Despite billions of dollars spent and millions of lives destroyed, the decades-long war on drugs has failed to have any discernible impact on drug use in the United States. While locking up drug users may benefit the prison industry — nearly a million Americans have been arrested for drug offenses this year alone — it’s increasingly obvious the prohibition approach is no more likely to work with marijuana and cocaine than it did with alcohol.
Yet modern day prohibitionists persist on, like Republican Congressman Mark Kirk of Indiana, who is bravely crusading against the menace of good pot. In a press release, Kirk reports that “Kush users” — that is, those who smoke pot containing 15% or more of THC — “are ‘zombie-like'”, according to local law enforcement, “because of the extreme THC levels.” This is of course a reason to jail them.
Though Kirk concedes “longer sentences aren’t the total solution to our nation’s drug problem” — how progressive of him — he concludes they’ll do for now, arguing in typical myopic drug warrior fashion, “If you can make as much money selling pot as cocaine, you should face the same penalties.”
The sin of selling good pot could get one 25 years in prison for a first-time offense if Kirk’s legislation is enacted, which fortunately it most certainly will not be. The righteously wrongheaded puritanical zeal behind the bill is noteworthy, however, as the great journalist H.L. Mencken nailed more than 80 years ago in his book, Notes on Democracy, the especially cruel, crusading personality that motivates the sort of b-list Republican congressmen like Kirk to fight on in the face of obvious failure:
But do the Prohibitionists admit the fact [of their failure] frankly, and repudiate their original nonsense? They do not. On the contrary, they keep on demanding more and worse enforcement statutes — that is to say, more and worse devices for harassing and persecuting their opponents. The more obvious the failure becomes, the more shamelessly they exhibit their genuine motives. In plain words, what moves them is the psychological aberration called sadism. They lust to inflict inconvenience, discomfort, and, whenever possible, disgrace upon the persons they hate — which is to say, upon everyone who is free from their barbarous theological superstitions, and is having a better time in the world than they are. They cannot stop the use of alcohol, nor even appreciably diminish it, but they can badger and annoy everyone who seeks to use it decently, and they can fill the jails with men taken for purely artificial offences, and they can get satisfaction thereby for the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy. And all this they do with a safe line of policemen and judges in front of them; always they can do it without personal risk.
One thing that always amuses me is that the National Press Club has a room named after this Mencken guy. I’m pretty sure he’d write something particularly scathing about that fact were he alive today.