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Robbie Gennet Headshot

End the Drug War by Rescheduling All Drugs

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A startling fact:

The $320 billion annual global drug industry now accounts for 1 percent of all commerce on the planet.

The war on drugs is a failure. All that taxpayer money spent with no real impact on lowering taxpayer consumption. Yet simply adjusting the methodology and basis of our drug scheduling could change it all, using a new set of standards based on empirical data and facts, not misleading rhetoric propping up the status quo. The impact of rescheduling all drugs by sound scientific standards would not just create a better and more sensible drug policy overall, but would shake up our social norms from incarceration and law enforcement to what we can buy at 7-11 and what we teach kids. If we measured all drugs on a scale of lethality, addictiveness and medicinal utility, nicotine and alcohol (both of which are not currently scheduled as drugs and most definitely should be) would score much higher than marijuana in the first two categories and both lack medicinal use. This would upend the entire social scene as one might then need a prescription to buy cigarettes and alcohol but could buy a pack of joints at the local convenience store. But just because a substance/drug is socially normalized doesn't mean it is scientifically safe or beneficial. We need to be able to trust the government to clearly inform us of actual safety and addiction facts, free from the influence of lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry or the prison industrial complex.

Have you done any drugs or known someone who has? Of course. That goes for everybody on the planet. Doing a little extra research on sites like www.erowid.org will give you countless firsthand accounts of drug use of every kind. What you will notice is that the actual experiences and effects of the drugs often have little correlation in the way they are scheduled by the government (or officially presented). To see the government schedule marijuana with heroin a level above opium, morphine and cocaine seems ludicrous. Seeing it two levels above barbiturates and amphetamines? Even more absurd. Not seeing nicotine and alcohol anywhere on the list? Preposterous. No wonder kids don't believe what they're told by anti-drug programs! They know the truth and it doesn't jibe with the official paradigm. Then they don't think anything is correctly scheduled so they wind up experimenting with some pretty bad stuff. Misinformation and propaganda have probably helped kill more people than they've "saved" from drugs.

Just like we need trust in our government, we need trust in our drug scheduling policies. So where is the independent task force to reconsider how drugs are scheduled? Where is the independent task force to rethink how our national drug policy might actually get results and lower usage? And where is the independent task force to rethink how or why we incarcerate people for using drugs? A deeply-in-debt California spends billions of dollars on prisons while housing thousands of non-violent drug offenders, which sensible policy could assuage immensely. Just ceasing to arrest marijuana users would free up huge amounts of space in our overcrowded prison system, which can then be reserved for murderers, rapists and maybe even a banker or two.

But first we must change the discussion from rhetoric to facts, especially in light of this recent AP report. Let science and empirical facts guide law and policy and give people honest reasons why or why not they can or cannot legally use a drug.

One last factoid: In 2002, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft described the size of the U.S. drug market, reporting that Americans spent $62.9 billion on drugs in 2000. More than half ($36.1 billion), was spent on cocaine -- of which an estimated 90 percent transits through Mexico. In 2009, the U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center estimated that Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking organizations generated somewhere in the range of $17 billion to $38 billion annually in gross wholesale proceeds from drug sales in the United States. By comparison, Google's worldwide revenue in 2009 was $23.6 billion.

Food for thought...

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