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Progressives Trip Over Drug Policy
June 14, 2023
by William P. Meyers

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Peace with Hard Drugs will fail

The Seattle City Council recently voted, 5 to 4, against enacting a law that would allow for misdemeanor charges to be filed against anyone using hard drugs (cocaine, meth, heroin and fentanyl) in public. This was considered a victory by (most) progressive Democrats and those to their left. It is certainly a victory for drug users, dealers, and cartels. I tend to be in the same camp, on many issues, as progressive democrats. I want to explain here why, based on my experiences and studies, I think the law should have been passed. First, a quick review of the law, with links for those who want more.

The Washington State Supreme Court had previously knocked down the law making possession of hard drugs a felony. A temporary law had been passed, but it would expire this year, so a new state-level law was needed. After an initial defeat, in May the House approved the law 83 to 13, and the Senate approved it 43 to 6. The law was designed to both provide for public safety and to divert junkies into treatment programs. The potential jail times would only be for those who refuse treatment. While the maximum penalty is 364 days in jail, judges could choose lesser penalties.

Although the state law covers Seattle, making drug possession in public illegal, the city attorney needs the City Council's bill in order to have the authority to prosecute. Otherwise the prosecution would be by the King County attorney, which only handles felonies in Seattle.

Add to that, the Seattle Police are understaffed. For years they have mainly failed to bring any non-violent criminals to prosecutors. Theft is widespread in Seattle, as are assaults, especially on older women, who are seen as safer targets. Even people in public housing, and homeless people, complain about the dangers of living in Seattle. Public use of hard drugs including fentanyl is widespread; I frequently see it when I take a walk or ride a bus or the light rail.

Why do progressive politicians, leaders, and most of their supporters want the use of meth, coke, and fentanyl to be effectively legal in Seattle? They have several arguments. These rely on misinterpreting history and the reality of a culture they have never dealt with, up close and personal.

The main progressive argument for legalizing all hard drugs is that the War on Drugs failed. Now keep in mind that they are not arguing for the abolition of the FDA. They don't want pharmaceutical companies to bring new therapies to market without testing that often costs over $1 billion dollars per therapy. They want a big old loophole for organized crime cartel produced, untested drugs. They hate for-profit corporations, but not for-profit criminal enterprises.

Did the War on Drugs fail? That depends on how you measure success and failure. The first war on drugs, Prohibition, was called a failure, and was called off in 1933. Alcohol is easy to make and so it remained available to most people during prohibition, while greatly increasing the profits of criminal enterprises. But why pass Prohibition in the first place? Because of the terrible harm alcohol abuse had on society. People demanded Prohibition. It was a PROGRESSIVE cause. The nation would be better off if people stopped drinking. But many did not stop, and so criminals replaced legal bars and liquor sellers. I think the statistic that could be used to see whether Prohibition was a failure is alcohol consumption per person. What was it before Prohibition went into effect, and was it more or less a couple of years after alcohol became legal again. The answer is alcohol consumption declined greatly during Prohibition, but then crept up slowly, peaking in 1980, largely because of increased consumption by females. So Prohibition was not a failure, unless the criteria is reducing consumption, long term, to near zero. One of the main long-term, post-Prohibition problems, was the organized crime syndicates realizing how much money could be made off people addicted to illegal drugs.

According to most Progressives, the war on drugs failed because so many black men ended up in prison (or jail) during the 1980s. This reveals progressive biases. A lot of white men ended up in prison during the same era, for the same crimes, but they don't count. Also, most black citizens supported the war on drugs during this era because they were the chief victims of the drug industry, and especially of the gangs that profited from crack cocaine. For some reason the progressives have forgotten the real victims, the people who were killed by addicts or by their own addictions or by the rise of the gangs that controlled many black districts. Selective memory often leads to political mistakes. It might be argued that the penalties were excessive and many criminals could have been reformed without such long stints in prison, but the need to protect people from the crack gangs was clear at the time.

Then there is marijuana, the only drug besides alcohol most progressives have tried. There is a strong tendency to equate hard drugs with marijuana. With alcohol, most people do not become alcoholics, though most do become lifelong, moderate drinkers [like me]. Marijuana is not without its potential harms, as we are seeing increasingly post legalization. Still, at least at reasonable doses it is, overall, less harmful than alcohol. Yet it was treated as a hard drug, with penalties to match. The rise of medical marijuana laws led to its acceptance as a low-risk substance with some potential benefits. Conclusion: the war on drugs should never have included cannabis as a target.

The pro-legalization forces, in the case of cannabis, wanted to legalize a drug they were already using. They tend to know that coke, meth and opiates differ from cannabis in their effects, but they want to lump them all into one class. Since cannabis legalization was largely successful, they believe that hard drug legalization will be successful.

This attitude is often distilled into a wish to substitute treatment for jail. Addiction is a sickness; call the doctor.

If addiction is a sickness, it is a very serious one. It almost always leads, eventually, to death. Along the way many other people are harmed. Every user is a potential point of infection. Every user started using when someone else introduced them to it.

To see how much of a special case progressives make of hard drugs, consider how they responded to the Covid epidemic. They demanded mandatory vaccinations; mandatory masking; and the shutdown of entire sectors of society. You would expect progressives to take a hard line against hard drug use, as they did against Covid. One difference is jail. Progressives hate jail. Jail is their indicator of social failure. If someone is in jail, they believe it must be due to a flaw in society. Note the new law only held jail over addicts' heads to get them into a medical program. But progressives saw jail, and so they were against the entire plan.

Being pushed back at by perhaps 60% to 80% of the population of Seattle, the City Council members who voted down the law, and their supporters, and progressive candidates for those seats, have a fall back argument. They say there is not enough medical help available for addicts, so they want to get that medical help set up before enforcing any anti-drug law.

Who has been in charge of the Seattle City Council for over 20 years? Progressives, including one genuine communist. So why did they not build and staff the medical facilities needed to treat all the addicts that are in the city?

What it comes down to, is that it is a lot cheaper to prevent hard drug use than to try to help an addict. Addicts become less and less productive, and more and more destructive, as they go into decline. Helping them requires tax dollars be diverted from their many other potential uses.

It makes much more sense to prevent a deadly disease than to try to cure it. That is why we masked up for Covid and stood in line to get vaccines. Progressives should be advocating for preventing addiction to hard drugs. You prevent addiction by making sure they are not available for idiots to try. That means not having users wandering about, saying things like "I've been using for months now, and I still go to work. Come on, try it, it is a great buzz!"

Finally, let me mention that many talks with many progressives have convinced me that they have little experience with criminal behavior or psychology. They believe crime is caused by poverty, except when crime is caused by patriarchy or racism. Most of their parents are college educated, and often generations of ancestors have been in the professional classes. They live in a bubble largely divorced from the struggles of the working class, most of whom hate criminals and their behavior. That is one of the main reasons people without college educations have largely swung to the Republican side of politics. They are the victims of crimes, they know it is not poverty that causes crime, and they don't see any benefit in electing progressives who are just going to let drug dealers and other criminals run wild.

One last point: the Seattle City Council strengthened the Mexican crime cartels. That puts a terrible burden on the honest people of Mexico. Huge areas of Mexico are controlled by the cartels, and their funding comes from the Seattle City Council and every purchaser of drugs from Mexico.

I want to remind readers that I agree with progressives on protecting the environment, fair wages for workers, honest elections, and equal rights for all. I understand how the pro-drug agenda infected progressive politics. The question is, how can we get progressives to make reasonable laws about dangerous drugs? Only by arguing with them, or electing only those who have some sense.

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