Federal War on Drugs is Unconstitutional
The federal government does not have the constitutional authority to pass drug laws or to enact a so-called, War on Drugs. Congress can only pass laws pursuant to the Enumerated Powers delegated to the federal government via Article 1, Section 8. States, however, under their general police powers have the authority to pass drug laws, subject to their own respective state constitutions.
War on Drugs – Tortured Interpretation of Commerce Clause
Today, Congress and the federal courts claim the power to pass and enforce federal drug laws under the Commerce Clause of Article 1, Section 8. This power was never delegated to the federal government in any legitimate manner. Rather, in 1937, the Supreme Court ignored and discarded the plain and undisputed meaning of the Commerce Clause, along with more than a century’s worth of legal precedent, and turned the interstate Commerce Clause into a virtually unlimited federal police power. The court’s new interpretation basically said Congress could control any activity that has a “substantial effect” on interstate economic activity.
The most recent federal War on Drugs case to garner headlines was Gonzales v. Raich, 2005. In Raich, the Supreme Court upheld this tortured interpretation of the Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court said federal drug laws were, “squarely within Congress’ commerce power because production of the commodity meant for home consumption, be it wheat or marijuana, has a substantial effect on supply and demand in the national market for that commodity.” Gonzalez v. Raich, among countless other decisions, exemplify why people should not listen to, abide by, or respect decisions rendered by federal courts generally, and the Supreme Court in particular.
Alcohol Prohibition vs. War on Drugs
The federal government’s crackdown on alcohol during the 1920s, known as Prohibition, must be based on the same Constitutional authority as today’s federal War on Drugs, right? Well, no. Prohibition occurred prior to FDR’s New Deal and the Supreme Court’s tortured interpretation of the Commerce Clause (among other clauses). Alcohol Prohibition banned the sale, production and transportation of alcohol throughout the country. What provision of the Constitution justified Prohibition? The Constitution delegated no authority to enact prohibition, so the Eighteenth Amendment was necessary. This Constitutional Amendment gave Congress the power to pass what became the Volstead Act that enforced the Eighteenth Amendment.
Prohibition was a terrible idea across the board. Americans were not going to stop consuming alcohol. On top of that, in its efforts to deter Americans from drinking, the federal government poisoned (read: murdered) at least 10,000 Americans by poisoning industrial alcohols routinely stolen by bootleggers and resold to the public. This was barbaric behavior by the federal government, and nothing justifies the deliberate murder of Americans. That said, at least Prohibition was brought about in the proper, Constitutional manner. Two-thirds of both houses of Congress asked for the Eighteenth Amendment, and three-fourths of the states delegated that power to the federal government, pursuant to Article 5 of the Constitution. Prohibition was ultimately repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933.
No amendment was ever asked for, let alone passed, granting the federal government the power to pass drug laws or enact a nationwide War on Drugs. While recreational drugs are bad and should not be used, the power to set policy in this arena is reserved to the states. States are and should be free to set their own drug policies. Federal involvement in the realm of drug control is just another example of a federal usurpation of power – another unconstitutional federal foray into a matter reserved to the states and the people to decide at the state and local level.
There is no wizardry here. The Constitution is not an overly complicated document. If you understand these basics, you can see through the nonsense coming out of Washington DC.
Economics and Social Cost of the War on Drugs
War on Drugs creates Economic Incentives for Suppliers to enter the market
The War on Drugs creates strong economic incentives for those lower down the economic ladder to enter the drug supplier market as a way to make money. The War on Drugs artificially reduces available drug supplies, which, relative to strong demand, drives up prices and creates a healthy financial incentive for suppliers to enter the market, even with the risk of going to jail. If you’re a poor, inner-city kid, why study mathematics when you see the dealer down the street driving a fancy car and getting all the girls?
Prison Industrial Complex benefits from the War on Drugs
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, primarily due to nonviolent drug law offenders. An entire prison industry has risen around the War on Drugs, mandatory sentencing laws and the steadily increasing flow of taxpayer dollars feeding the beast. The Prison Industrial Complex is the largest obstacle in the way of repealing the unconstitutional federal drug laws. However, incarceration rates are not just a federal problem. California’s most powerful lobby (special interest) is the California Correctional Officers’ Union (CCPOA). These correctional officers have a strong incentive to continue the War on Drugs and to incarcerate as many non-violent “criminals” as possible.
War on Drugs – Violence, Theft and Murder
By making drugs illegal, the drug market is forced down into an underground economy whereby transactions and disputes cannot be settled properly through contracts and the legal system. Instead, guns, threats, kidnappings and murders are the way to enforce agreements and to complete with competitors. If you want to see drug crime and drug cartels disappear tomorrow, then federal drug laws must be discarded into history’s trash can of terrible ideas.
The federal drug laws also have a dubious, racial origin worth noting. For more on this history, read here.