NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Unintended consequences. Every law has them, but some overreach so far that the medicine is worse than the disease.
Few laws encompassing the depth and scale of the prohibition of
use have had unintended consequences for so long, but eradicating its hopelessly failed criminalization appears more difficult than stopping sunrise every morning.
I will explain why in a moment, but let's examine a recent event just south of me in Chicago.
Tavares Taylor, better known as Def Jam's rapper Lil Reese, bought a front-row ticket to the horror show titled "Why Cannabis Isn't Legal" over the weekend when he was arrested and charged with marijuana possession.
The show is produced by the following colluding participants, or as I refer to them, machine operators:
Police, product manufacturers, labs for testing (pre- and post-conviction), defense lawyers and staff, prosecution lawyers and staff, judges and staff, jail staff, contractors providing food and other products for inmates, probation officers, counselors for court-ordered drug rehab and on and on
It's a man-eating machine with dull blades that will rip and tear a totally helpless Lil Reese's wallet and bank accounts to shreds while molesting his emotions for months or longer. Once inside the machine, victims are rarely allowed to exit until its operators have extracted their pound (or more) of flesh.
One may argue that some of the participants are merely implicitly colluding, but not all. For example, five years ago, California's prison guard association
in opposition to a state proposition to substitute increased treatment for prison terms for cannabis offenders.
Other conspiring organizations are the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and state narcotics law-enforcement associations, not to mention the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The amount of pressure applied ebbs and flows but doesn't stop. And why should it, for there are massive amounts of money in the criminalization business. Whoever said "Crime doesn't pay" obviously didn't think about it from prosecution's point of view.
And we can't forget federal law itself.
budget for the federal court system is about $7 billion a year
. If drug and related crimes comprise 30% of cases, that's a 1,600-job and $2.1 billion-a-year incentive to keep the status quo from the federal judicial branch alone.
In fiscal 2012, the DEA added another 10,000 jobs and $3 billion worth of incentives to prevent decriminalization. That's over $5 billion a year, and we haven't added the other above-listed participants.
It also doesn't include the state and local levels of law enforcement. Once you include government money spent outside the U.S. in trying to disrupt supply, the estimates skyrocket to $20 billion and more.
place the total "war on drugs" cost at over $1 trillion. It's a lie though, it's not a "war on drugs," it's a war on citizens and freedom. It wasn't drugs that were arrested over the weekend; it was Lil Reese, a young man who apparently wasn't causing a problem for anyone else.
And that's not the only lie we hear.
The federal government is
authorized (some claim required) by law to lie to you
and spend taxpayer money promoting propaganda.
If you think the government's spying on you is scary, what's your thought on the government's spending taxpayer money to promote false information to keep drugs illegal? The responsibilities of the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's include ensuring:
(12)...that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812) and tak ing such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that--(A) is listed in schedule I of section 202 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812); and(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration....
It's part of the Reauthorization Act of 1998, or what I like to call the "Drug Prosecutors Full-Employment Act."
What do we receive for the billions spent, lives ruined as a result of criminal convictions and violence on the street because market share is determined through violence instead of commercial methods?
Well, some drugs that would otherwise be available are taken off the market. Even the strongest opponent can't deny it.
Logically, the next question is what percentage of drugs are kept off the streets? The answer may surprise you, but, using the most optimistic estimates, after all the time, money and resources are expended, less than 5% of drugs are confiscated.
Unfortunately for Lil Reese, his stash adds to the amount seized.
But are the streets safer and are drugs removed from the hands of kids? No one can deny that the answer to that is a resounding "No."
This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Robert Weinstein is an active trader focusing on the psychological importance of risk mitigation, emotion and financial behavior of market participants. Robert co-founded the investing blog
, where he writes a journal about his trading activity and experiences.
In addition to
, Robert also contributes to
Real Money Pro
, providing real-time trading ideas for stocks, options and futures.