Guest Editorial - A Christian's Duty and the War on Drugs by Richard Jones

In waging the Drug War we are arresting and imprisoning the adult sons and daughters that the Drug War is supposed to be protecting, and in the process we are creating legions of socially dysfunctional outcasts whom we will have to deal with in the future.

Most Christians believe the future holds a kingdom ruled by God, a theocracy where the holy will of God is the law of the land and the desire of peoples' hearts. But how are Christians to live in the meantime? We want people to live rightly and in harmony with each another, but can we, or better yet, should we use force of law to compel everyone to live according to God's standards? While we should personally live by God's standards and share His love with others, we cannot and should not compel everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike to live according to Christian principles. Jesus did not force others to follow His ways. He did as He wants us to do -- live our beliefs.

Whose Dogma Would We Use?

Even if we were to impose a Christian moral standard for living in America today, whose doctrine would we apply? By some Christians' standards eating pork would be illegal. With some persuasions grape juice is OK, but wine is wrong; with certain churches women in pants would be a crime. With some sects even electricity is off limits. So to what moral standard do we look? Since the Kingdom of God does not yet rule on earth with Christ Himself to show us the way, we must allow our earthly government to be the foundation of our law. That raises the questions by what moral authority do we the people allow the government to rule? and how should our government rule?. Our founding fathers recognized man as Gods highest creation and as such they set the standard in our United States Constitution, an instrument of maximum personal freedom with restrictions intended to prevent government's undue interference in its citizens' lives. The government standard of morality then is one of personal freedom with protection from others who may wish to restrict our freedom or cause us harm.

Our government should allow us the freedom to achieve success in our personal and professional lives, and prevent disruption of our lives by those who may hamper our quest for fulfillment, or who thrive by taking our means of livelihood. In other words, we should be free to live our lives according to our own standards, free from others who want to hurt us or steal or destroy our property. In that way we can live our lives as Christians, and allow others to live as they see fit -- as long as they don't limit our life, liberty or pursuit of happiness.

The War On People Who Use Drugs

The US Government's War on Drugs started with good intentions, namely: to save people, particularly our children, from the damage that can be caused by the misuse of some drugs. While that is a noble cause, the ends don't justify the means -- in fact the means don't even achieve the desired ends. More damage and death are caused by the war waged on people, in the name of the War on Drugs, than could ever be caused by the use or abuse of drugs alone.

Many families are broken and lives destroyed not because of the effects of drug use, but because of harsh laws attempting to govern possession of banned drugs, and the unintended outcomes that result from those laws. The laws against drugs are founded on the erroneous assumption that all drug use is harmful. In fact cannabis has been found to be extremely safe. In 1988 after two years of exhaustive hearings into scientific research the US Drug Enforcement Agency's own administrative law judge, Francis Young, found that marijuana is one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man. Even aspirin kills people, yet there is no known lethal dose of cannabis for humans. Researchers have found cannabis to be less addictive than caffeine, if considered addictive at all. This is not to say that people cant have problems with drug abuse, but why compound their problems by creating artificial consequences? As Dr. Andrew Weil put it, "There are no good or bad drugs; there are only good or bad relationships with drugs."

Even if we take all the rhetoric over drugs' dangers at face value, the adults who use cannabis are committing a consensual act and are at worst harming only themselves, not society at large, and should be held accountable for their actions (as everyone should be), but otherwise left alone. People who abuse drugs may have or cause domestic troubles, social dilemmas and/or health problems, but we should reach out with solutions -- as we now do for people who have problems with alcohol -- we should not create legal obstacles for them to contend with as well. In waging the Drug War we are arresting and imprisoning the adult sons and daughters that the Drug War is supposed to be protecting, and in the process we are creating legions of socially dysfunctional outcasts whom we will have to deal with in the future.

The Price We Pay

The Drug War has cost Americans the erosion of their Constitutional rights, almost one trillion tax dollars, over 100 million man-years wasted in the free world's largest prison system, and has corrupted law enforcement (which used to be called peace keeping) by creating outrageous profits to tempt bad cops on the one hand, and by providing a financial incentive to keep the Drug War an ongoing, never-ending effort by swelling police budgets with asset forfeiture on the other hand -- with nothing to show in return. Today drugs are cheaper, purer and easier to get than at any time in history. Teenagers comprise the fastest growing heroin population in America today, and in a recent survey high-school students revealed that it was easier for them to get cannabis than alcohol.

Taking Control

Under the current Controlled Substances Act we actually have little or no control of prohibited drugs. We have in effect turned over control to the completely unregulated black market, an underground enterprise with no safety codes or age restrictions, whose operators disregard all laws except survival of the strongest. We could drive much of the black market out of business almost overnight if we would regulate cannabis, imposing strict controls as we now do with alcohol. That would remove the financial incentive from the street dealers and place it into the hands of licensed business people, who would strive to stay within the law to remain in business. One requirement of the law would be that cannabis retailers could not sell cocaine or heroin, something we cannot presently prevent. The market would then move above ground and assume at least as much respectability as the alcohol industry -- and as we don't have the Jack Daniels distillery eliminating the competition with guns and bombs or Anheuser-Busch recruiting teens to actively market its products to our kids, that would be a vast improvement. We will actually gain control as well as gain a source of revenue to fund constructive programs if we regulate and tax cannabis.

The Rights Of A Free People

Modern American drug policy has not been a deterrent to drug use, but it has been counterproductive and hypocritical in many ways and millions of people are simply refusing to obey the drug laws. There are legal principles that support those who ignore drug laws. The decision in Maybury vs. Madison (1803) is clear enough. Chief Justice Marshall wrote: "All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void." Also, according to 16 Am Jur 2d, Sec 177 & 178: "An unconstitutional statute, having the form and name of law, is in reality no law, but is wholly void and ineffective for any purpose... No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional statute and no courts are bound to enforce it... .

Although you will not hear it in any courtroom today Americans have the right, even the duty, to acquit a person even if he acted as charged, if the underlying law is unconstitutional. Our founding fathers knew this. In fact the constitutions of early states such as Maryland specifically mention that jurors must be allowed to decide the law as well as the facts of the case before them. Our freedom of the press was established in just such a case. We have inalienable rights that no court should attempt to violate.

Conscience Objectors to the War on Drugs

Christians of course may reject cannabis use for themselves and oppose its use for others. But we should use the same methods of education and social disapproval that has led to a reduction in teen smoking, without our having to resort to arresting any responsible adult smokers.

As a matter of conscience Christians should demand an end to the massively destructive and inhumane Drug War. We should insist on an effective drug strategy. Our nation requires a rational drug policy based on science and compassion rather than one based on hysteria and punishment. We deserve a truthful drug education program to help keep our children from using drugs and limit the damage caused to them if they disregard the warnings -- as many kids do -- so we can keep them alive until they grow into a better understanding of the consequences of drug use. We need voluntary treatment, available on demand, for drug addicts and those who come to realize they have a drug abuse problem and cannot quit on their own.

If we channel the billions upon billions of dollars we spend on the Drug War each year into constructive programs coupled with practical drug policy we could actually accomplish the goals of reducing the death and destruction caused by the misuse of drugs -- and by our current War on Drugs.

Site Meter

Copyright 2002