Minnesota Atheists Should Support Ending the War on Drugs
By Matthew Richardson
Minnesota Atheists has taken official positions on a number of social and political issues, and has subsequently written policy papers on these issues. These positions and policies are based on separation of state and church, human rights, and humanitarianism. I think the time is long overdue for Minnesota Atheists to take a position on the War on Drugs, namely, that Minnesota Atheists advocates an end to the Drug War and that drug use be legalized for adults.
In this essay I will present the case for my position. I invite others, for and against this position, to also submit their views, to be published in the Minnesota Atheists newsletter. I then propose that at the April 2011 Minnesota Atheists meeting, a discussion be held and that a vote be taken on whether or not Minnesota Atheists will support this proposal.
Overview Racism and religion are the basis of the Drug War. It is not about protecting the lives and health of the people. Ending the Drug War is the humanitarian thing to do, in view of the hundreds of thousands of deaths that have resulted since Nixon announced his “War on Drugs” in 1970. And we, the United States’ citizens, are responsible for as many deaths in Latin and Central America.
Equal to the outright killings from turf wars are the lives that have been ruined by criminalizing millions of Americans – mostly those of color – who have spent years in prisons, mostly for possession of marijuana, while federal and state governments diverted tax dollars away from drug rehabilitation clinics and education.
Another aspect of this war on drugs is the splitting up of families. Not only husbands from wives but, when both parents are imprisoned, children being placed in foster care. The cruelty has not been fathomed by most middle-class Americans because this takes place mostly among black families.
“Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.” – Abraham Lincoln
By taking a stand against the drug war, we are also taking a stand against racial profiling. “Although African Americans comprise only 12.2 percent of the population and 13 percent of drug users, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offenses causing critics to call the war on drugs the ‘New Jim Crow’.” 
“The Bible puts using drugs in the same category as getting drunk (Gal. 5:19-21): both are forbidden by God because of what they do to the individual personally, and how they make him unfit to minister to others. . . . What God does say, in many different ways, is that the Christian is a minister of God to His people, and should be alert and prepared to serve at all times, even if that is just being alone praying for people. Being drunk or high on drugs renders one incapable of being effective for God.” 
Wasted Tax Dollars
Then there is the specter of trillions of dollars lost as a result of this war. We must be mindful of the loss of tax revenue, the cost of incarceration, enforcement, and – very significantly – money that crosses our borders to enrich drug lords in foreign countries. This includes the financing of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other such entities. Included in that are the billions of dollars that disappeared from the US Treasury and into the pockets of unknown Pakistani politicians and businessmen.
When something in great demand is prohibited, a black market, crime, violence, and death are sure to follow. Not only do we have these negative consequences in America but we Americans are responsible for more than 30,000 deaths in Mexico since 2006.  By ending the War on Drugs and making them legal, these negative affects will disappear almost overnight.
As atheists we reject being controlled by god ideas and clergy. We should also reject supporting legislature simply because it is the law or because it has been around for awhile. As atheists, we support principles of privacy, self-determination, and personal responsibility. While legalizing drugs may lead some people to make bad choices, the taxes on the sale of those drugs can be dedicated to solving those problems, just as occurs with alcohol and tobacco.
Most certainly Minnesota Atheists should be taking an official position to end the horrors and injustices of the Drug War. To stand by and say nothing is akin to the “Good Germans” saying or doing nothing while more than six million Jews were being liquidated. We, as atheists, must show the world that we care about human life, justice, and rationality. The Drug War is utterly irrational and harmful.
I have heard some people argue that Minnesota Atheists should not take an official position on this issue since it is not a strict separation of state and church issue. Yet should we not take a stand against violence, crime, and irrationality in whatever form it takes?
On January 6, 1995, the ACLU took a stand against the Drug War – this includes all drugs: “The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposes criminal prohibition of drugs. Not only is prohibition a proven failure as a drug control strategy, but it subjects otherwise law-abiding citizens to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. In trying to enforce the drug laws, the government violates the fundamental rights of privacy and personal autonomy that are guaranteed by our Constitution. The ACLU believes that unless they do harm to others, people should not be punished – even if they do harm to themselves. There are better ways to control drug use, ways that will ultimately lead to a healthier, freer, and less crime-ridden society.”  I strongly urge people to read the entire ACLU statement at the link at the footnote below.
Now it is the turn of Minnesota Atheists. Will you join me in this humanitarian effort?
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