“I’m a libertarian. Of course I believe in ending drug prohibition. The so-called war on drugs punishes what should not be a crime; and it does so cruelly, inhumanely, and in ways that wildly disproportionately hurt the poor and vulnerable. It leads to a militarization and securitization of our whole society; liberties are constantly sacrificed to the enforcement of drug prohibition. Indeed because drug use and sale involves no direct victims, enforcement must pretty much always be invasive; without a victim or complainant, the police must always be presuming people to be guilty, spying on them, finding pretenses to search and arrest them in order to get evidence. And this puts whole populations more or less permanently under police threat. It’s not only those who are arrested and imprisoned who are made unfree by the drug war; it’s all of us. And this is above and beyond the fundamental moral point that the person who ingests drugs has not violated any person’s rights, and so drug prohibition violates liberty in principle as well as in practice.
“Of course, I also believe in the rule of law. We can’t end drug prohibition until we’ve first arrested, convicted, and imprisoned all of the people currently running around who have used, bought, or sold drugs up until now. These people are present in our society illegally; legally, they ought to be behind bars, they just haven’t been caught. There are possibly as many as 100 million of these illegals, given plausible estimates of lifetime marijuana use; there are certainly 20 million, given estimates of illegal drug use in the last year (minus the prison population). The rest of us have played by the rules our whole lives, and it’s not fair to us that there are 20-100 million illegals competing for our jobs and crowding our cities and towns– and voting!– who shouldn’t be present in free society at all. No, before we can end the drug war, we have to ensure that the rule of law is respected and people aren’t rewarded for their past lawbreaking. They can’t be allowed to remain in our society of free persons– and if that means building more prison walls, hiring more police, and giving them more power in the meantime, so be it.”
I submit that this is not a viable, attractive, or coherent position for someone who values human liberty to hold. “I support freedom just as soon as we get around to finding and rounding up tens of millions of people, putting them on the other side of a wall with barbed wire, locks, and many many guards with guns. I oppose laws that restrict freedom, but I even more strongly oppose repealing those laws until we get around to punishing everyone who has violated them in the past. In the meantime we have to make sure that people don’t get away with it.” That’s not a plan for getting to liberty eventually. It’s a guarantee that we constantly become less free; it is always “in the meantime.” In the meantime is when we should want to be free.