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Drug-War Dust-Up in NY Governor’s Race


A drug-war dust-up in the New York gubernatorial race demonstrates the moral bankruptcy of the progressive (or liberal or leftist, take your pick) mindset.

Democrat candidate Cynthia Nixon, who is opposing incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo, has stirred things up by calling for the legalization of marijuana, a position that so far has left Cuomo stymied.

To Nixon’s credit, she has pointed out one of the most horrific aspects of the war on drugs — its racist consequences. The fact is that the impact of the drug war has always fallen disproportionately on African-Americans. As the noted scholar Michelle Alexander points out, the drug war is just another variation of Jim Crow. It has proven to be a perfect device for destroying the lives of many African-Americans, converting them, including women, into felons, separating them from their children and spouses through years of incarceration, and, in the process, also taking away their right to vote.

As I have long pointed out, that doesn’t mean, of course, that every drug-war cop is a bigot. But it is undeniable that some cops are bigots, and the drug war provides the bigoted ones with the perfect opportunity to exercise their bigotry legally. Whether it’s stop and frisk, frame-ups (like those which occurred in Tulia, Texas, some years ago), asset seizures, selective arrests and prosecutions, or just plain humiliation and abuse, the drug war has proven to be a dream-come-true for any bigot who is able to wrangle his way into a police or sheriff’s department or the DEA. And just think how good the bigoted cop must feel when he gets praised and glorified for just “doing his job.”

So, Nixon is right to highlight this dark and sordid aspect of the war on the drugs.

But then she goes off the rails.

A few days ago, she proposed that, as a form of reparations for blacks whose lives have been ruined or damaged by the drug war, a large number of state licenses to grow marijuana be given to blacks.


Licenses? To grow marijuana? Why in the world should anyone need a license to grow anything or, for that matter, to pursue any livelihood or occupation? A license is an official permission from the government. Licensure is just a racket, one designed to bring money into the state in return for protecting licensees from the unfettered competition from others.

Once marijuana is legalized, why not simply leave its production to a free market? And by “free,” I mean free from government interference? Why not leave it to America’s supposed “free enterprise” system?

Because progressives/leftists/liberals have no faith in freedom and the free market. Their mindsets inevitably lead them to think government control over any and all aspects of economic activity is necessary for “order, stability, and safety.”

That is the statist mindset in action.

Moreover, consider carefully what Nixon is proposing: To give African-Americans a state-sponsored official permission to be drug dealers within their neighborhoods and communities. Whoop dee doo! Need we remind Nixon why liberals and conservatives have waged the war on drugs for decades in the first place? It’s because illicit drugs are generally considered to be harmful or, at the very least, unhealthy. And so what does she want to do? Give African-Americans a license to make money by becoming state-licensed drug dealers.


Notice something else. Nixon isn’t calling for legalization of all drugs, just marijuana. Why? Isn’t law enforcement of the other drugs just as racist as the enforcement of marijuana laws? If racist enforcement of the drug war is what Nixon is concerned about, then why not legalize all drugs, including cocaine and heroin?

A person has the right to ingest whatever he wants. It’s none of the state’s business what a person decides to ingest. It might be the most harmful, dangerous, destructive, and unhealthy thing in the world. It’s still none of the state’s business. That’s why there should be no drug laws at, even if they weren’t racist and destructive.

Statists just don’t get it. They have no principled understanding of what genuine freedom is all about — the right to engage in any peaceful activity without government permission or interference.

None of this, of course, should be construed to serve as a defense of Cuomo. At least Nixon is taking a stand against the drug war, albeit a limited one. Cuomo is paralyzed, caught between his long-time support of this failed, racist, and destructive government program and the fear that Nixon is riding a wave of anti-drug-war sentiment. Cuomo’s paralysis constitutes a perfect example of political prudence or, if you will, political cowardice.

None of this also should be construed to serve as a defense of conservatives. When it comes to the drug war, they are a lost cause. To them, it doesn’t matter how much of a failure the drug war has been, or how destructive it is, or how racist it is. What matters to the conservative is that the state continues serving as a country’s nanny by continuing to punish people for daring to put something into their mouths without state approval.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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