Perspectives: A civics lesson for hippies and gun owners

OPINION – Jacob Lavoro might be going away for a long time. The 19-year-old Texas man faces a possible life sentence for allegedly baking and distributing pot brownies.

We can agree that drugs are not the pathway to a better life, but life in prison? If justice is about seeing what is fair is done, this punishment hardly fits the alleged crime.

Because Lavoro is alleged to have added marijuana and hash oil to the brownies before baking them, prosecutors weighed the entire batch of brownies as if they were hash oil. This bit of legal trickery allowed them to charge him with a more serious crime than mere possession of marijuana.

Keeping this young man off the streets for the rest of his life will do absolutely nothing to advance the cause of a drug-free society. But then again, the war on drugs has been an utter failure for more than 40 years now.

The drug war is an unwinnable conflict in which an actual victory will never be achieved.

It’s less about getting what government labels illicit substances out of society and more about using the crusade as justification for endless expansion of its power.

It encourages escalating violence on the part of illegal entrepreneurs as well as members of the state’s punitive priesthood. In both cases, the people who do not use drugs are the ones who pay the highest price in terms of loss of freedom and as potential crime victims.

Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation offers a very insightful explanation:

There is one key difference between a legal and an illegal market. In the latter a premium is placed on skill at employing violence. In a black market, normal security and dispute-resolution procedures are unavailable. So ‘justice’ is procured more directly. This offers an advantage to people proficient in the use of physical force. The drug trade is violent not because of drugs, but because of the war on drugs. If drugs are outlawed, only outlaws will sell drugs. And outlaws tend to be not only skilled but also uninhibited in the use of force.

Another undesirable side effect of the war against some substances is the opportunity it provides for government to usurp power that was never delegated to it.

During the era of Prohibition, those who sought to eradicate alcohol from American society had the scruples to admit that they had no Constitutional authority to do so. They had to amend the Constitution by getting the 18th Amendment ratified in order to claim legitimate power to outlaw alcohol.

When Prohibition proved to be a costly, and criminally deadly, failure, it took the 21st Amendment to repeal the 18th.

In the current war on drugs, the federal government has simply grabbed the power it wanted despite having no Constitutional authority to do so. This has also been done with regards to claiming power to regulate or ban firearms in defiance of the Second Amendment.

Here’s where Second Amendment supporters need to think hard before cheering about the hippies’ sadness over the war on drugs. If government is allowed to arrogantly assume power that is not expressly delegated to it, why do we even need a written Constitution?

The same limits that prevent the federal government from abridging freedoms in the name of fighting drugs serve to bind the hands of gun-grabbing politicians who hate private gun ownership. The sooner gun owners and opponents of the drug war — only some of whom actually use drugs — recognize their common enemy, the better off they’ll both be.

Just as many people fear that decriminalization of drugs would be the same as a stamp of official approval, other fear that deregulation of firearms would likewise encourage abuse. Gun owners know this is not so.

When government finally admits its failure and defeat in its attempts to prohibit certain drugs or guns is when individuals will naturally have to assume responsibility for their own behavior.

This is precisely what happened when prohibition against alcohol was ended.

The idea that government can shield us from all risks is nothing more than a pipe dream. Just as there are risks that come from imbibing alcohol, there will always be risks associated with drugs or with guns.

The key is to hold individuals responsible for their own behavior, and stop trying to punish everyone, without due process, for things that someone might eventually do.

The risks associated with freedom are preferable to those associated with despotism.

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Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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26 Comments

  • Brian May 22, 2014 at 10:35 am

    The biggest problems I see with legalizing drugs are (1) Society pays a very high price in terms of crime, loss of family life, costs of rehab, costs of welfare, etc (2) It’s being done mostly for increased revenue and not because it’s believed to be the right thing. Along with the liberty to do drugs has to come the responsibility to be held 100% accountable for all consequences of doing drugs, including punishment for crimes committed, self-support, and no additional benefits or financial support. Therein lies the rub: most drug addicts don’t have a pot to pee in and ultimately end up as a big cost to society as their life spins out of control. Everyone knows someone who was a great person, with a great family and a great life, until it was destroyed by addiction. Addiction comes with a very high price, including to society. Safety nets also come with a price, and the only currency that buys them is liberty. I honestly don’t know where the balance is in that transaction.

    • Ash May 22, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      Society is already paying that very high price whether or not the drugs are legal.

    • MrSmith May 22, 2014 at 4:06 pm

      I liked your comment. It encompasses exactly what advocates of legalization fail to see but in the same regard doesn’t completely acknowledge that the answer is prohibition. The second largest expense to tax payers in Utah is social services $747,400,000 or 15%. Second only to education. (http://www.utah.gov/taxpayer-receipt/) If the discussion is ever to be productive, advocates need to start thinking on terms of how to support this and the other addictions without the extra burden on society. I don’t care what you do behind the walls of your own home, just to make me pay for it.

    • Roy J May 22, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      I think that the key to drug reform, or any reform involving the choice between two or more evils only, is in knowing which of the indisputably bad choices is less damaging to the society in question. It would be a gross misunderstanding of law if someone assumed as a premise that government cannot be coercive without also being evil.

  • Colorado May 22, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Crime has gone down in Colorado since Marijuana was legalized. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/13/marijuana-crime-denver_n_5319298.html Maybe you’re referring to prescription drug abuse problems in this state?

    • Brian May 22, 2014 at 11:58 pm

      Yeah, because 4 months is such a large data set to draw from. Let’s check back in a few years, shall we? In the meantime, look at the effect its having on kids: http://www.azcentral.com/opinions/articles/20140106colorado-medical-marijuana-impact-children-polk.html

      Just the other day I went to a training that showed brain scans of the same person before using marijuana and after prolonged use. It was very similar to heroin users (and for the record, very similar to heavy porn users). People that view marijuana through a 1960 lens are idiots. It isn’t the same drug at all (TCH levels are 5 times higher). Colorado is nuts.

      • Chris May 23, 2014 at 10:09 am

        The legal drugs–alcohol and tobacco–inflict many more times the damage of all illegal drugs put together. Do you advocate a prohibition on them as well?

  • Mark May 22, 2014 at 11:21 am

    The balance needs to trend continually towards liberty. That includes the liberty to fall flat on your face stoned out of your mind. As long as your actions do not interfere with the liberty of others, then the government has no place in the discussion. That comes with the caveat that you let those that choose to partake in these harmful behaviours fail. If everyone pays the consequences for their actions, they will either seek help, which is gladly given, or die. But it is their choice.

    • Obamas gonna steal the guns!!! May 22, 2014 at 6:50 pm

      lol’d @ “partake”

      • JOSH DALTON May 23, 2014 at 9:24 am

        Obama is only in office for a short while longer. I’m pretty sure our next President is going to be Asian,Gay,Hippie,gun owner that you will still vote for. either that or it will be Hilary Clinton Who is still going to “come steal” your precious guns. So choose, you are not ever going to get your perfect white republican president ever again. The truth is a gun in Utah for protection against who?!!!!!!!!! Your inbreed hills have eyes neighbors! Or Lions, tigers and bears. If all of you gun folks are so friggin hardcore what are you so afriad of?

  • JAR May 22, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Brian, you make a compelling argument for freedom with your two examples .
    But you know Big government hates people who stands up (or reminds) the people about their god given rights. So, use your freedom to say what you think now, before that freedom is deemed out of bounds tomorrow. Socialism is knocking on the door. Maybe your name is on a ASA list of suspects already (har har).

    • Brian May 23, 2014 at 12:01 am

      JAR, $50 says I’m on at least a dozens lists… We’d better stand up for liberty today, because we’re running out of chances. Given the course we’re on, judgements of literally Biblical proportions are coming. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a giant marshmallow man razing our cities… We’d certainly deserve it (especially the cities).

      • Chris May 23, 2014 at 10:07 am

        ” I’m on at least a dozens lists.” LOL, don’t flatter yourself.

        • Brian May 23, 2014 at 12:46 pm

          Let’s see, clinging to God. Check. Clinging to guns. Check. Has food storage. Check. Believes in the Bible. Check. Tea Party (the principles, not the “party”). Check. Believes the federal government is much too large and over-reaching. Check. Believes in self-reliance. Check. Pro-life. Check. Believe in securing our borders. Check. Believe in enforcing the law. Check. There are nine “lists” (criteria for lists) the federal government compiled under janet napolitano (unworthy of capitalization), without breaking a sweat. I’m sure there are plenty more but I stopped at 9 since I’m sure it’s hard to count on your hands and toes when your head is so deep in the sand…

  • mark boggs May 22, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    “(1) Society pays a very high price in terms of crime”

    Because, fortunately, there currently is no crime associated with drugs?

    And you seem to be missing the point, which is, people continue to become addicted to drugs, regardless of their legality or illegality. This is running dangerously parallel to the idea that, if we can pass enough laws against guns, we can keep bad things from being done with them. Nonsense.

    And let’s not forget that for all the great men undone by their vices and addictions are potential great men undone by stupid, draconian drug laws that carry far too great a weight for the harm purportedly committed.

    My only hope is that Mr. Hyde takes his logic that final step to realize that these two issues are very similar to the gay marriage issue. Passing a bunch of laws to keep gay couples from setting up civil contracts with each other is as asinine as burdensome gun and drug laws. Except that, for those who agree about guns and drugs but oppose civil marriage for gays, it is because, in this instance, they see a harm. Unfortunately, they can’t see that their view of the harm from gay marriage is tantamount to the harm seen by those who support gun laws and drug laws – just another attempt to prohibit a perceived harm through do-gooder legislation.

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde May 23, 2014 at 6:49 am

      What you’re advocating, Mark, is an increase in government power over us, not a decrease. Getting government out of marriage entirely is a better solution than using it to force a new definition of marriage upon society.

      • mark boggs May 23, 2014 at 10:20 am

        Exactly, but your past sentiments have been on the side of allowing laws to be made prohibiting gays from being able to enjoy the same liberties and freedoms as straight couples.

      • Roy J May 23, 2014 at 10:40 am

        Better is a relative term. What makes laws good, or the lesser of evils, has far more to do with the actual culture of the people who create them and those who will live by them, than they have to do with a person’s personal political theory of natural right. A government might even be required to coerce the population into accepting a specific code of law regarding marriage and family, if bigamists, exploiters of children and deadbeat parents created a dangerous and widespread enough problem to threaten the wellbeing of the country as a whole. Obviously, this last is a rare and unlikely example, but it has happened before in our country, and not so far, or so long ago.

  • Burton May 22, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Great article Bryan, it definitely makes you think about the importance of the constitution and why it is so important for our “leaders” if you will to appoint competent Supreme court justices. The major problem is the same “leaders” or politicians that are trying to legalize marijuana usage are typically the same ones trying to ban guns. Even though I am a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment in its entirety, I also understand there are limits. Let me explain (I collect guns like people have knife or stamp or china sets or whatever) I don’t think that when the constitution was written by the greatest minds this blessed country has ever seen that the men who wrote it could have ever imagined or even thought up the weapons of the future. I am all for protection of the 2nd amendment, but that doesn’t mean I think American citizens (who have lots of money) should be able to have tanks or hand grenades. So where is the line? And who gets to decide that line? The federal government or the state? When it was written they had muzzleloader technology, now we can pick off an elk from 1500 yards and not think twice. They don’t even know where the shot come from. And the exact same thing go’s with drugs. Yeah sure there is nothing constitutionally saying that its not the federal governments job to regulate this issue, or alcohol, or tobacco. But does anyone really think that our forefathers could have ever imagined meth or heroin? And the consequences that come with that. I know marijuana is not meth or heroin, but if the constitution doesn’t let us regulate that then how can they outlaw the harder stuff? Give me your thoughts guys. I am torn on this.

    • Chris May 23, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      I don’t understand how you can be torn on the legalization of drugs. Drug laws are the best example of the “nanny state”, period. Why is it the government’s role to dictate what substances we consume, whether it be marijuana, fatty foods or refined sugars?

  • carl May 22, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Well said Brian, The truest liberty and freedom evolve from self governance, and the constitution was written with precisely moral , law abiding citizens in mind. When government resorts to tyranny or disregard for the laws spelled out by our founders, they put at risk the very god given rights we should enjoy in a free nation.

    • Roy J May 22, 2014 at 6:32 pm

      I agree with you, Carl, that the moral intent behind the Constitution and the founders is pretty indisputable. But I think that what we are now seeing might be not so much blatant tyranny as the fact that a form of government which focusses intently on the material welfare of its citizens, while saying nothing much at all about their spiritual welfare, is a sword that can cut both ways. If in fact it is the case that there is only one divine authority, then it is also possible that the balancing act of mere toleration can be kept up for only so long, before it tips toward atheism, truth, or some false spirit now in the ascendent. If men are both body and spirit, then it is not too much to say, I think, that political philosophy which ignores his spiritual welfare may be a serious, and reckless error.

  • rickie May 22, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Brian;
    At what age of the individual should the government have or to not have laws that allow or prohibit? Is it ok in your way of thinking that at a certain age people can marry, own a gun or have a bong? If there should not be any restrictions on guns, bongs, or marriage can any age have them or any sane or insane person be restricted? Is there a magical age?

    • Brian May 23, 2014 at 9:23 am

      My view personally? I think drugs (including alcohol) should be illegal at any age. I think the current ages in place for other things (driving, consent) seem pretty reasonable given our understanding of brain development. People will have a come-apart about the alcohol, but if iPhone’s kept blowing up and killing 11,000 people a year, including entire families of innocent bystanders, I think we’d all agree they should be banned. Yet that is exactly what drunk driving does, every year, year after year, in addition to all of the abuse and neglect. Same with drugs. Want libertarian-style liberty? Get drunk and stoned in your own home all you want. But take it out in public and endanger others and I think there should be a punishment.

      • Chris May 23, 2014 at 7:13 pm

        He is not interested in your view. He was addressing his comment to Bryan Hyde and simply misspelled his first name. No one cares what you think.

  • Shane May 23, 2014 at 9:19 am

    There is no need to “be torn” on the issue of drug legalization. Let me challenge a few issues.

    1. Hypothesis–It will cost too much to legalize drugs. This is an ignorant and fear based argument. Our nations spends billions in police costs to chase down all these recreational drug users. All that cost could be saved if we decriminalized drugs. But far, far greater than the cost of the police and the courts is the cost of imprisoning these people. We take hundreds of thousands of people and incarcerate them and take from their right to live their lives, make their own choices whether stupid or smart, raise their families, earn their own way in the world, etc. By stripping away their rights to control their lives, we obligate ourselves to pay for their food, housing, and medical care for many years if not for the rest of their lives. And somehow the latter is supposed to be cheaper than the former??? Insanity is what that is. The plain simple fact is that our nation would be far, far better off if we took every dime that now goes into enforcement and put it towards the social safety net. I wouldn’t recommend that as the social safety net removes a significant part of the natural order of things and creates it’s own set of problems. But if we had to choose between spending the money in enforcing drug prohibition vs spending the money in the social safety net, the safety net is a clear winner. Just take a look at what happened in Portugal when they decriminalized drugs and you will have all the proof you need. Furthermore, look at the improvements that came in this country as a result of ending prohibition of alcohol.

    2. Hypothesis–moral Americans have a moral responsibility to make and enforce laws for the moral good regardless of the cost and regardless of the human casualties because we owe to God and to the kids we can protect from the dangers of drugs. Again, this is freaking insane. We don’t owe this nonsense to God anymore than Muslims owe jihad or honor killings to God. Insane religious arguments come from all sources including Christian and Muslim and need to be recognized as such. The God who made us made us free. If we humans would be benefited by compulsory enforcement of “divine law,” then why did not God, with his infinite power create all of us with some kind of divine “shock collar” by which He could easily force all of us to obey all the divine laws, not just the drug laws??? And if God didn’t do that, then where does man get the right to impose upon his fellows in this manner? Conclusion–there is not moral or God-given duty to FORCE your fellow creatures to make good moral choices. For one, everyone disagrees on the definition of good moral choices and this disagreement is often a matter of cultural or religious influences rather than some inspired insight. You don’t want to live under Sharia law and others don’t want to live under your version of moral law. The best solution is to let people make their own damn moral choices and let them be accountable here and now for the way those choices turn out and when they go to the other side, they can face God for whatever judgement He chooses to hold. But man has no inherent right to be the moral critic of his neighbor.

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