Last night on KCTV 5 news, an investigative report from Stacey Cameron covered the cost to clean up meth labs after drug busts. In the state of Kansas, as with others, the agency that finds a meth lab is responsible for clean-up. Anderson County Sherriff, J.T. Hubb, said that his department is without the financial resources to be able to handle these labs.
According to the report, budget cuts at all levels of government for the drug war are resulting in fewer meth labs being policed. Apparently, one department in Tennessee has ceased investigating meth labs altogether. It seems that state and local departments have grown accustomed to living high on the hog from federal grant money. That’s been drying up, so now the authorities are reduced to pleading their case to the public for more money via quasi-investigative reporting.
During an interview with a representative from the KBI, Cameron asked “is there an option not to clean these up?” “No, absolutely not,” came the reply from Frank Papish, and that was the end of it. No explanation was given as to why, but the implication was that without continued police action, meth production and use would increase.
It is true that if nothing else changes, meth use will likely increase. However, there is another option that will both save money and reduce meth consumption: decriminalize drugs. All of them.
The laws of economics are such that prohibition undoubtedly leads to higher potency and therefore increased risks. Ludwig von Mises’ axiom that government intervention begets further intervention holds true here, just as everywhere else. Mark Thornton has researched the subject thoroughly, and has found some interesting information about meth.
In What Explains Crystal Meth? Thornton shows that the increased prohibition of cocaine drove users to meth. “Cocaine and meth are both stimulants, so it is reasonable to assume that they appeal to the same subset of drug users. During cocaine’s heyday, meth was nearly extinct on the illegal market.”
By no means is cocaine without risks, but consider what happened after the federal government escalated its war on drugs:
prices for illegal drugs [rose due to] greater risks and thus higher costs on production, distribution, and consumption. The initial shock of the war on drugs sent black-market entrepreneurs back to the drawing board; they needed to reduce their risk and their costs. What they came back with included highly potent marijuana, crack cocaine, and crystal meth.
Alcohol prohibition had the same effect. Bootleggers, looking to maintain profits and hedge their risks, began producing more potent alcohol in order to provide the same effect with less volume. Of course this was not the worst part of the war on alcohol. Rampant corruption, the explosion of organized crime, and untold thousands of innocent lives lost in the crossfire followed.
Today’s drug war has all of that and more. Jeffrey Tucker has documented the government’s war on over-the-counter cold medicine, and its erosion of our liberties, not to mention our physical well-being. Because of their use in making meth, cold and allergy relief medications are strictly controlled. Each individual is rationed an amount hardly enough to meet the recommended dose, and its all tracked electronically. Heaven help you if you lose a box or have a big family. As he notes that many do not know the legal limit, and if they exceed it, could land in a cage.
Rather than continue what is arguably the most futile war in history, police should cease their prosecution of non-crimes. They should let the market remove the most dangerous and destructive drugs naturally, as it certainly would. The alternative will be ever more dangerous drugs, and further encroachments on our civil liberties.