which those who want to decriminalize drug use and those who want to intensify the war on drugs can meet to converse.
    Related Topic: Personal Responsibility
    The Economics Behind the U.S. Government's Unwinnable War on Drugs, by Benjamin Powell, 1 Jul 2013
    Analyzes the economics of the drug war, including the demand-supply effects of prohibition on both users and distributors, the effects of higher prices and variable quality, comparisons to alcohol prohibition and external effects
    The net effect of prohibition on drug users is, at best, to decrease consumption while making the consumption of the remaining drug users much more dangerous because their purchases are more potent and less predictable. This is borne out in the data on deaths from drug overdoses. From 1971—two years before the creation of the federal government's Drug Enforcement Administration and Nixon's declaration of the war on drugs—to 2007, the rate of death from a drug overdose per 100,000 total deaths increased by a factor of ten. Prohibition also creates more problems for non-users.
    The Egregiously Destructive War on Drugs, by Gennady Stolyarov II, Mises Daily, 30 May 2006
    Discusses the adverse effects that the war on drugs has on innocent people who don't consume drugs
    I personally find all currently illegal drugs loathsome; they stunt the mind, inhibit the body, and curtail productivity. I would never consume such substances myself, and I would advise others against doing so. Yet, compared to the adverse effects of their illegalization, the harm of drugs themselves is small indeed. Drug-taking is extremely unhealthy for the persons engaging in it, but not for anybody who abstains from it. The "War on Drugs," by contrast, harms everybody subject to a government that undertakes it.
    Ending America's Domestic Quagmire, by Paul Armentano, Freedom Daily, Dec 2007
    Compares the War on Drugs to the U.S. military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and counsels reassessment of the domestic "war"
    For nearly 100 years, starting with the passage of America's first federal anti-drug law in 1914, lawmakers have relied on the mantra "Do drugs, do time." ... America now spends nearly $50 billion dollars per year targeting, prosecuting, and incarcerating illicit-drug users. As a result, the population of illicit-drug offenders now behind bars is greater than the entire U.S. prison population in 1980 ... Despite these unprecedented punitive efforts, illicit drugs remain cheaper and more plentiful than ever. (Who ever heard of crack, ice, Ecstasy, GHB, or Special K 30 years ago?)
    Related Topics: Georgia, Maryland
    End the Other War Too, by Sheldon Richman, 1 Dec 2006
    Discusses the case of an 88-year old woman killed by police based on a false report from an informant, quoting from a Radley Balko report covering the increasing use of SWAT teams in drug war raids
    [W]e shouldn't let [the war in Iraq] overshadow the war at home—one that frequently takes the lives of people who don't deserve to die. It's known as the War on Drugs, but it's really a war on people ... [W]ithout the War on Drugs atrocities such as the killing of Kathryn Johnston wouldn't be happening ... In a free society adults have the right to ingest whatever they want ... [I]f [government] makes such peaceful private activity its business, law enforcement will inevitably turn to measures that jeopardize the lives of people who have harmed no one else. Let's end this madness now.
    Related Topics: Georgia, Moral Repression
    The essence of liberty: What is it that really makes one a libertarian?, by David Nolan, Libertarian Party News, Mar 1995
    Discusses five points of "no compromise" that Nolan considered essential to libertarianism
    [L]ibertarians believe in the principle of self-ownership ... In fact, libertarians believe that individuals have the right to own and use anything—gold, guns, marijuana, sexually explicit material—so long as they do not harm others through force or the threat of force. Laws criminalizing the simple possession of anything are tailor-made for police states; it is all too easy to plant a forbidden substance in someone's home, car, or pocket. Libertarians are as tough on crime—real crime—as anyone. But criminal possession laws are an affront to liberty, whatever the rhetoric used to defend them.
    Free Cory Maye, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, May 2006
    Further discussion and commentary on the case of Cory Maye (see Richman's article "More Drug-War Victims", Dec 2005) [Update: Maye's sentence was overturned in Sept. 2006 and he was finally released in July 2011]
    Maye, 25, is sitting on death row ..., the latest victim of the government's indefensible war on drug makers, sellers, and consumers. Maye, who had no criminal record, was convicted of capital murder ... in the fatal shooting ... of 29-year-old Ron Jones, a ... Mississippi, policeman. Jones was shot as he and a squad of narcotics cops burst into Maye's side of a duplex late one night as Maye and his 18-month-old daughter slept. The police had a warrant to look for marijuana on the premises, although Maye was not named in the warrant. He says the police neither knocked nor announced themselves.
    Freedom, Virtue, and Responsibility, Part 1, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Apr 1994
    Examines some of the reasons why so many believe that drug legalization is a bad idea and that the war on drugs should go on, pointing out that not even penitentaries, German concentration camps or police states are drug free
    Why do so many people still favor the idea of drug prohibition when, after eighty years, it is so obviously a failure? One reason is that many people, including public officials, benefit from it. The war on drugs has spawned a huge network of bribes, payoffs, campaign contributions, and property seizures that benefit elected representatives, judges, and law-enforcement officials ... [A]gents of the Drug Enforcement Administration have mortgages and car payments like the rest of us; thus, if the war on drugs was ended, they would lose their jobs and have to find new employment in the private sector.
    Freedom, Virtue, and Responsibility, Part 2, by Jacob G. Hornberger, May 1994
    Provides examples from taxes, the "dole", public housing and licensing that show how the welfare state and managed economy undermine human well-being, contrasting life in Russia under socialism vs. the supposed freedom in the United States
    What does this mean with respect to the war on drugs ...? It means the war, after eighty years of being waged, would be ended. Americans would no longer be arrested, prosecuted, or punished for ingesting harmful substances. No more invasions of privacy. No more mass arrests and illegal searches. No more overcrowded prisons. No more financial-privacy laws. No more DEA. No more seizures ... of assets ... [A]nother long-time response of the drug warriors is also falling by the wayside: "You favor drug abuse if you favor drug legalization." That argument now rings hollow with more and more Americans.
    He Loved the Rush, by Doug Casey, 25 Nov 2003
    Discusses Rush Limbaugh use of opiates, his posture regarding the Drug War and the hypocrisy (including Casey's suggestion of how Limbaugh could deal with the matter)
    I have no problem with Rush doing the illegal drugs of his choice. It's his body—he owns it, not the Drug Enforcement Administration. The fact that he was able to show up for three hours a day for his radio show is further proof ...; Freud, for instance, was a serious cokehead–that it's as possible to operate as normally on many controlled substances as it is on nicotine and caffeine. The main problem with drugs is their illegality. Perversely, Rush has always been a drug warrior. In a Playboy interview ... he said: "By legalizing drugs, all you're going to do is define deviancy further downward."
    Related Topic: Republican Party
    Illicit Drugs, by Bruce L. Benson, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Reviews various arguments made to justify the drug war (e.g., property crime, violence) versus the actual effects of prohibition (e.g., black markets, asset forfeiture)
    Drug war advocates contend that drug cravings cause people to steal; thus, they argue, controlling drug markets will have the effect of reducing both drug consumption and property crime. However, substantial evidence shows that property crime is not caused by drug use. Surveys of jail inmates indicate that almost half of regular hard-drug users were employed full time before their drug offense was committed, and only 29% reported having had any illegal income, much of which originated as earnings from consensual crimes like prostitution and drug sales.
    The Indivisibility of Liberty, by Mary Ruwart, 23 Apr 2008
    Discusses how advocating that others be deprived of some liberties results in negative repercussions on our own liberties
    When we take away our neighbors liberty, because they like to use substances we consider to be harmful, we expose ourselves to harm. Close to one-half of all murders in this country result from the prohibition of drugs. Turf wars between gangs result in the death of many innocent victims. The exorbitant black market prices mean that more people steal ... Thus, we are twice as likely to die from a mugging when drugs are illegal ... Our children are also put at risk. The high black-market profit margin in illegal drugs guarantees that pushers will haunt our schools, addicting our youth.
    Related Topics: Libertarianism, Liberty
    The Invisible Hand Is a Gentle Hand, by Sharon Harris, 14 Sep 1998
    Originally published at; defends the free market and individual liberty, quoting among others Bastiat, Thomas Jefferson, David and Milton Friedman, John Lott, Isabel Paterson, Proudhon, Adam Smith, Sowell, John Stossel and Walter Williams
    James Burton ... is living ... in exile in the Netherlands. A Vietnam War veteran, he suffers from a rare form of hereditary glaucoma ... [He] found that marijuana could hold back, and perhaps halt, the glaucoma ... Kentucky State Police raided his 90-acre farm and found 138 marijuana plants and two pounds of raw marijuana ... [O]phthalmologist John Merritt ... testified that marijuana was the only medication that could keep Burton from going blind. Nevertheless, Burton was found guilty of simple possession and was sentenced to one year in a federal maximum security prison, with no parole.
    Kennedy's Libertarian Revolution: Lawrence's reach, by Randy Barnett, National Review Online, 10 Jul 2003
    Comments on the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas which deemed sodomy laws to be unconstitutional and in particular on Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion
    If the Court is serious, the effect on other cases of this shift from "privacy" to "liberty," and away from the New Deal-induced tension between "the presumption of constitutionality" and "fundamental rights," could be profound. For example, the medical-marijuana cases now wending their way through the Ninth Circuit would be greatly affected if those seeking to use or distribute medical marijuana pursuant to California law did not have to show that their liberty to do so was somehow "fundamental"—and if the government was forced to justify its restriction on that liberty.
    Libertarianism Is the Key to Our Future, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Jul 2006
    Examines three reasons—freedom, morality and pragmatism—that suggest that Americans will eventually return to their libertarian heritage
    Consider ... the drug war. No matter how much the government cracks down—mandatory minimum sentences, asset forfeiture, extraditions of foreign drug lords, violations of financial privacy, chemical spraying of drug crops, infringements of civil liberties—it will never succeed in ending drug use or drug abuse. Why ...? Because the participants in a free market (which becomes the "black market" when the activity is made illegal) will always figure out ways to circumvent the laws. Crack down on cocaine, and the free-market price of cocaine goes up. When the price goes up, that attracts new suppliers.
    The Life and Death of Peter McWilliams [PDF], by R. W. Bradford, Liberty, Aug 2000
    Tribute to McWilliams, relates his life from 1996 until his death in June 2000, from being unable to use marijuana to alleviate the nausea caused by AIDS and cancer drugs
    In 1996, California voters enacted a law legalizing the use of marijuana by people ... who needed it for medical reasons ... [T]he Clinton administration announced it would ignore the state law ... [I]t remained very difficult for others who needed medical marijuana to get the drug. So Peter helped finance [efforts] to cultivate marijuana for distribution to those who needed it for medical reasons ... [On] December 17, 1997, federal agents invaded his home and business, and confiscated a wide array of his property ... In July 1998 they arrested him on charges of conspiring to grow marijuana.
    Related Topics: Government, Peter McWilliams
    The Longest-Running War, by Doug Bandow, 20 Dec 2004
    Reviews the books Bad Trip: How the War on Drugs Is Destroying America (2004) by Joel Miller and Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition (2004) by Jeffrey A. Miron
    [T]he longest-running ongoing "war" is the war on drugs. For decades the U.S. government has attempted to suppress the use and sale of illicit substances ... Cocaine and marijuana, which once were legal, are now banned ... The answer of both authors is that the government only ineffectively cuts drug abuse, and does so at a very high social cost ... If drug prohibition were merely ineffective, it wouldn't matter too much. There is ... the $33 billion or so spent to enforce the drug laws, but the cost of attempting to prevent millions ... from voluntarily using drugs has been far, far higher.
    Mexico's Bold Drug Decriminalization Move, by James W. Harris, The Liberator Online, 11 May 2006
    Discusses a bill approved by the Mexican Congress, but not signed by President Fox, that would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and similar drugs, with commentary from Ted Galen Carpenter of the Cato Institute
    In a dramatic move that shows crumbling support for the U.S.-driven worldwide War on Drugs, Mexico came very close ... to passing perhaps the boldest drug reform bill ... This reform would have put Mexico in the forefront of world drug reform, joining the Netherlands and a few other countries in a far more sensible and humane approach than the scorched-earth neo-Prohibitionist "zero-tolerance" Drug War madness of the U.S. Unfortunately, Mexico's President Vicente Fox ... refused to sign it ... [C]ritics say the real reason was enormous pressure from the U.S. government.
    Related Topic: Mexico
    Milton Friedman RIP, by Walter Block, Mises Daily, 16 Nov 2006
    In memoriam, focusing on Friedman's positives and including several personal recollections
    Another of the high points of [Friedman's] career, for me, was his "Open Letter" to then drug czar Bill Bennett ... in which he alienated many of his conservative followers with his clarion call for drug legalization. The US government has truly unleashed the whirlwind on this matter. It is responsible for untold incarcerations of innocent people and tens of thousands of needless deaths around the world. When one day we as a society come to our senses and repeal drug prohibition as we previously did for alcohol prohibition, we will owe that happy day to Professor Friedman as much as to any man.
    A Modest Proposal for the Next Drug-War Shootdown, by James Bovard, Freedom Daily, Aug 2001
    Offers recommendations (some tongue in cheek, later serious) after the shootdown by the Peruvian air force of a Cessna carrying American Baptist missionaries (but claimed to carry traffickers)
    It is amazing how fast this drug-war atrocity dropped from the radar screens of the U.S. media ... Drug warriors like to stress that anti-drug programs target the guilty and it is only an accident—and a rare one, at that—when innocent people are killed ... The policy of automatic shootdowns of suspected drug planes was intensely controversial within the U.S. government when the policy was first adopted in the mid 1990s ... The killing of the innocent mother and child is another warning sign of the total irresponsibility of the wizards directing America's drug war.
    The Morality of Drug Controls, by Thomas Szasz, Freedom Daily, Apr 1990
    Condensed from an article in Dealing With Drugs: Consequences of Government Control, 1987, Ronad Hamowy (editor); compares freedom of speech and religion with freedom of self-medication
    [J]ust as we regard freedom of speech and religion as fundamental rights, so should we also regard freedom of self-medication ...; and that, instead of mendaciously opposing or mindlessly promoting illicit drugs, we should, paraphrasing Voltaire, make this maxim our rule: "I disapprove of what you take, but I will defend to the death your right to take it!" Sooner or later we shall have to confront the basic moral dilemma underlying the so-called drug problem: Does a person have the right to take a drug, any drug, not because he needs it to cure an illness but because he wants to take it?
    More Drug-War Victims, by Sheldon Richman, 28 Dec 2005
    Relates the case of Cory Maye, who killed a policeman while defending himself and his 18-month old daughter during a late night raid from a narcotics squad (his case went back and forth, but he was released in July 2011 after serving 10 years)
    Opponents of the so-called war on drugs (it's a war on people) have long cautioned that enforcement of victimless-crime laws is by nature a mockery of justice ... Maye, 25, is ... the latest victim of the government's indefensible war on drug makers, sellers, and consumers ... Nothing is more corrupt than the police-informant relationship in drug enforcement. Countless times informants have fingered innocent people ... Drug raids are notorious for leading to the deaths of people, often cases of mistaken identity, who tried to defend themselves against late-night visits from militarized SWAT teams.
    Related Topics: Conservatism, Moral Repression
    The Most Absurdities per Kilo, by James Bovard, Freedom Daily, Feb 2006
    Describes Operation Pipe Dreams, a group of raids led by the Department of Justice to confiscate drug paraphernalia, and particularly the attack on Tommy Chong's residence, subsequent arrest and sentencing
    The war on drugs has produced more absurdities per kilo than any other federal policy. Drug warriors have had high-profile belly flop after belly flop. Yet most of the media and the vast majority of American politicians continue to treat this war with deference, if not reverence. One of the biggest farces of the George W. Bush-era war on drugs was the persecution of renowned comedian Tommy Chong ... Ashcroft proudly announced the most decisive attack ever on purveyors of bongs—pipes and bowls often used for smoking marijuana, tobacco, and whatever else[:] Operation Pipe Dreams ...
    New Declaration of Independence, by Vince Miller, Jarret Wollstein, Jan 2000
    Prefaced by quoting the second paragraph of the original Declaration, lists—in a manner similar to the original—the outrages of the "modern American State" (referred to as "They") and ending with a list of demands
    • ... In the name of the War on Drugs they have declared open war on the people of the United States, invading farm and field, village and home, and spreading terror across the land
    ... To restore the freedom, peace and prosperity of the people, we therefore demand: ...
    • That all victimless crime laws be abolished, including laws restricting the sale or possession of ... controlled substances. That the War on Drugs be ended, Drug Peace be declared, and all persons imprisoned for victimless crimes be immediately freed and their records cleared.
    The NFL is Not for Libertarians, by S. M. Oliva, 26 Apr 2012
    Examines various statist aspects of the National Football League
    [NFL Commissioner Roger] Goodell has consistently demanded an unqualified right to seize players’ blood for HGH testing. Why? .... The only reason Goodell wants HGH testing is to appease the federal government, which has long viewed professional sports as a key source of propaganda for its Drug War. When famous football players are routinely subject to drug testing, opens the door for expanding such testing to other parts of the population—particularly high school and college students. It reinforces the message that a person's body is ultimately the property of the state.
    An Open Letter to Bill Bennett, by Milton Friedman, The Wall Street Journal, 7 Sep 1989
    Addressed to then Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and appealing to him and President George H. W. Bush to discontinue their efforts to fight drug consumption
    The path you propose of more police, more jails, use of the military in foreign countries, harsh penalties for drug users, and a whole panoply of repressive measures can only make a bad situation worse. The drug war cannot be won by those tactics without undermining the human liberty and individual freedom that you and I cherish ... Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. Our experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.
    Related Topic: Moral Repression
    Persuasion versus Force, by Mark Skousen, Liberty, Sep 1991
    Based on the "From Force to Persuasion" chapter in Alfred North Whitehead's Adventures of Ideas (1933), Skousen suggests a new libertarian creed, "The triumph of persuasion over force is the sign of a civilized society"
    Is drug abuse a problem in America? Then pass legislation prohibiting the use of certain high-powered drugs. Surely that will solve the drug-abuse problem. Yet it never addresses the real problem, which is why people misuse drugs in the first place, and how can these needs be satisfied in nondestructive ways? By outlawing drugs, we fail to consider the the beneficial uses of such drugs in medicine and we fail to consider the underlying cause of increased drug or alcohol misuse among teenagers and adults.
    Peter McWilliams - Hero of the Day, The Daily Objectivist, 2000
    Biographical profile published by The Daily Objectivist; based mostly on McWilliams' Liberty magazine May 1998 article "The DEA Wishes Me a Nice Day"
    "A hard pounding on the door accompanied by shouts of 'Police! Open up!' broke the silence, broke my reverie, and nearly broke down the door. I opened the door ... and was immediately handcuffed. I was taken outside while Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents ran through my house, guns drawn, commando-style ..." ... Most disturbing to the DEA, I would guess, was my strong criticism of it in a two-page ad I placed in ... Daily Variety. I denounced Administrator Constantine's threat to criminally investigate the creators of Murphy Brown for Murphy's fictional use of medical marijuana.
    Related Topic: Peter McWilliams
    Peter McWilliams, RIP, by William F. Buckley Jr., 22 Jun 2000
    Memorial essay, discussing how and why McWilliams died as well as Buckley's personal recollections of their friendship
    What was [McWilliams'] offense? He collaborated in growing marijuana plants. What was his defense? Well, the judge wouldn't allow him to plead his defense to the jury ... The judge also forbade any mention that McWilliams suffered from AIDS and cancer, and got relief from the marijuana. What was he doing when he died? Vomiting ... while in his bathtub, and he choked to death .. [H]e could have taken marijuana; but the judge's bail terms forbade him to do so, and he submitted to weekly urine tests to confirm that he was living up to the terms of his bail.
    Related Topics: Peter McWilliams, John Stossel
    Politics and Prohibition, by Donald J. Boudreaux, The Freeman, Mar 2002
    Explains why, based on the story of alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition will not end solely on the realization of policy failure and side effects such as gang violence
    Apart from its immorality, the war on drugs has been too costly from its inception. This "war" has long consumed billions upon billions of dollars' worth of resources, all spent with no discernable positive impact. Indeed, the only clear impact of the drug war has been a repulsive trampling of freedoms. Asset forfeitures, government espionage on its own citizens, and racial profiling are just the most blatant attacks on our freedoms unleashed by the war on drugs. If the need to make sensible tradeoffs really drives voters and politicians, the drug war would have ended ages ago.
    Related Topic: Prohibition
    The Price of Empire, by Sheldon Richman, 26 Apr 2006
    Discusses U.S government efforts to end coca production in some Andean countries by funding crop eradication programs, and the consequent increases in cultivation in neighboring countries
    Coca is used to make cocaine, but also tea and herbal medicines ... I can hardly imagine anything more arrogant than for a government to destroy crops in another country because that government doesn't want "its" people to have access to them ... Why is the U.S. government bent on destroying the coca crops of innocent Andean farmers? The drug warriors will say that the crop eventually ends up on the streets of America in the form of cocaine. People in Latin America can't understand why they are scapegoats for the American demand for drugs. It's a fair question.
    Right and Simple, by Charley Reese, 30 Dec 2006
    Discusses the proposition that "the right thing to do is both simple to state and simple to understand" in the context of the drug war and the political situation in Venezuela, Colombia and the United States
    Usually, the right thing to do is both simple to state and ... understand. It's the wrong things ... that require the camouflage of ambiguity, abstract language and outright lies ... The drug war is another example of the wrong thing ... being hidden under piles of old rhetoric. The drug problem is fueled by American consumption. Our politicians try to shift the blame to the drug cartels, as if they were slipping into the country and forcing cocaine up people's noses at gunpoint. Stop consumption in America and there is no market for the cocaine, no funds for drug cartels, no money to be laundered.
    The Secret State, by Carl Oglesby, 19 Dec 1991
    Details various events from the dismantling of the Office of Strategic Services after World War II to the 1991 death of Danny Casolaro, which Oglesby said are reason to be worried about "a secret and invisible state within the public state"
    1991: BCCI
    ... [O]ur last two examples, one of which is that of the still emerging scandal around the Bank of Credit and Commerce International ... One fascinating aspect of the BCCI scandal is that it may at last supply us with the final solution of one of the outstanding riddles of the last decades—namely, why does the government insist on keeping drugs illegal since any fool can see that the only result of this is to keep the price of drugs high? Could this be because it is the secret elements of the Government—The CIA, the NSC, the Enterprise—that [are] actually selling them?
    Somebody Might Get Hurt, by Kevin Carson, 31 May 2013
    Comments on two unrelated third-party blog posts to highlight a commonly offered "liberal" argument about state programs
    Blogger thoreau ... addresses [this] in relation to the War on Drugs:
    "... [O]ver-educated white suburban liberals ... want to keep locking people up in the name of 'But what if somebody gets hurt?' Um, what do you call the world's largest prison population? ... What do you call daily gang violence? I'd call that 'somebody gets hurt', wouldn't you? ... I can talk all day about the violence and injustice of the drug war but they find one study on the effects of pot on short-term memory and my whole point is considered invalid. Because if we end this war Somebody Might Get Hurt."
    Related Topics: Democracy, The State
    Stop-and-Frisk: How Government Creates Problems, Then Makes Them Worse, by Sheldon Richman, 14 Aug 2013
    Considers two recent decisions, from the Justice Department and from a Federal judge, that attempt to ameliorate bad policies enacted in the past, without getting to the root of the problems
    With prison populations and costs mushrooming—America has more people behind bars than any other country in the world—Holder has instructed U.S. attorneys to evade the mandatory-minimum law by not specifying drug quantities when they charge qualifying suspects. He also wants alternatives to prison pursued where possible ... Mandatory minimums are directed at drug sellers. It's not hard to see what is at the root ... When government declares (certain) drugs illegal, those drugs don't disappear; instead they move to the black market, which tends to be dominated by people skilled in the use of violence.
    Time to Rethink the War on Drugs, by David Boaz, Freedom Daily, Oct 1999
    Lists several effects of drug prohibition and suggests using some common sense regarding drug legalization
    It's time for some common sense about the war on drugs. More than $30 billion is being spent annually on the drug war. One and a half million people are being arrested every year. But 78 million people say they have tried drugs, and 80% of teenagers say drugs are easy to obtain ... [D]rug prohibition creates high levels of crime ... [P]rohibition channels more than $40 billion a year into the criminal underworld ... [P]rohibition is a classic example of throwing money at a problem. The federal government spends some $16 billion to enforce the drug laws every year–all to no avail.
    Tommy Chong Will Be Free In Prison, by Debra McCorkle, 16 Sep 2003
    Describes and comments on Tommy Chong's earlier career and on his arrest and conviction for selling drug paraphernalia (glass pipes or "bongs"), as a result of Operation Pipe Dreams
    I feel genuine shock and sorrow upon the news that Tommy Chong is going to prison for nine months ... Chong's attorney Richard Hirsch had offered the court a deal for leniency ... Because of the court's refusal to accept this devil's bargain to turn Tommy Chong into another horrible Just Say No advertising shill for the Partnership for a Drug Free America, Chong is a free man. For the mere price of nine months in jail, he can spend the rest of his life as a hero for libertarian ideals. He doesn't have to kiss John Ashcroft's ass. He doesn't have to be a liar and a hypocrite.
    The War On Drugs Is Lost, by William F. Buckley Jr., Ethan A. Nadelmann, Kurt Schmoke, Joseph D. McNamara, Robert W. Sweet, Thomas Szasz, Steven B. Duke, National Review, 12 Feb 1996
    Symposium with essays from William F. Buckley Jr., drug policy researcher Ethan A. Nadelmann, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, former chief of police Joseph D. McNamara, judge Robert W. Sweet, psychiatrist Thomas Szasz and law professor Steven B. Duke
    Wm. F. Buckley Jr.
    ... We are speaking of a plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, is responsible for nearly 50 per cent of the million Americans who are today in jail ... I have not spoken of the cost to our society of the astonishing legal weapons ... I would hope that the good offices of your vital profession would mobilize at least to protest such excesses of wartime zeal, the legal equivalent of a My Lai massacre. And perhaps proceed to recommend the legalization of the sale of most drugs, except to minors.
    The War on Drugs: Seen vs. the Unseen, by Angela Dills, 26 Oct 2015
    Discusses the drug war in the context of Bastiat's essay "That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen"
    The Drug War is used to justify civil asset forfeiture and restrictions on medicinal uses of drugs. It is the likely driving force behind the militarization of police and discourages addicts from seeking treatment. Michele Alexander points to the Drug War as the New Jim Crow, decimating African American communities. Prohibition diverts resources from more productive uses and encourages the infringement of civil liberties ... Shifting policy away from prohibition ... mitigates the harms from pushing the production and consumption of substances into black markets.
    War on Drugs Taking People to New Lows, by Dimitri Vassilaros, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 14 Mar 2000
    Discusses a plan by an Allegheny County, Pennsylvania District Attorney to create a "nationwide drug intelligence network"
    Has a bag of marijuana ever been arrested, handcuffed, arraigned, tried, convicted and then incarcerated? Are you at war with inanimate objects such as a joint, bong or syringe? If not, then the War on Drugs is really the War on People ... Police are the foot soldiers in this War on People. District attorneys are further up the chain of command ... Does anyone still believe we're winning the War on Drugs? Trillions of tax dollars have gone into battle, but what do you have to show for it ... other than a steady diminishing of freedom and privacy?
    Related Topic: Children
    What an Honest Conversation about Race Would Look Like, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 19 Jul 2013
    Argues that in order to have an "honest conversation about race", it must first be recognized that many government policies, such as drug prohibition, gun control and mandatory schooling, are enablers for racism
    The drug laws were originally inspired by racial and ethnic animus against blacks, Mexicans, and Chinese. (See Thomas Szasz's books Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts, and Pushers and Our Right to Drugs: The Case for a Free Market.) Since drug prohibition is a crime by the standard of natural law and justice, and since it was motivated by racism and is racist in effect, those who passed and those who now enforce those laws are arguably guilty of hate crimes. Prohibition—and the violent black markets and gang culture it spawns—makes the inner cities barely livable ...
    What the Martha Stewart Case Means to You, by Harry Browne, 5 Mar 2004
    Examines the Martha Stewart insider trading case, including juror and prosecutor comments after the guilty verdict
    Anyone can be grist for a prosecutor's conviction record. The Drug War has provided a bonanza for U.S. attorneys. Getting a conviction on drug charges is a slam-dunk. The defendant doesn't have to have dealt drugs or even to have used them. Just charge him, scare him to death, and get him to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Or promise someone a lighter sentence if he'll name other people (with no concern for the guilt or innocence of the other people). The November Coalition has documented scores of these cases. For one example, look what happened to Debbie Vineyard.
    Why I Am Not a 'Conservative', by Vin Suprynowicz, 13 Jun 2006
    Examines the words "conservative" and "liberal", pointing out that Democrats are in fact the former while being called the latter, and then looks at Republicans and how far they have strayed from their supposed principles
    How about re-legalizing all drugs, without restriction? The federal Constitution grants Congress no authority to regulate drugs or any other medical substances or technologies; the Ninth Amendment bars the federal government from fighting any kind of "War on Drugs" whatever. Ending the "War on Drugs" would surely make us safer in our homes from the threat of armed stormtroopers kicking in the "wrong door." Yet why do I suspect Mr. Feulner [of the Heritage Foundation] would not endorse unrestricted re-legalization, rolling this federal intervention back to pre-1933 levels?
    Will You Be Safer If Guns Are Banned? Part 2, by Jarret Wollstein, Freedom Daily, Aug 1994
    Examines the potential consequences of U.S. nationwide gun prohibition, based on what happened with alcohol prohibition and the war on drugs
    America's experience with alcohol prohibition and the war on drugs shows us what to expect as guns are banned: lucrative and lawless black markets ... will develop, dominated by violent criminal gangs ... Gun prohibition will ultimately require gun confiscation and a war on guns, which will surely be even more bloody than the war on drugs. The violence we have witnessed between police and drug dealers is nothing compared to the violence you will see when police try to confiscate people's guns ... The war on drugs has established the legal precedents for expanding such paramilitary attacks.


    UpdLiberty Against Power: Essays by Roy A. Childs, Jr., by Doug Bandow, The Freeman, Jun 1995
    Review of Liberty Against Power (1994), a collection of Roy Childs' "best writings and speeches", edited by Joan Kennedy Taylor
    Roy was not a starry-eyed, ivory-tower philosopher. Among the best essays in Liberty Against Power are his writings on current policy. Even before the Reagan and Bush administrations escalated the war on drugs, Roy wrote "Crime in the Cities: The Drug Connection." Although now 14 years old, the article remains a path-breaker, demonstrating, through rigorous analysis and research, how it is drug prohibition, not drug use, that fuels the crime wave enveloping cities across America.


    America's Most Dangerous Politician, by Gary Johnson, Michael W. Lynch, Reason, Jan 2001
    Topics discussed include: drugs, why he stopped smoking marijuana, drug legalization, school vouchers, charter schools, road building and tax cuts
    Johnson: ... Nobody is going to the police ... and saying, "This person sold me drugs, and I want them arrested." Everybody is getting arrested because they sold to an undercover agent ... My premise is the war in drugs is a miserable failure. I don't know of a bigger problem in every single state, or a bigger expense that might actually have alternative solutions. Drugs account for half of law enforcement spending, half of prison spending, half of court spending. What are we getting for it? We are arresting 1.6 million people a year in this country on drug-related charges, and it's a failure.
    Curing the Therapeutic State: Thomas Szasz interviewed by Jacob Sullum, by Thomas Szasz, Jacob Sullum, Reason, Jul 2000
    Subjects discussed include involuntary commitment, the insanity defense, ADHD, government drug policies and physician-assisted suicide
    Szasz: ... If somebody who is undergoing anti-cancer treatment has nausea and benefits from marijuana, it would be a nice thing for this person to have it. How can I be opposed to that? But that's like smuggling Jews out of Nazi Germany with the help of a Gestapo agent. Wouldn't it be better not to persecute them in the first place? ... The drug warriors are the victims of their own ideology. They really believe their own propaganda. I don't think medical marijuana would particularly weaken them, any more than it weakens them that people can smoke cigarettes and relieve their anxiety that way.
    Interview with Governor Gary Johnson, by Gary Johnson, The Week Online with DRCNet, 13 Oct 2000
    Discusses Johnson's stand on legalizing heroin and marijuana (and why he chose not to delve on the former), the impact he had in New Mexico by raising the issues and what he planned to do after he left office (climb Mt. Everest)
    Gov. Johnson: ... Heroin is the only drug where a model for controlled use existed, and I was actually referring to the Swiss model. I said we should be looking at a harm reduction strategy and moving from a criminal to a medical model. Indeed, let's not forget that alcohol was once prohibited and I'm not endorsing alcohol ... I'm talking about sentencing reforms, mandatory minimums, treatment over incarceration, medical marijuana, and the legalization of marijuana—if we can pass the legislation. But I think the advisory council's recommendations may even go beyond that.
    Related Topic: New Mexico
    An Interview With Hugh Downs, by Hugh Downs, Bill Winter, 15 Oct 2005
    Topics range from libertarianism and the role of government to marijuana decriminalization and the Iraq invasion
    HD: First of all, I am against smoking marijuana ... But I'm always amused at the drug warriors who, for some reason, have gotten mired in something very ancillary that got started in 1935, when [Federal Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry Anslinger] gave enough cannabis to a dog to kill it, and tried to prove a point that way. And [some] people say, "Well, it's a gateway. Eighty percent of hard drug users started on marijuana." That's a nonsense statement! A hundred percent of hard drug users started on milk. What is the connection? It's just not there.
    John Gilmore on inflight activism, spam and sarongs, by John Gilmore, Mikael Pawlo, GrepLaw, 18 Aug 2004
    Topics discussed include: terrorism, the drug war, encryption, censorship, spam, the end-to-end principle, the right to travel, anonymity, secret FAA/TSA rules, blogs, copy protection, free software and the EFF
    # Speaking of drugs, aren't you doing something about the drug war?
    Yep, I'm in the middle of a ten-year, ten million dollar program to end the drug war. The pendulum is swinging on that issue, after decades of wasting billions of dollars and mangling hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Cancer patients get thrown in jail for smoking marijuana to keep from throwing up their chemotherapy meds. Entire countries get overrun and their leaders toppled by the US because the US doesn't like how those countries run their internal drug policies (like Panama, Nicaragua, and now Colombia).
    Stand-Up Guy, by Drew Carey, Nick Gillespie, Steven Kurtz, Reason, Nov 1997
    Interview topics range from Hollywood reactions to Carey's humor, his attitude toward government, the ABC network censor, Las Vegas, drug legalization and more
    Reason: I take it you favor drug legalization?
    Carey: Yeah. But every time you bring that up, people always ask, "Oh, you think they should sell heroin and crack in stores?" Sure: Smoke crack, die, get out of my way. As long as I don't have to pay for it (laughs). There's always the argument that not everyone is as responsible as you are, that we have to protect everyone from people who would smoke crack and not be responsible. Like we're doing now, right? Liquor prohibition led to the rise of organized crime in America, and drug prohibition has led to the rise of the gang problems we have now.

    Cartoons and Comic Strips

    You're under arrest for the possesion of narcotics, by Parker and Hart, 26 Jun 2013


    Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington's Futile War on Drugs in Latin America
        by Ted Galen Carpenter, 2003
    Partial contents: Thirty Years of Failure - Forging the Bad Neighbor Policy - Escalating and Militarizing the Drug War - Plan Colombia - A Mix of Flawed Strategies - Washington's "Ugly-American" Tactics - Reaping the Whirlwind - Mexico: The Next Colombia?
    Related Topic: Latin America
    Friedman and Szasz on Liberty and Drugs: Essays on the Free Market and Prohibition
        by Milton Friedman, Thomas Szasz, 1992
    Includes excerpts from Free to Choose: A Personal Statement and The Tyranny of the Status Quo by Milton Friedman and Ceremonial Chemistry: The Ritual Persecution of Drugs, Addicts, and Pushers by Thomas Szasz
    Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use
        by Jacob Sullum, May 2003
    Contents: The Silent Majority - Chemical Reactions - Strong Drink - Going Nowhere - Crazy, Man - Random Sex Acts - Killer Drugs - Too Good - Body and Soul - Managing Moderation - Notes - Bibliography


    The Cost of the War on Drugs, by Foundation for Economic Education, 17 Jun 2011
    Presents facts about the costs, economic and human, of the war on drugs, 40 years after Pres. Nixon declared having "turned the corner on drug addiction" in the U.S.

    The High and the Mighty: The War on Drugs, by Milton Friedman, Uncommon Knowledge, 2000
    A debate between Milton Friedman and Peter Wilson, former governor of California, about drug prohibition

    Penn's Obama Rant, by Penn Jillette, Penn's Sunday School, 19 May 2012
    Penn talks about Obama's admission of using "marijuana and maybe a little blow"
    Related Topic: Barack Obama

    The War on Drugs: A War on Ourselves?, by John Stossel, 30 Jul 2002
    ABC News special; includes police baiting, the unintended consequences of prohibition, the drug war in Colombia, right to choose, hard drugs and legalization in Europe and the U.S.