Drug Prohibition is Unjust
Here are some thoughts from David Sprawls, Elder at DBCC:
A society that disapproves of an activity enacts laws against it. During the last century, disapproval of drug use has been expressed by outlawing drug production, distribution and possession: “drug prohibition”. (Interestingly, drug consumption is not illegal.)
Drug prohibition is an abject failure. Virtually any drug can be acquired by virtually anyone virtually anywhere. Drug abuse can never be addressed effectively by attempting to restrict the supply of drugs. Drugs are too abundant to ever choke off the supply. Drug abuse will only be reduced by addressing demand and this will require spiritual growth and renewal.
The expenditure of untold resources and the incarceration of a percentage of our population which would embarrass a police state may fool people into thinking we are doing something about the problem, but the net effect has been nothing more than (and will never be anything more than) an expression of our collective disapproval of drug use.
But drug prohibition is not merely an abject failure. It is a disastrously counterproductive failure. Just as during Prohibition from 1920 to 1933, drug prohibition creates a highly profitable, highly destructive and often violent criminal enterprise. Prohibition, rather than regulation, of drugs constitutes an election to create a criminal enterprise. Gangs and organized crime derive most of their revenue from drugs. Fewer people are more intensely committed to continued drug prohibition than the criminals who profit from it.
But drug prohibition is not merely an abject and disastrously counterproductive failure. It is an abject, disastrously counterproductive and grossly unjust failure. It is grossly unjust to incarcerate millions (estimated at more than one and a half million presently) nonviolent drug offenders. It is grossly unjust to imprison a percentage of African Americans warranting description of prohibition as continued racial oppression. It is grossly unjust to treat drug users for illness while prosecuting suppliers, mostly poor with few opportunities, responding to the law of supply and demand. It is grossly unjust to destabilize neighboring countries with our contradictory drug addictions and drug prohibition.
As a Christian, I object to these injustices. As a Christian and as a citizen, I object to the monumental waste of resources and failure to allocate resources to address drug abuse in effective ways. As a Christian and as a citizen, I object to policies and laws that needlessly create a criminal enterprise. I believe faith communities should demand an end to drug prohibition as unjust.
The dilemmas for Christians center on (a) the undeniable moral authority behind prohibition and (b) the concomitant perception that repealing prohibition appears to be condoning drug use. Repealing prohibition is counterintuitive.
The principal objections to ending drug prohibition are that it appears to condone drug use and that it will lead to greater drug abuse. The only answer to the former is that no one else can control our intentions. The answer to the latter is that prohibition is such an utter failure it is doubtful regulation as an alternative would make drugs more readily available. Further, reallocation of resources to education, prevention and treatment would likely reduce drug abuse.
The truth is that anyone who takes reduction of drug abuse seriously actually must oppose drug prohibition. Decriminalization should make it easier to identify abusers and easier for abusers to seek help. Resources can be allocated to effective approaches of treating and, better, preventing drug abuse.
Adherence to prohibition gives the appearance of seriousness about drug use. In fact, adherence to an approach that is a proven failure is a failure to take the problem seriously. Any serious approach to the reduction of drug use actually has to start with an end to prohibition. The choice is between appearing to be serious about drug use and actually being serious about pursuing approaches which will work.
Only our faith communities can invoke the moral authority necessary to reverse the disastrous policy of drug prohibition. Our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, as a matter of justice, should call on the conscience of the nation to end this injustice. They must invoke moral authority in the name of justice.
People of faith are not libertarians. Libertarians want people to be free to use drugs. Christians want people to be free from the demons which drive them to use drugs; to be freenot to use drugs.
The following is a draft of a resolution proposed for adoption by faith communities and organizations. Proponents of such a resolution are needed.
As a community of faith, we demand an end to drug prohibition and commutation of sentences of all nonviolent drug offenders. Prohibition has lead to intolerable injustices:
incarceration of millions of nonviolent drug offenders,
destabilization of neighboring countries,
exploitation of the poor,
creation of a destructive and often violent criminal enterprise and flagrant waste of resources which must be reallocated to effective means of reducing drug abuse.
We do not call for an end to drug prohibition in order for people to use drugs. We call for spiritual renewal and for more constructive living than drug abuse.
David S. Sprawls, Elder, DBCC