Obama administration hasn't learned from Prohibition

October 11, 2011

In response to Kevin A. Sabet's recent opinion piece ("Drug legalization: Wrong lesson of Prohibition," Oct. 9), I don't know which is more abhorrent — that a Baltimore newspaper would run an op-ed championing Prohibition as "not as bad as you remember" or that the piece was penned by a former senior adviser in the White HouseOffice of National Drug Control Policy.

A city that gave birth to the fictional place known as Hampsterdam, and all the benefits it provided, ought to know better. Mr. Sabet's argument (if we are to call it this) is built on such delicate and flimsy points ("nuanced" in his parlance) that one might conclude that he's trying to damn the position with faint praise. He states that under Prohibition, less people drank alcohol, less people were arrested for public intoxication and cirrhosis of the liver fell. Well, if the country were to outlaw driving, we'd see a drastic drop in traffic fatalities. There'd be less speeding tickets. And there would be less people who suffer from fingers being slammed in car doors. All would be benefits to society, freeing up a tremendous amount of resources and drastically easing the burden on our health care system. So why not make driving illegal?

Mr. Sabet also opines that not all the states actively enforced the 18th Amendment. Hardly an argument to be made in favor of the legislation you're endorsing. Yet even his state's rights argument falls flat when you consider that his administration has begun cracking down on legally operating (and tax-paying) marijuana dispensaries in California, claiming the DEA enforcement of our (highly suspect) drug policy supersedes a states right to do what it deems in its best interest.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has become a giant intelligence organization whose reach extends far beyond narcotics. The New York Times reports that they have an "eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies."

Now comes word of legislation in Congress making it a federal crime for U.S. residents to discuss or plan activities on foreign soil that, if carried out in the U.S., would violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) even if the planned activities are legal in the countries where they're carried out.

When is enough enough? This little piece of cultural imperialism has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with emboldening the police state. In trampling the First and Ninth Amendments (among others), the law grants extraordinary power to intrude into the lives of private citizens.

President Barack Obama has admitted to dabbling in drugs. Many applauded his honesty, as I do. However, had he been caught up in any of the draconian and arbitrary drug laws this country enforces, there's no way he'd be elected to any office whatsoever. What that says about our national drug laws would make a far better opinion piece.

Dan Reed, Baltimore

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