The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘drugs’ Category

THE FLYING GALLARDOS

A few miles from my home in Las Vegas is a casino by the name of Arizona Charlie’s.  I presume that it is, or was at one time, owned by a person named Charlie who came from our neighboring state of Arizona.  This presumption is based on the fact that there are a lot of Chevron gas stations in southern Nevada that are owned by a chap who goes by the name of Terrible Herbst.  Mr. Herbst is a real person – and he has roots in  California – so the name of his business makes sense.

After my first visit to AC’s about fifteen years ago, I came away with two impressions of the place.  The first was that I thought they would make the place a more inviting venue for their patrons if they renamed it Arizona Carlitos, or at least had the name in parenthesis on their large billboard.  The second was that I was concerned in the short while I wandered around the casino to check it out that my car would be in the parking lot when I left to go home.  The casino is not in one of Las Vegas’ most upscale areas.

As I was not overly impressed with the place the first time around, it took about ten years before I decided to go back.  The reason for my return was that a number of people had told me that Arizona Charlie’s café had an excellent and inexpensive steak and egg breakfast.  And one day my desire for steak and eggs led me back there.  My friends were right and I was very pleased with the meal.

As I was leaving after breakfast, I noticed that one of the machines had hit a jackpot which required a hand payout by casino staff.  That occurs whenever a machine pays $1,200.00 or more on a single spin or play.  Naturally, being nosey, I was curious to see how large the lucky gambler’s hit was.  So I walked over to the flashing lights and ringing bells and took a seat at the bank of machines just behind the one which had been hit for $3,800.  There were two Hispanic people, a man and woman, sitting in front of the machine engaged in a vibrant Spanish conversation.

Within a minute or so, two of the casino’s staff came over and asked the couple for identification so they could complete the 1099 tax info required of all jackpots.  I was fairly certain this was the reason for their animated conversation since I had noticed that they were playing without having a casino card inserted into their machine.  A casino is legally required to obtain current photo identification such as a driver’s license, state issued ID or passport before giving the hopeful player a card which entitles him to cash back offers and entries into drawings based on the amount of his play.  The couple was unable to furnish such identification and the casino withheld payment of the amount due them until such time as someone presented the required documentation.  I leave it to your imagination to hypothesize why neither of this couple had a picture ID of some sort.

So what does this all have to do with the title of this post?  And what’s a Gallardo?

Well, I needed to find a way to link this to our fine state of Arizona.  And what better way than to introduce the man who was lovingly entitled “The Godfather” of the Mexican drug cartels, Miguel Gallardo.  Back in the ’80’s he established an association with the Columbian Medellin’s cartel kingpin, Pablo Escobar so that cocaine could be moved from the site of production through Mexico to the United States.  At the time of this agreement, Florida was the major port of entry for illegal drugs.  But that all changed.

Gallardo, now 71 years old, is serving a 40 year prison term in Mexico for ordering the murder of undercover DEA Agent Enrique Camarena in 1984.  Camarena had infiltrated the cartel and disclosed the location of an $8 Billion marijuana growing operation on one of Galalardo’s ranches.  The crop was destroyed and several days after the raid, Camarena was kidnapped and for 30 hours was tortured until finally a Phillips screwdriver was shoved into his head, killing him.

So now you understand the Gallardo portion of the title.  But how does Arizona fit into this whole thing?  Read on.

As you can readily understand, when a multi-billion dollar business loses its CEO, there is no lack of candidates who are ready to step up to the plate.  And as times change, so do businesses.  The old system of drug mules, while still extensively used by the cartels, is not their only method for exporting drugs to the United States.

One of my local readers mentioned to another who mentioned his comment to me – that my post about how building the Trump wall might decrease the amount of illegal drugs that would be imported as being sheer fantasy.  Perhaps he is right.  Or perhaps the Mexican cartels are concerned that it might actually work.  Hence, they have already come up with an alternate delivery method.

South of the Arizona border, the DEA has discovered that a catapult has been constructed – for hurling drugs across the border.  What a novel, if somewhat medieval idea.  And on learning about this, a thought occurred to me.  Why couldn’t we use the same method to deport those who are here illegally and have been convicted of felony drug law violations?

The libs should like this as delivery to your destination by catapult has none of the negative implications of putting a person on a plane run with fossil fuels.  Conservatives should like this because we’d save a fortune on our prison budget.  We could broadcast these deportations on Pay Per View, so the media should like this.  The manufacturers of athletic gear should like this as each deportee would be provided a helmet to mitigate the blow of landing.  The Vegas bookmakers should like this as they come up with proposition bets on whether the individual will survive his or her brief journey and if so how many body parts would be broken on impact.  And the country could pull together as we all learned the phrase, “Via Con Dios.”

It sounds like a win, win, win, win, win, win idea to me.  And with the number of candidates for exiting in this manner stage south, President Trump might be proven correct with his statement that, “We all might get tired of winning.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAN WE AFFORD NOT TO BUILD A WALL?

Much of the focus on President Trump’s southern wall with our Mexican border has focused on several issues.  The first, of course, is will it really be built – or was this just some campaign hype?  The second is, how will we get Mexico to pay for it?  The third and most recent entrant into this discussion is, how much will it really cost?  As to the third of those questions, the most recent estimate I’ve seen is $21 Billion.  That’s a whole lot of moolah.  Or is it?

If we reflect back to the presidential campaign, Donald Trump put forward two reasons for building the southern wall.  By far the most controversial was his intent to control the never ending flow of people from coming into the country in contravention of the nation’s immigration laws.  Why that should be controversial is a bit beyond me – but those on the left seem to have an issue with it.  The second reason for building the wall was to stem the flow of illegal narcotics which also flood into the country through that same porous border.  There has been very little protest to building the wall to accomplish this.  And it is to that issue that I would like to focus in this post.

As a libertarian, I have absolutely no objection to anyone using a substance – even though that substance whether it be liquor or heroin be detrimental to their well-being.  That’s based on the theory that the individual, not the government, should dictate personal behavior.  But there is, of course, a caveat to that high-minded ideal.  While I might exhort you to behave as you please, the limit to your behavior occurs when it impacts me negatively.  That is why libertarians endorse laws which provide penalties for the commission of any of a variety of crimes which affect society as a whole.

It would be foolish to believe that simply building a wall will completely eliminate the flow of drugs into the country.  As we learned with Prohibition, when there is a demand for a product it will find its way into the marketplace.  But that is not to say that building a wall and stiff penalties for convicted drug traffickers might do much to curb the supply and thus the usage.  If you doubt the efficacy of harsh penalties for drug vendors check out Singapore which has virtually no drug addiction problem.  It executes drug pushers who are convicted.

The number of drug deaths in the United States now exceeds those Americans who die in automobile accidents.  Consider all the steps that we have taken to minimize traffic fatalities.  If you’re old enough, you might remember the introduction of automatic turn signals.  Then there were seat belts and then lap belts and then air bags.  This list is hardly extensive in discussing the number of safety features which are required of auto manufacturers on today’s new vehicles.  It’s a far cry from the first cars that rolled off Henry Ford’s assembly line.  So if we see the efficacy of installing safety features on cars, reducing the toll of deaths, why would we not apply the same reasoning to the illegal drug question?

What does the drug epidemic really cost the country – or more correctly, you and me the average citizen?  Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question.  But I imagine that if we could quantify it, the result would be mind-blowing.

How many purse snatchings, burglaries or armed robberies are committed annually so that the junkie can get the money for a fix?  The number of drug deaths I mentioned earlier relates strictly to those who die of overdose or drug related health issues.  It does not include the number of fatalities between rival drug gangs – which are plentiful.  And as to those who become ill from drug abuse, who pays for the cost of their medical treatment?  And who pays for the salaries of the police, the judiciary, the prison guards who arrest, try and maintain them in our penal institutions?  Who pays for the higher price of products in our stores because some of the merchandise has been stolen?  Of course, the answer to all of these questions is that you and I pay (involuntarily) for all of these – and many more.

Speaking personally, if I had my choice whether I would rather spend tax money in remediation or have that money spent in a positive way – say to help children achieve higher educational standards, I would opt for the latter.  I think most people would agree with that sentiment.  But while I can’t quantify specifically how much we spend on all drug related matters, I can give you some insight into one example of how the taxpayers paid additional, unnecessary costs because of drug usage.

When I ran my temporary employment agency, I received a call one day from an individual who held a management position with the University of Illinois Circle campus.  He was with the university’s School of Public Health.  In the call, he explained that the school had received a grant from the Federal government to conduct a five year study.  The goal of the study was to determine how much. if any benefit would inure among members of the drug using community if they were supplied with free bottles of alcohol and an unlimited supply of clean, disposable syringes so that they could get their heroin fixes.

In order to implement this program, the school had identified twenty people who were former drug users themselves whom the school felt would be accepted by ongoing users – their “client” base.  Of this group, fourteen were Hispanics and six were black.  There were twelve in this group who were male and eight female.  As you might expect, there were few who had high school diplomas – only two.

The problem for UIC to get this program up and running was that in order for the school to hire these individuals directly, they needed to pass the civil service exam as UIC  is a state school.  And, quite wisely, my contact had zero confidence that any of them would be able to do so.  Cleverly, he realized that under the grant he was allowed to hire a private independent contractor who could employ these people and thus circumvent the requirements of state law.  So his call was to find a firm that would add these people to their payroll and find out how much they would charge for this service.

After some negotiation, I came up with a markup number that would cover my cost of having to pay FICA and Medicare Tax as well as unemployment insurance – and some extra to cover our cost of payroll processing and a small profit.  We agreed on the number and by subverting the normal civil service process, it cost the school about fifteen percent more to add these “employees” to their project than they otherwise would have spent.  This relationship began in 1992.  By the way, you might find it interesting that the university offered all these employees a salary of $14 per hour – a far higher salary than a starting employee at a fast food restaurant would have earned then – or today.  When it’s not your money, I guess a person can afford to be quite generous with it.

But the sad fact is that all the waste that gets swept up into newer and higher debt ceilings; all the costs to society not only in terms of lives that are lost, property that is damaged and the general decline of morality and decency; all of these costs, and there are so many more, seem to me to make building the wall not an option but a necessity.

 

 

 

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ROCK ‘N ROLL?

It’s been about two and one half years since I began this blog.  As someone new to the whole blogosphere I unfamiliar even with the basics.  How to write text and have it appear – how to respond to comments – all that stuff.  I learned through trial and error and made more than my fair share of mistakes along the way.

Months went by, I had settled into a regular routing of posting, I knew how to respond to comments and I was began to feel comfortable with my writing.  And then one day I noticed something on my home page which I had overlooked.  It was a statement from Word Press that “You have 55 comments in your spam queue.”  That was interesting as I was unaware I had a spam queue – or anyone would bother to send material to it where it would take its last breath.

So I went to my spam queue and began reviewing the comments which Word Press had diverted.  Several of them were obviously ads for a service which would improve the overall appearance of the blog and which promised greater visibility by helping to select key words that google would pick up.  Several were in foreign languages and I have no idea their subject matter.  So I deleted them all and went about my business.

As more readers left comments, I noticed that the number of spam comments was rapidly overtaking the number of actual comments and would soon surpass them.  That day came and went and now the “spam” comments, received and deleted, is about four times the number of real comments.

But there is something interesting in the more recent comments – other than that about twenty per day are regularly appearing.  That is the subject matter of these comments – which predominantly come in two varieties.

The first advertise a variety of porn sites where, should one have an interest, a person presumably can view a variety of “Eurasian shemales” and things of that sort.

The second of these advertise sites where drugs, (mostly pain medications but ED drugs are also a common theme), can be obtained.

For all his genius, Jefferson messed up.  He spoke of our right to, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but omitted “privacy.”  It’s only fair to admit that he could certainly not have foreseen how the world would change a few centuries after his time.  But golly, it would have been nice if he had been that prescient and slipped it in, right after that liberty word.

But wait a minute.  Isn’t it essential to liberty to be free from spying (which implies intimidation) – whether that is from government or from fellow humans?  We’ve always had nosey neighbors and peeping Toms.  We’ve simply enhanced the tools of their trade and speeded up the process, enabling them to be even more intrusive.  And now, more than ever, we’ve gotten government in the game – in fact leading the charge.

I realize that the reason for the particular spam comments I’m receiving is that I’ve touched on drug companies and their products and written a few posts on human sexuality.  Obviously, that is sufficient to drive people through the google algorithm and allow them to send out their stuff.  So, as convenient as google is for doing useful research, it too has its downside, as my inbox will attest.

But as annoyed as I am by all this, I am most offended that from the original ‘60’s mantra, ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n Roll,” someone had the nerve to turn off the music.

THE MEDIA AND THE MOB

Virtually everyone who has attempted creative writing has probably experienced the phenomenon known as writer’s block.  I don’t know if its antithesis has ever been diagnosed or documented, but in mid-January I experienced what I refer to as writer’s overload.

As I sat down to write my next post I heard a story on the news that grabbed my attention.  Dutifully, I saved the half-completed piece and focused on the breaking story which I found more interesting than the post on which I had been working.  As I began developing that post I took a break for lunch.  Returning to my desk, I turned on the news and returned to working on the second piece.  Yet another story broke that day which I felt had even more interest than either the one on which I was working or its predecessor.  Needless to say I began to tackle that subject.  Then, halfway written, I put down that piece and sat back to reflect on what was happening.

I was feeling so overwhelmed by information that I was having difficulty focusing on any of it sufficiently to write something that was either worth writing or worth reading.  The same thing happened the next day and the next.  I was beginning to feel like a teenager who was experiencing an explosion of acne but who only had enough medication to treat one lone blotch.

I remembered an experience when I was in my late teens and went on a two week religious retreat at a monastic community slightly outside New York City on the banks of the Hudson River.  I was going to begin my freshman year in college in the fall and felt that I needed some time to focus and identify my goals and develop a plan of attack.  Part of the discipline of the retreat was living in a small cell with only the bare necessities of a bed a desk and a prie dieu – and total silence other than at religious services.  I left and felt refreshed after fourteen days and boarded the Greyhound bus to return to the city.

As the bus drove to New York I felt very peaceful yet energized.  I read as we sped along and almost before I knew it we were pulling into the terminal.  The time had literally flown by.  Then the bus driver announced our arrival and opened the door to allow the half full bus of passengers to exit.  As I gathered up the small grip which contained my belongings I was suddenly amazed at all the noise inside the terminal.  It was overwhelming – almost deafening.  And I realized that I heard that noise every one of the days I had spent in NYC in my short seventeen years – but that I was so used to it I had never noticed it.  For me and my fellow New Yorkers, noise was normal.

That was in the mid-60’’s.  Television consisted of the the three major networks; news was delivered via the morning and evening newspapers; the latest innovation in telecommunications was the introduction off the “Princess phone.”  Yet even with those limitations in our ability to send or receive information there was so much noise   By today’s norms we were forced to function at a near-primitive information level.  Yet, knowing nothing else, we seemed to get along just fine.

The jury may be out on global warming, climate change or climate instability or whatever current incarnation is in vogue.  But it is clear that our access to information has exploded in the past half century.  I doubt that our ability to process all that information has kept pace.  Perhaps that is one contributing reason that one in ten Americans is purported to have some form of mental issue and the reason that the prescriptions for psychiatric medications are being dispensed at record rates.

The posts which I began during the past month had a common theme.  Whether it was the abuse of power in New Jersey in closing down the George Washington Bridge; the scandal in New York City of firefighters and police falsely claiming disability and collecting monthly payments; our Secretary of State Kerry proclaiming to the world that environmental change is as urgent a concern as jihadists with shoe bombs and bad intentions; the Syrian government’s failure to comply with their “agreement” to turn over their chemical weapons and our government’s inept policy not only in the middle east but globally as the fires burn in Kiev and the people mob the streets in Venezuela.

President Obama alone provided the substance for several posts in his most current revisions of Obamacare through executive fiat which seem to be occurring weekly.  And what is that common theme?  It is not in the substance of the event but in the fact that it will soon be replaced and forgotten as some even newer story emerges and captures our attention  for the next nano-second.  It is in precisely this environment that politicians and poltroons can either get away with bad behavior or just plain ineptitude, knowing that the public’s attention will soon be distracted by someone else’s bad behavior before they are called to account.

Let’s be honest.  The mindless mob would much rather hear or see a story about Miley Cyrus than have a conversation about the Madison papers.  The vast majority of our public would rather talk about the Super Bowl, well perhaps not the last one, than the implications of a Supreme Court ruling.  It’s difficult to be informed unless you perceive a reason to be informed.  And most people would rather be entertained by “Jersey Shore” than be concerned with “justice for all” – unless they are themselves the victim of injustice.

No matter where we turn the airwaves are filled with stories of greed, self-absorption, victims and victimizers, heroes found out to have attained their achievements in violation of the rules of fair play and countless stories of those who feel that the laws made for all were beneath them.  “What’s in it for me” rules the culture and the country.

There is no doubt that this can continue as long as there is left some marrow to be picked from the bones of the doers, the makers and the taxpayers.  The truth of that statement is that it has gone on – perhaps for half a century.  But there is always an accounting – no matter how hard those in the media and those in the seats of power try to postpone it.  Eventually we will kill the last fatted calf and there will be no offspring to replace it.

Whether that day is tomorrow or decades from now is uncertain.  Whether we come to the realization that we have been wanton in our values and our priorities because of an apocalyptic moment or through mass self-examination is also unsure.  It is unlikely that the aegis of this enlightenment will be the thousand channels of cable jabberwocky that are beamed at us each moment and without which far too many of us would see no point in living.

But if  the media suddenly had a cathartic moment and focused on things of importance rather than fluff and sensationalism, the question remains.  How many of the mob would listen – and how many would understand and work for change both personally and in those whom we elect to serve in political office?

A TALE OF TWO FOREIGNERS

There were two young men living in America.  One came from Canada.  The other from Australia.  One was a high school dropout.  The other was a college student on scholarship.  One was a television star.  The other was an athlete.  One died at the age of 31 of a heroin overdose.  The other died at the age of 22 of a bullet in the back.  The death of the first one was immediately covered by the news media.  The death of the second got very little attention.  One of these young men was Cory Monteith.  The other was Christopher Lane.

Every needless death is a tragedy.  It causes those of us who believe in God to wonder why He allows these to happen.  That is an honest question and one for which most of us have no compelling answer.  It is something that troubles me about the deaths of both these young men.

But while I have now heard some commentary from our left wing about the reason that Christopher Lane was murdered by three teenagers – according to them it’s because we don’t have sufficiently restrictive gun laws – I have heard nothing about Cory Monteith’s suicide from heroin other than outpourings of sympathy for him and his girl friend.

Sadly the underlying reason that these two men died has little to do with illegal firearms or illicit drugs.  Those were merely the means to the end.  The cause of both deaths was the same.  That is that we have embraced a culture that has turned its back on traditional values and replaced them with self-gratification.

We have reinvented the 1960’s whose mantra was, “Sex, drugs and rock and roll.”  Today we’ve modified that to, ”Sex, drugs, rap, hip hop and murder.”  In the ‘60’s those who took up the credo were to be found in Haight Ashbury or Woodstock.  They were a fringe element and represented relatively few Americans’ attitudes.  Today, that equation has changed.

Those who are the self-gratified are the children and grandchildren of the Baby Boomers.  We called them Gen X and Gen Y – but we should have named them Gen Degenerate.  Thankfully, there are exceptions within these groups – people who were fortunate enough to be born into families that emphasized those old fashioned traditional values and where their children heard and respected that message.  But if empirical observation is any guide, their percentage of this collective is small.

I thought I would look at one expression of our traditional Judaeo-Christian values, the Ten Commandments and look at how our attitudes toward them has changed from when I learned them as a child and how today’s children (and adults) observe them.

1.  You shall have no other gods before Me.

What are today’s gods?  The latest electronic gadget; going to the hippest night club; promiscuous and indiscriminate sexual relations; getting dope and getting high; the list goes on …

2.  You shall make no idols.

See Hollywood celebs, NBA and NFL superstars and  rock stars.

3.  You shall not take the name of the lord your God in vain.

OMG.

4.  Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

Most of us live in a 24/7 world and one day is pretty much like any other one.  Besides, Sunday is meant to worship at the altar of pro football – and just so we can include our Jewish citizens and Seventh Day Adventists – on Saturdays we have college ball.

5.  Honor your father and your mother.

In order to honor them you have to know who they are.  With our exploding illegitimacy rates that is a challenge for many of our children.

6.  You shall not murder.

See the opening of this piece, the daily newspaper and the tabloids.

7.  You shall not commit adultery.

No comment necessary.

8.  You shall not steal.

See convenience stores armed robberies, welfare fraud, and federal government waste.

9.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

In the absence of any higher power to whom we must answer, the import and consequences of taking an oath are virtually non-existent.  “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” essentially has no meaning in a society which doesn’t recognize absolute values and where everything is relative.

10.  You shall not covet.

Whether it’s the latest phone, the hottest gym shoes or anything else that we can get consumers to buy, corporate marketing strategies appeal directly to the consumer’s sense of greed and lust and teach us that “It’s cool to have the latest trendy thing and so gross to be wearing or using something that is out of date.”

Perhaps I’m no different than Gen Degen and am merely a product of my upbringing – or lack of it.  I have to admit that possibility.  And I have to be honest and say that I have broken a commandment or two during the course of my life.

But perhaps the difference is that I knew that I had done something that violated the values which I had been taught, felt guilty and tried to reform.  I was ashamed of my behavior and that shame helped me avoid, or at least minimize, further repetitions.

If our children are not taught that there are standards and values, then it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we live in an “anything goes” society.  And there will be more reports about self-inflicted deaths like Cory Monteith’s and mindless murders like Chris Lane’s.  To me, the second of these is the true tragedy – both for the victim, his friends and family, and for all of us who hope to live peacefully in a civilized society.

THE O’REILLY FACTOR

Last night I listened, as I often do, to “The O’Reilly Factor” on the FOX network.  With so much media slanted in one direction, I find it necessary to get an occasional fix of some conservative input to remind myself that I’m not totally insane.

One of the stories that Mr. O’Reilly covered in his introduction was that Attorney General Holder has made an effort to dissemble the minimum sentencing requirements for non-violent drug offenders.  He made this statement at a meeting of the American Bar Association.

I heard a portion of his speech earlier in the day and, to be honest, I thought it was the most enlightened thing that the AG had said during his tenure.  Mr. O’Reilly felt otherwise.

Bill O’Reilly’s point was that drug dealers are selling poison – true; and that their sales, particularly to minors and others who are not capable of making prudent decisions may result in death – also true.  Therefore, he concluded that all drug sales had the potential of resulting in violent consequences and that the Attorney General was totally off base.  He also made reference to the recent death of Corey Monteith as an example of the horrible negative effects of drugs.

Bill O’Reilly has a point of view that is internally consistent – generally.  Part of his credo is that the individual has the right to make choices, free of government interference.  In that respect, I have to question his position on the issue of drug sellers and drug abusers.  Mr. Monteith is a case in point.  He made a terrible life choice which resulted in his death.  But it was his choice to make.

Then there’s the now much-touted case of the thirteen year old youngster in Florida who was savagely beaten by three older teenagers on the school bus.  This kid did the right thing by informing school authorities that his assailants were selling drugs on school grounds.  The result was that he suffered a terrible beating and a fractured arm.

Should those thugs be punished for their primitive behavior?  Of course they should.  But they should be tried and punished irrespective of their motivation or their drug-selling activity.

If I had a magic wand, all drugs would instantaneously disappear from the face of the earth.  But we know that isn’t reality or a lot of good people would have waved that wand a long time ago.

Anytime there are massive amounts of money involved in selling a product and a consumer demand for it, you can be certain people will make a market in it.  Setting aside our personal moral objections to drugs or drug use, we need to acknowledge that.  And then we need to find a productive strategy that will minimize their impact on society.

As a kid in New York City I don’t know how many times I read about some junkie holding up and harming an elderly person who was waiting to catch the subway, robbing them so they could get money for their next fix.  Some of those episodes resulted in the death of the victim.  That isn’t justice for the victims.

To my mind there is only one way to deal with this in a rational way and that is to decriminalize drugs and to dispense them through certified outlets – whether run by government or by a closely-regulated private operation.

Since most of the western world has adopted the American mind set toward drugs, we have few examples to guide us as to how implementing a process of legalization and regulation might work.  One country which has experience with this approach is the Netherlands.  They implemented their heroin-assisted program in 1998.

Since that time they have found that the number of heroin addicts has increased at a rate slower than the general population growth and that the average increase in the age of users has increased from 27 years of age to 38.  In other words, fewer young people are entering the addict population and those who are confirmed users are simply getting older, pulling up the average age.

Although cannabis is legal, using it while operating a vehicle is strictly prohibited and the police routinely give motorists who are involved in a traffic accident a drug test.  Failing this test can lead to a minimum three year jail term.

As a conservative I rely on the lessons that history teaches us.  If a particular philosophy, no matter how well-motivated, simply doesn’t work, it’s time for all reasonable people to question its usefulness.  That is what we learned with respect to alcohol.  And with all due respect to Bill O’Reilly, that is what we should be willing to admit about illegal drugs.

SUPPLY AND DEMAND

With MLB’s announcement yesterday of thirteen player suspensions, once again the issue of illegal drug usage is on our radar screen.  It’s not quite three weeks since Cory Monteith died of a self-inflicted heroin overdose.  How many others lacking his high profile have died as a result of drug abuse in that same period is unknown as their deaths don’t make the news.

Obviously the PED’s that apparently enjoy widespread usage among professional athletes don’t, as far as we know, have the same potential for killing their users.  But as long as they are illegal and the powers that be within baseball wield their considerable authority to censure offenders, they do have a negative effect.  They destroy the dreams of millions of kids who look to these athletes as their idols.

It’s interesting to note that, if we continue to regulate which drugs are legal and which are not – in my view an unwise position – that MLB has taken a far more effective approach to dealing with the problem than does our Federal government under the aegis of the DEA.  MLB attacked the problem at the consumption level – while the DEA attacks the problem at the production level.

Whether or not you accept my argument that all drugs should be de-criminalized and made available through regulated dispensaries, I believe we can all agree that there is one reason that people manufacture drugs.  There is a lot of money in it.

Why do people use them?  That is probably a far more complex problem.  Why would a thirty-one year old such as Monteith with an established career and a bright future risk that all for a fix?  But finding the reason that he or any other drug user engages in his habit is less important than acknowledging that they do.

We found with Prohibition that we cannot eliminate the source (alcohol) simply because we have made it illegal.  And we found that despite its illegality, people who wanted a drink found ways to fulfill their desires.  Why we do not apply what we should have learned from that lesson to cocaine or heroin or marijuana or any other mind-altering drug is confusing.

We love reading stories about the fact that the latest cartel “El Jefe” has been apprehended – as though that will make any difference at all.  Returning to my original thesis that where there is a lot of money involved, there will always be someone willing, if not anxious to step in and replace a fallen “leader”.  In fact, many of these former leaders were sent to an early retirement at the hands of their successors.

Pouring money into the sinkhole of trying to eliminate the production of illegal drugs at its source is about as fruitful as trying to empty the Pacific Ocean by using a ladle.  After years of conducting the losing “War On Drugs” we should have by now realized that.

The CDC reported that in 2010 there were 37,792 deaths attributable to illegal drug abuse.  That compares to 25,440 deaths that were attributable to mis-use of alcohol.  Alcohol has been regulated for nearly a century and I suspect has far wider usage than illegal drugs.  I would be willing to bet that the number of people who at least occasionally enjoy a hard drink or a beer is five hundred times the number of people who shoot heroin or snort cocaine.

Perhaps that multiplier of five hundred that I pulled out of thin air is far too high.  Let’s adjust it down to something that may seem more reasonable to you – ten.  But even at that ridiculously low level – it would suggest that we should be seeing well over one quarter million annual deaths due to demon rum.  The government’s own statistics say that assumption is false.

Why then do we resist the libertarian concept of decriminalizing drug usage?  There are a number of answers to that question.

First, we believe that drug usage leads to drug dependency which leads to ruined lives.  That is probably an argument with which I would agree.  But isn’t that what happens now?  And the fact that these drugs can only be obtained from criminals exposes the user to additional danger than he or she would experience by purchasing these same drugs from a dispensary.

Second, we are protecting our children from becoming drug abusers.  That is a laudable goal but is patently untrue.  A pusher doesn’t care if you’re at death’s door or twelve years old – as long as you have the money to buy your fix.  A dispensary would be able to weed out those who have not attained a majority (and the presumed ability to make an intelligent decision regarding whether they wanted to purchase a drug).  And the sad truth is that a lot of our kids are getting their first highs by raiding their parents’ stash of pain killers (which are, of course, legally prescribed drugs).

Third, drugs are “de facto” bad.  We should not give the perception of endorsing them by legalizing them.  That is simply a value judgment.  However, as in the case of alcohol, not everyone shares that opinion.  Does a person have the right to impose his values on everyone else?  If so, you must be enamored with the present administration.

The benefits of decriminalizing drugs are also several.

First, the street value of the commodity would fall in price.  This might be the most effective way of actually putting the cartels out of business.  Furthermore, by regulating the distribution through dispensaries we could tax the product and test it for “safety”.  Many of those who die from drug overdoses are people who purchased “tainted” products.

Second, the gangs that are now the distributors for drugs and who are responsible for multiple murders every year, would also be put out of business.  Of the 31,500 plus murders that were the result of gunshots in 2010, well over half of those were believed to be related to drug transactions and rivalries between two gangs of drug pushers.

Third, we would be able to identify current drug users and develop rehabilitation programs to assist these users which they would have to attend in order to continue receiving their ongoing distributions.  Those drug users seldom receive any sort of assistance under our present arrangement.

Those MLB players who received suspensions yesterday were taking those substances in order to improve their value as a negotiable commodity.  Once again, money is at the core of their actions.  We would be naïve to believe that when players are already making multi-millions of dollars a year that they will not be able to get access to any sorts of drugs they want – PED’s or otherwise.

It’s really long past time that we had a mature debate on our drug policies.  For myself, I hope that I never feel so low that I contemplate turning to them for comfort.

If we look at those baseball players and other pro athletes who have turned to drugs to enhance their performance, we should honestly ask ourselves one question.  In our demand as consumer/spectators for more thrilling games and better performances, aren’t we fans really the pushers?

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