The War on Drugs has been in overwhelming failure -- even the Global Commission on Drug Policy says fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed -- but what are our presidential candidates willing to do about it?
Sources tell GQ's Marc Ambinder that President Obama may tackle the war on drugs if he wins a second term, but addressing it isn't the same as doing something about it. Most political experts say Obama won't be the president to legalize or regulate the illegal narcotics market, but he's the best chance Americans have for reform. Mitt Romney finds medical marijuana insignificant.
November will be a two-horse race, but not if former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has anything to do about it. The libertarian candidate, who is marketing his platform as Live Free, is looking to raise $150,000, or $10,000 for every percentage point needed to put our issues on the national debate stage. As of Monday, Johnson has $103,259 raised from 1,286 donors.
Johnson, who was known as the country's most fiscally conservative governor when he governed New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, had retired after his final year in office, but decided to get back into politics in 2009 after he became concerned with the country's out of control national debt and precarious financial situation.
In an effort to help the country turn around its financial crisis -- and gain more voting support for a presidential bid -- Johnson released a new campaign video on Monday that puts a microscope to the drug debate.
My name is Gary Johnson, said the Libertarian presidential candidate. There was a time when this was the most dangerous drug society had to deal with. Today it's harder for a kid to get a hold of this drug than it was in 1929. In 2012, alcohol-related crime is down and America is a safer place. Addicts are dealt with in rehab facilities, not prisons.
Forbes contributor Art Carden, an assistant professor of economics at Samford University in Alabama, describes how the drug war was built to protect Americans, but instead has put them in danger.
Freedom of contract has been abridged in the name of keeping us safe from drugs, Carden said. Private property is less secure because it can be seized if it is implicated in a drug crime (this also flushes the doctrine of innocent until proven guilty out the window). The drug war has been used as a pretext for clamping down on immigration. Not surprisingly, the drug war has turned some of our neighborhoods into war zones. We are warehousing productive young people in prisons at an alarming rate all in the name of a war that cannot be won.
Johnson continues his video asking why America doesn't apply what it learned about prohibition of alcohol in the 20s to prohibition of marijuana in the new millennium.
Why then do we not apply this lesson to marijuana? Johnson asks. 900,000 marijuana arrests a year at a cost of tens of billions of dollars while overcrowding our prisons, tying up our legal system, and escalating drug-related crime and border violence.
President Obama redoubled his efforts to prosecute its use, raiding medical marijuana facilities in increasing numbers. Wasn't this the same President Obama who just as famously smoked it? The fact is, marijuana users are no more criminal than our Commander-in-Chief.
So what's up, Mr. President? It's okay for you to do it but everybody else should be arrested and go to jail?
The socio-economic health costs associated with today's drug prohibition are too high. Obama isn't being smart about legalization. Ditto, Romney. That leaves me as the last sane man standing on this issue.
Here's what Johnson's website says on the subject:
Prohibition was repealed because it made matters worse. Today, no one is trying to sell our kids bathtub gin in the schoolyard and micro-breweries aren't protecting their turf with machine guns. It's time to apply that thinking to marijuana. By making it a legal, regulated product, availability can be restricted, under-age use curtailed, enforcement/court/incarceration costs reduced, and the profit removed from a massive underground and criminal economy.
Johnson points to a recent Gallup poll, which cited about 46 percent of Americans that now believe marijuana should be legalized, which reflects Americans' increased knowledge and understanding of the issue. He asserts that marijuana's illegality -- and the number of arrests based on the drug -- are clogging up courts, jails and prisons, instead of trying to help these users with better treatment methods.
Let's remember the lesson our great-grandparents learned at such tremendous cost: Legalize it, tax it, regulate it. Move forward. Be libertarian one more time with me and we'll turn a national drug crisis into a workable solution. Live free.
Johnson's campaign crew ends the video with a simple message: Gary Johnson will win the war on drugs by ending it. It's your liberty. Donate to it.
Do you agree with Johnson's stance on marijuana? Do you think marijuana should be legalized and regulated, or do you think it should stay illegal the way it is? Sound off in the comments section below.