Thursday, September 9, 2010

If Proposition 19 Fails, A New Strategy

If you are even remotely interested in current drug war events, you already know about Proposition 19, affectionately known as Prop 19. For those of you who don't follow drug war happenings, its official title is the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010.” That’s right, it’s the California voter initiative to legalize cannabis, also known by its slang name, marijuana. Prop 19 will be on the ballot this November and, if it passes, will become part of the state’s constitution. Whether it will pass or not is anybody’s guess at this point. But if it does, it will inevitably get the ball rolling in other states. If it fails, it will be a major victory in the war on drugs and a setback to the anti-prohibition movement throughout the country.

Right now, if I had to bet, my money would be against Prop 19 passing. Sadly, I have to be a realist. So I started wondering, what then? Where do we go from there? The answer is really quite simple. Adopt an “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” strategy. The next obvious step would be a voter initiative to criminalize alcohol. That should make both sides happy, right? Cannabis remains illegal, which satisfies the prohibitionists. And both alcohol and cannabis are treated the same, which satisfies the anti-prohibitionists.

If you think about it, it’s not that far fetched After all, it happened before not so long ago. A vocal minority did it then, and they could easily do it again. It’s pretty obvious that prohibitionists learned nothing from our little experiment with banning a recreational drug in the 1920s. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the self-proclaimed moral watchdogs, along with rehab professionals, police, prosecutors, and the prison unions, jumped on the bandwagon. Before you know it, we could have another full-blown temperance movement on our hands. Pretty scary thought, if you ask me.

But what would adding alcohol to the list of banned drugs accomplish? Aside from creating a lot more criminals, and being a boon to the private prison industry, that is. After all, two wrongs don’t make a right. So, what’s the point? Just to get even with the prohibitionists, and give them a taste of their own “medicine”?

As nice as that sounds, punishing the prohibitionists would only be a (pleasant) side effect. The point would be to generate a little empathy. Generally speaking, people who support prohibition are not really affected by it. They’re not really interested in using any drug other than alcohol. Their drug is legal because it’s the “good “drug, and people should not be using the other, “bad” drugs. So maybe it wouldn’t hurt for them to walk a mile in the other side’s shoes. See what it’s like to have one’s preferred drug declared “bad.” See what it’s like to be labeled by society a criminal for relaxing with a cold beer at home. Before you know it, the prohibitionists would be organizing protests, having tea parties, and criticizing the government for taking away their rights and intruding into their private lives. Until prohibition has a personal impact on the lives of the people who support it, they will never understand how destructive a policy it really is. Nor will they budge in their adamant support of it.

So, what do you say? Are you with me on this? If Prop 19 fails to pass, let’s do this prohibition thing right. Not the half-assed way we’re doing it now, with some drugs good, and some bad, some legal and some not. Let’s wipe out the devil’s brew once and for all, and for the first time in history, live in a completely drug-free society. We can do it if we keep doing the same thing, but try a little harder this time.