Opposition Leader Michael Dunkley’s suggested policy for combating drugs likens the ‘war on drugs’ that has taken place in America. Though, isn’t that the exact same tack that Premier Scott took only a couple years ago? Has the ‘War on Drugs’ movement in the United States been a success or a failure? Does prohibition work and was “Operation Clean Sweep” of our past really a success? Does cracking down on drugs really prevent crime or does it fuel it? Is the UBP’s proposed drug policy doomed for failure?
In his recent submission to the Bermuda Sun, Opposition Leader Michael Dunkley declares that we must ‘fight the problem’ of drugs.
The United Bermuda Party has an aggressive plan to fight the drug problem. We will give Police the equipment, manpower and training to detect and stop the inflow of drugs to the island. We will increase penalties for traffickers.
Citing increased awareness and drug programs as solutions, Mr. Dunkley toes the line of traditional anti-drug policy which has not achieved success elsewhere. Indeed, his avocation of the creation of a “drug ‘czar'” is not new and clearly takes a page out of former Premier Scott’s strategy when he founded the now defunct Ministry for National Drug Control.
In order to understand why a ‘war on drugs’ won’t work, one could turn to the comprehensive 146 page report produced in 2005 by the Seattle-based King Country Bar Association. It cites a wide range of reasons why the ‘war on drugs’ has failed and offers solutions as to how to truly combat the problem. The report even cites the US’s own drug czar, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy John Walters, admitting the anti-drug campaigns failure to dent the flow of Latin American cocaine onto American streets by cracking down on supply.
“we have not yet seen in all these efforts what we’re hoping for on the supply side, which is a reduction in availability.”
The King Bar Association’s report asserts that the US’s “War on Drugs” is fundamentally flawed and is associated with numerous negative societal consequences, including:
• the failure to reduce problematic drug use, particularly among children;
• dramatic increases in crime related to prohibited drugs, including economic crimes related to addiction and the fostering of efficient and violent criminal enterprises that have occupied the unregulated and immensely profitable commercial market made possible by drug prohibition;
• skyrocketing public costs arising from both increased drug abuse and increased crime;
• erosion of public health from the spread of disease, from the concealment and inadequate treatment of addiction and from undue restrictions on proper medical treatment of pain;
• the abridgement of civil rights through summary forfeitures of property, invasions of privacy and violations of due process;
• disproportionately adverse effects of drug law enforcement on the poor and persons of color;
• the clogging of the courts and compromises in the effective administration of justice, as well as a loss of respect for the law.
Cracking down on drugs can be likened to the prohibition of alcohol in the United States between 1920 and 1933. Prohibition created incentives for bootleggers to smuggle more potent alcohols which lead to a change from the US being a beer and wine society into a bourbon and gin society. It also served as the foundation under which organized crime flourished and fueled the gang mentality spurning the gangster subculture. Compare this to the success of Bermuda’s “Operation Clean Sweep” of a few years back. Indeed it may have cleared the streets of drugs and yet, if decent statistics were readily available, it would not be surprising if stats showed a marked increase in harder drug use since that time.
Cracking down on trafficking spurs traffickers to take greater risks and seek to import more potent drugs. It becomes less profitable to bring in less potent drugs and more profitable to focus on hard drugs, especially considering the high risks involved. What ends up happening, as has happened in Bermuda and continues to today, is that hard drugs become more readily accessible than less potent ones and leads to even worse addictions and crime. Even worse, in the face of higher risks, traffickers start arming themselves with guns to ‘protect themselves’ as their profits go through the roof. Gangs form and turf wars surmount as wayward individuals fight over the rights to the vast source of income created by prohibition. Cracking down only serves to fuel drug related crime, not prevent or stop it.
While Mr. Dunkley along with our present and past leaderships can be commended for their passionate arguments for cracking down on the trafficking of drugs, is it really the right long term solution? Will it reduce criminal activity as Mr. Dunkley hopes? The American ‘War on Drugs’ has gone on for decades without a great deal of success. Prohibition and crackdowns have been shown in the past to not be effective long term solutions and cracking down on drugs fuels more crime than it prevents. So, if elected, would the UBP’s proposed drug policy be doomed for failure?