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.
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