no third solution

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The War on Drugs Enables Terrorism

November 5th, 2008

My friend Zach left a great comment on Michigan Proposal 1:

What is morally wrong about marijuana? I can list a couple of far stretched morality issues , i.e. Some terrorists organizations receive money through the drug trade, etc.

I thought he was lost, but he redeemed himself with the following:

But other than these, which can be easily avoided by making it legal and/or legal to grow your own just like you do potatoes, corn, wheat, etc…

I remember when he was finishing up his undergrad degree and I proofed a term paper he wrote, absolutely slamming Sarbanes-Oxley and other similar legislation. I’m impressed that people I know are starting to grasp the idea that government interference, prohibition, regulations, etc., are the primary cause of most of what people perceive to be problems in society.

At the same time, and I mean this is the most constructive manner possible, he didn’t quite reach the “A+” conclusion. Although he’s 100% correct that ending prohibition would eliminate the lucrative profits to be had in the drug trade, thereby also eliminating gang warfare, eliminating an (allegedly) important funding source for terrorists, etc., he failed to make a very important distinction.

Allow me to present an analogy: the Mafia in Detroit used to use car washes as a front to launder money; that doesn’t make going to a car wash immoral or wrong, does it?

So with that in mind, simply because terrorists profit from the restricted supply (and quasi-monopolistic profit accruing thereto) of certain controlled substances, we cannot reasonably conclude that the cultivation, trafficking, consumption and/or trading of these substances is malum in se.

And this is the ultimate distinction: the problem isn’t the drug, the problem is terrorism. Terrorism is always wrong.

And one more thing: the terrorists are winning the war on drugs.


Just so nobody says “David Z made a huge error, he neglected to say that the war on drugs is domestic terrorism,” I’ll say it: the war on drugs is domestic terrorism.

But that’s a topic for another day.



  • Mike Gogulski says on: November 6, 2008 at 2:57 am


    malum in se

    Precisely. Although I enjoyed the work, part of my frustration at being a drug policy reform activist in the US ten years ago was that this message, if it was ever voiced by the organizations that supported decriminalization/legalization at all, was severely diluted. A baseless utilitarianism rules in “reform” land, and none of the sociological argumentation frequently used to support reform efforts touches the core of the issue. And no wonder, since our opponents were and are always convinced that it is the drugs that are malum in se.

    It’s a pity that principles are so unpopular.

  • Zach S says on: November 6, 2008 at 9:50 pm


    I almost forgot about that paper. I might have to find it and read it again since I am a bit more experienced in the actual world rather than the academic world.

    I agree that these acts are not ‘malum in se.’ Although I was not directly saying it, I tried to make that point when I compared growing marijuana to hops or wheat, etc. These items are used in “moarally objectional” pursuits (i.e. making alcohol) but no one seems to have a problem with farmers selling these items to individuals who produce and profit from these acts.

    Keep looking for my posts, I need to work on my writting skills.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics