Laws that prohibit drugs aren’t meant to keep the public safe, they are meant to silence opposition. And, when making decisions at the ballot box, voters must consider and compare how the candidates would spend taxpayer money. Candidates that support the war on drugs must be voted out and it is time voters push for the closure of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The DEA has its roots in the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), founded in 1930 under President Herbert Hoover. Noted racist and lead champion of cannabis prohibition, Harry Anslinger, was appointed to be the first commissioner. In 1968, the FBN became the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the predecessor to the DEA and a massive governmental bureaucracy whose existence relies on drug prohibition.
President Nixon’s top aid, John Ehrlichman, even admitted the war was racist and wasteful, saying Nixon’s war on drugs was really an effort to have a weapon for Nixon to marginalize his two biggest political enemies: people of color and the antiwar left.
“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I am saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroine and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt these communities.
"We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meeting and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about drugs? Of course we did,” Erlichman said.
Wasteful expenditure of billions of dollars
This war strategy worked beyond Nixon's wildest imagination and has led to the wasteful expenditure of hundreds of billions of tax dollars, the destruction of millions of lives, the rise of well-armed gangs, a significant role for the sale of illicit drugs to fund terrorism and the erosion of our Constitutional rights. There has been bipartisan support for the failed war on marginalized people and the massive amounts of government waste it generates. It’s time for voters to say enough is enough.
If the American public pushes their elected officials to rearrange their priorities, existing law enforcement could be employed to investigate terrorism instead. Do we really need the DEA? After all, over 90 percent of the drug war is related to cannabis, and it’s becoming legal state by state. Still, there are over 800,000 cannabis arrests per year, easily dwarfing the arrests for other drugs.
Treating marijuana use as a crime is 'absurd'
Of course, the whole idea of treating the medical condition of substance abuse criminally, rather than medically, is absurd. The law enforcement approach is compounded by defining drug use as drug abuse.
If we took a harm reduction approach we could dramatically cut the $18-billion currently spent on prioritizing the enforcement of draconian drug laws. Also, if there was no longer an illicit drug market we would take money out of the pocket of terrorists. More importantly, we would have trained law enforcement personnel who could focus on tracking down would-be terrorists and combating terrorism.
Dr. Arnold Leff has come up with a timely idea that I support - abolish the DEA. Leff was President Nixon’s associate deputy director of the Special Action Office on Drug Abuse and has spent his career in public health.
The bulk of DEA agents are almost ideally suited to track down terrorists. We should move the vast majority of current DEA agents to the department of Homeland Security and put them to work where they can do some good: tracking down terrorists and preventing terrorist attacks.
Americans must ask themselves, what is their law enforcement priority?
Dr. David Bearman is a pioneer in medical cannabis, pain management and harm reduction. His work spans decades in California and beyond. His medical practice is located in Santa Barbara, California.