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The Drug War Makes Government the Master and Citizen the Servant

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Matthew R. Davies is a 34-year-old father of two young girls who has a master’s degree in business and has worked in various real-estate, restaurant, and mobile-home enterprises. He’s also a man who has no criminal record but who is now facing 15 years in the federal penitentiary.

Davies’ crime? He established one of the most reputable and best-run medical marijuana dispensaries in California, one that limited the drug to truly sick people.

While Davies’ store was fully legal under California law, it was illegal under federal law. That’s why he’s been indicted by the feds as a major drug trafficker.

As the New York Times points out, two of Davies’ associates are accepting a plea bargain that will enable them to serve “only” 5 years in jail. So far, Davies is rejecting the plea offer and instead is appealing to President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to dismiss the charges.

The case exemplifies what can happen in those states where the citizens have voted to end or modify the drug war. Since possession or distribution of illicit drugs is still a federal offense, the feds maintain the legal authority to prosecute people within those states for violating federal drug laws.

That’s why it’s imperative to continue confronting the central issue in the federal drug war: Under what moral authority does the federal government punish Davies or anyone else for engaging in purely consensual transactions with other consenting adults?

The problem is that that Americans have become so accustomed to having the federal government wield omnipotent power over them that their regimented mindsets don’t permit them to break out of the box and challenge the legitimacy of federal power in so many aspects of their lives. Since most everyone has lived much of his life under the war on drugs, it’s just assumed that this is a necessary part of a free society.

But it’s not. In fact, it would be difficult to find a better example of a direct attack on individual freedom than drug laws.

Let’s assume that a person is sitting in the privacy of his own home and smoking marijuana, snorting cocaine, injecting heroin into himself, or overdosing on non-prescribed pain killers. You can say that this person is doing harm to himself. You can say that he’s damaging his family. But why should that be the business of the federal government? Why should the federal government wield the authority to bust into the person’s house, arrest him, and send him to jail for engaging in an action that doesn’t involve the initiation of force against another person, such as robbery, theft, burglary, murder, or rape?

That’s really what is so audacious about the drug war. It’s the mindset of the busybody with a gun, a mindset that says: “You will ingest what I tell you to ingest and if you violate my orders, I will have you jailed until you get you get your mind straight.”

The drug war epitomizes a society in which the government has become the master and the citizen has become the servant. The master dictates what can be ingested and what can’t be ingested, and the servant is expected to obey. If the servant disobeys, the master punishes him by sending him to his room for 15 years.

It is becoming increasingly clear to the American people, however, that the drug war has failed to attain its purported goal after decades of relentless and ruthless effort. It has also produced a sordid world of death, destruction, violence, official corruption, waste of money, and severe loss of privacy and liberty.

People are finally figuring out that the best thing to do is simply end the drug war, just as earlier Americans ended Prohibition, and to leave consenting adults free to decide for themselves how to deal with drugs. Those sentiments are being reflected in the legalization of marijuana itself or its legalization for medicinal purposes at the state level.

The feds, however, are clearing not letting go, at least not yet. They know that ending the drug war would not only restore a large degree of sovereignty and freedom to the American people, it would also unravel the vast web of federal infringements on the privacy and freedom of the American people, not to mention cut off an enormous source of revenue, both legal and illegal, for federal officials.

When laws are being used to send ordinary citizens into jail, that’s a good sign that there is a problem with the law, not the people. Matthew Davies no more belongs in jail than President Obama, an admitted former drug user. The same applies to the thousands of people who are rotting away in jail for non-violent drug offenses. Every one of them deserves to be pardoned immediately.

What people provide to others or ingest themselves is no business of the government. It’s high time to for the American people to restore American citizens to their role as masters and federal officials to their role as servants in American life. There is no better place to start than by ending the federal drug war.

 

 

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Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.