At the Edge

Commentary on the Big Issues

Month: February 2017

Why I Oppose Jallikattu

With the four-day harvest festival of Pongal emerging in January, precisely one month ago, so did the debate about jallikattu, a 2000-year-old sport typically celebrated on the third day of Pongal, referred to as Mattu Pongal, in which individuals try to latch on to the humps and horns of bulls in an effort to tame them, with gifts of money and gold tied to the sharpened horns of the animal.

The sport of jallikattu was banned when bulls were added in 2011 to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act which restricted animals performing for entertainment under the fear of animal abuse. In 2014, the Supreme Court, presented with evidence from the Animal Welfare Board of India with regard to the “torture and cruelty” endured by bulls during jallikattu fights, upheld the ban. On January 8, 2016, the Ministry of the Environment revoked the order to add bulls to the PCA Act and, by extension, legalized jallikattu. However, the Supreme Court issued a stay on the order in response to a petition issued by the Animal Welfare Board of India and PETA India, leading to protests in January 2016 statewide, with the World Youth Organization demanding a ban on PETA.

MarinaProtests1.jpg

Thousands of pro-jallikattu protesters at the Marina Beach. Credit: Gan13166 via Wikimedia Commons. 

By Gan13166 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55146270

However, when the debate on jallikattu was reignited this Pongal, so too were the protests, with much greater intensity. It began when hundreds of jallikattu supporters organized a rally at Chennai’s Marina Beach protesting the ban on jallikattu and calling for immediate change. 220 pro-jallikattu protestors at Madurai were detained one week later. In response, many more students gathered at the Marina Beach to protest, and many volunteer groups and individuals began protesting, leading to a push for an ordinance by representatives of the Tamil Nadu state government to repeal the ban on jallikattu. Soon, in the push for the ordinance to be signed by the President of India, 2 million people gathered at the Marina Beach in what was termed “Occupy Marina.” Most organizations in Tamil Nadu shut down in solidarity with the protesters. On January 23, with protesters refusing to leave, forceful evictions occurred. In response, the protesters engaged in arson and stone-pelting, using “petroleum bombs,” and torching police stations. The Tamil Nadu State Assembly passed a uninanimous bill legalizing jallikattu in Tamil Nadu temporarily.

These protests require us to answer tough questions. Is it justified for the police to forcibly evict protesters? Is democracy on the streets, or on the ballot box? Those are questions that require abstract, philosophical answers: ones that are too vague and abstract for ordinary debate. What is up for debate, however, is whether it is justified, in such a scenario, to pursue a sport that engages in animal exploitation. In this post, I’m going to argue against jallikattu — specifically, I’m going to provide my arguments against it, and refute some common arguments in favor of it.

The Case Against Jallikattu

Animal Cruelty

The first reason I oppose jallikattu is direct: it harms the bulls. A common claim among supporters of jallikattu denies any harm to animals caused by jallikattu. Consider this article, which suggests that that jallikattu is a “fair sport” in which “both human and animal are aware of the game,” and that regulation is sufficient to end animal abuse. All of that is nonsense, and is provably false. The idea that animals are “aware of the game” is obviously false. Animals can’t “consent” to doing something like that when the people initiate it. The fear displayed by bulls also demonstrates clearly that the bull doesn’t consent.

Regulation is insufficient simply because jallikattu is fundamentally abusive. It may not be as harmful as Spanish bullfighting — which, for the record, organizations such as PETA do fight — but it’s still pretty abusive. Inspections jointly conducted by PETA and the Animal Welfare Board of India demonstrate that under regulated jallikattu, massive physical abuse takes place to incur the bulls to respond. In the arena, multiple people pounce on the bull, inducing massive psychological trauma, in which, according to PETA’s conclusions from the inspection, “the bulls become so frightened by the mob of men who participate that they slip, fall, run into barriers and traffic – and even jump off cliffs in their desperate attempts to escape – frequently leading to broken bones or death.”

Just a few days ago, three bulls fell into wells due to their fear. There’s also physical harm from the participants actually hitting the bulls, and even the weight of multiple participants together. Which means, even if abuse is “regulated,” the sport becomes fundamentally about harming the bull. Furthermore, the police themselves engage in abusing the bulls, which means they won’t enforce regulation — but they will enforce a blanket ban because it’s easy to prove that a jallikattu event happened. It’s hard to prove specific abuse.

The government should legislate to prevent animal cruelty. As I’ve already argued before, animals have rights. Since bulls are self-aware and are sentient, under a utilitarian framework, they ought to have rights. While it’s downright impossible to ban meat eating, for instance, and doing that would be demonstrably harmful to society, the only benefit from society is “entertainment.” Jallikattu is a directly harmful sport that should be illegal, as should other, similar sports, such as Kambala.

Edit 3/14/17: The claim that jallikattu as it is currently practiced does not follow the “real rules” of jallikattu — and that those real rules are humane — is ridiculous. First, that’s absolutely not the case, considering that these rural areas built the practice of jallikattu. Second, and more importantly, that doesn’t matter. Insofar as it involves even a single person holding on to the bull’s hump, the bull is going to panic. The sheer psychological trauma is what causes so many bulls to die in jallikattu games. Furthermore, these “real rules” aren’t going to be enforced, and I’ve already explained how a jallikattu ban solves.

Marginalization

Jallikattu is not merely a tradition that oppresses animals. It discriminates among humans as well — as alluded to in T. M. Krishna’s popular column on the issue. Jallikattu inadvertently perpetuates casteist and sexist marginalization. For instance, feminists have objected to the relegation of women to merely caregivers of bulls, while men are the only ones who actually “wrestle” the bulls — spreading notions of “masculinity” and sexism within rural communities.

Similarly, others have noted that jallikattu is casteist. Dalit activists decry jallikattu as divisive, because the sport is often exclusionary to members of “lower caste” individuals. The same article mentions that Tamil Nadu’s villages are often segregated on the basis of caste, and Dalit portions of villages, which are typically slums, have much more subdued jallikattu events. If there is an integrated event, Dalits are disproportionately pushed away to unpaid and less glamorous jobs, like “playing a percussion instrument to set the tone” and to “take care of the bulls” [quoted from the same article]. Other opinion articles have condemned jallikattu as sexist and casteist as well.

Rebuttal to Common Arguments

Proponents of jallikattu have consistently argued the same things: that jallikattu protects indigeneous breeds, that it is an integral part of Tamil culture, and that organizations such as PETA are somehow conspiracies to erode this culture. All of the arguments fail. I’ll address each of them here. Comment if you have anything else; I’ll respond to it.

Indigeneous Breeds

The argument that jallikattu protects indigeneous breeds is based on the idea that the bulls used for jallikattu are used to impregnate other cows, thus allowing for indigeneous breeds to be protected from extinction. This argument fails for three reasons.

Bos taurus indicus.jpg

Zebu (Bos taurus indicus), one of the breeds used in jallikattu. Credit: Scott Bauer, USDA ARS, via Wikimedia Commons.

First, this impregnation can happen anyway. Farmers won’t get rid of cows if jallikattu is prevented since there’s no monetary benefit from jallikattu. These bulls aren’t going to be sold to slaughter. Second, “preserving indigeneous breeds” doesn’t benefit the bulls. The members of these breeds are just going to suffer and die. The only supposed benefit is from the milk of the cattle — which is fundamentally and inherently tied to animal exploitation. Third, the idea that jallikattu is the only way to preserve indigeneous breeds is preposterous. Economic and market support for cattle farmers is possible. It just never happens. If preserving indigeneous breeds is the reason to support jallikattu, that’s much more effective.

Culture

Cultural norms are discontinued or reformed all the time, to make way for social progress. Sati (the practice of a widow ending her life on her husband’s death upon social pressure to do so) and child marriage — both barbaric practices — have been ended to make way for social progress. This isn’t a strong or compelling argument. As an article in The Diplomat explains:

The monolithic entity that Tamil culture seems to have become during the progression of the debate over Jallikattu has culminated in the proponent camp decrying any and all opposition of Jallikattu as inherently anti-Tamil.

The idea that jallikattu is intrinsically tied to ‘being Tamil’ isn’t necessarily true — because culture should not be about cruelty and oppression. It should be about inclusion.

Conspiracies

Most conspiracies surrounding jallikattu are ridiculous. The idea that PETA is trying to “open the market for Western companies to advertise their cattle,” or, even more ridiculous, trying to “sell bull semen” is ridiculous. There’s no evidence whatsoever for these assertions, and none of it forms any offensive reason to allow jallikattu.

Conclusion

Jallikattu is a sport hinged upon marginalization and animal cruelty. However, it carries with it cultural intricacies most urban individuals won’t understand. The current practice of jallikattu, however, needs to be abolished — not merely by the government, but by rural community as a whole. The reinvention of the sport as something to truly uphold culture while spreading compassion without oppression is necessary.

Insofar as that is not amended, jallikattu is fundamentally the exploitation of animals for entertainment — something that Tamil culture should not be proud of. We should be ashamed of abuse of any form.

Note that none of this criticism is unique to jallikattu. It applies to all blood sports which involve animals. Spanish bullfighting, for instance, and things like dogfighting and cockfighting, are even more horrendous than such sports. Animal cruelty in the name of entertainment or culture is unjustified, because justice requires the recognition of animal rights. We ought to end cruelty for entertainment.

President Trump’s America

Donald Trump is among the more controversial presidents in American history, with historically low approval ratings of 41% according to a Gallup poll, one of his landmark executive orders blocked by the Ninth Circuit, and anti-Trump protests all across the United States. In this post, I’m going to explore how President Trump has fared so far.

President Trump has signed an average of 1.5 executive orders per day — still short of his predecessor’s first week in office. In any case, President Trump has been active, and I’m going to take a look at what he’s done so far.

(1) Trump’s executive order on Obamacare was his very first, merely hours after taking the oath of office, rolling back the ACA financially. The implications of it weren’t substantial in terms of actual policy, but they sent a clear message: President Trump actually intends to repeal the Affordable Care Act. That’s a proposal I have criticized in previous posts, such as one about the Affordable Care Act and one criticizing Republican healthcare policy, but, in short, would cause about 19.7 million people to lose insurance in a single year, destroy 3 million jobs and result in a “$1.5 trillion reduction in gross state product from 2019 through 2023.” The reduction in taxes would add to the strain even more.

(2) Trump’s order to reduce regulations didn’t make sense. In his order, it was essentially a “two-for-one” guideline: for every one regulation introduced, two had to be repealed. The problem is that it’s completely arbitrary, merely a classically Republican rhetorical flourish suggesting that there are “too many regulations.” The reality is that some heavily important regulations might be lost, or might not be introduced, in the process, and even if Trump wanted to reduce regulations, he should have reviewed and deleted those that he deemed unnecessary. The number of regulations doesn’t matter: the necessity of them matters. This order was just absurd.

(3) Trump’s heavily controversial executive order on immigration, specifically with regard to immigration from seven countries, has actually resulted in strikes, and has been struck down as unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit. It’s probably unconstitutional on many levels: it violates the Fifth Amendment which allows for due process of law, the Fourteenth Amendment which asks for equality, and the fact that “national origin” is actually a suspect classification. Some lawyers have suggested that Trump deliberately made the EO unconstitutional so it would get repealed. In any case, it is overly vague (e.g. made green card holders suffer), harmful to people whose condition the U.S. is directly responsible for (e.g. military translators), and won’t have any effect on terrorism outside of propaganda.

(4) Trump’s orders to restart construction of oil pipelines, the Keystone XL extension and the Dakota Access pipelines, have similarly met with controversy, since they’ve made approval of those pipleines probable, which is problematic for a simple reason: the environmental effects of these pipelines. First, the risk of an oil spill could cause water poisoning for indigenous people. Since 2010, the operator of the Dakota pipeline has been responsible for more oil leaks than any other pipeline operators. Second, these pipelines would be dangerous to wildlife, with species like the whooping crane and swift fox threatened by these pipelines. The potential of an onshore oil spill is also dangerous. Wildlife extinction is harmful because it could cause ecological collapse, and because, as I’ve explained earlier, animals have rights. Third, the pipelines could harm the fight against climate change. For instance, the Keystone XL extension utilizes tar sands to extract oil, which could result in massive greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the level of oil access it would create would essentially cut off efforts to move to clean energy.

(5) The deletion of references to climate change from the White House website is concerning because it appears President Trump is serious about his views on climate change — which is particularly harmful because climate change is a massive threat. The President’s disagreement with the scientific consensus, which was firmly established through this, could pose an existential threat to the human species itself. As philosopher and social critic Professor Noam Chomsky notes, the Republican Party’s position on climate change merely accelerates the world into disaster, and that the GOP could even be the “most dangerous organization in world history.”

(6) The new POTUS’s first military raid was conducted in Yakla, in central Yemen, and has been described as “botched,” with one member of the Special Forces team dead, and 30 Yemeni civilians killed, including an eight-year-old. The intended target of the raid is still alive. The raid received heavy criticism, with John McCain characterizing the raid as a failure, with a typical response from the President on Twitter which said McCain didn’t “know how to win anymore.”

(7) Reinstating the “Mexico City” policy, as Trump did with an executive order on January 23rd, has blocked American funding to foreign NGOs who perform abortions. This has been heavily criticized, and for legitimate reason: it won’t reduce abortions, but make them less safe and cause the deaths of thousands of women across the world. The reason is obvious: politically appealing to religious conservatives; or, worse, an indicator of the President himself being a religious conservative.

(8) Trump reorganized the National Security Council to include, among others, “chief strategist” of the Trump Administration, Steve Bannon. Bannon oversaw Breitbart News, a notably far-right news agency. This move has been criticized by President Obama’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, as “stone cold crazy.” Furthermore, his downgrading of the Director of National Intelligence and Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been criticized from both sides of the aisle.

(9) The proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment is another extremely concerning potential policy of the President, with him vowing to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a provision that limits the political speech of tax-exempt organizations (e.g. churches). The reason “destroying” the Amendment is problematic is because it would encourage massive conservative organizations to influence politics, and blur the line of separation between the church and the state in one of the world’s few states that has succeeded in achieving true secularism under the freedom of expression. If religious institutions have so much influence over the government, it would likely result in heavily conservative policies: such as restrictions on abortion rights, LGBT+ equality, et cetera.

President Trump signing the Presidential memoranda to revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Public Domain. Source: Wikipedia.

Conclusion

President Trump hasn’t done too well so far. His policies have been typically conservative, with massive implications to egalitarianism, environmental policy, foreign policy, and healthcare. The “Mexico City” policy will cause thousands of deaths. The raid in Yemen has been a botched failure. His apathy toward solving climate change could pose an existential threat toward the human species. The construction of the oil pipelines increases risk of a leak, and poses a massive threat to both humans and wildlife. The executive order on Obamacare would strip millions of people of their health insurance.

All of these actions, if they actually work in achieving their objectives, would likely be exceedingly dangerous to the people of America, and essentially purge President Obama’s relatively better legacy in terms of domestic policy. There’s little wonder that the current POTUS has been one of the most controversial and least approved presidents in U.S. history. Will he defy these negative expectations? It looks unlikely — but only time will tell. 

The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs — America’s campaign against the drug trade — has been a failure. Yet, American politicians refuse to see this unfortunate truth. In this post, I’m going to argue that the U.S., and much of the developed world, for that matter, should decriminalize recreational drug usage, as the best solution to the problems drugs present.

Fuerza del Estado Michoacán.jpg

A picture from a confrontation in the Mexican Drug War. Public Domain.

Image: By Diego Fernández (autor original) / vendida con “copyright compartido” a la Agencia de Fotografía AP México (autor secundario) – self-made / publicada en La Jornada México (fuente de consulta secundaria) AP otorga permiso de difusión en dicha publicación, Public Domain. 

I believe that drugs should be decriminalized because the status quo has substantial harms, classified as follows: the black market in drugs, the disproportionate effect on marginalized groups, and the violation of the right to choose.

Black Market

When drugs are illegal, the drug trade occurs within the black market. That’s how people get drugs anyway. But the black market is substantially more dangerous, for multiple reasons, the most important one being crime. Ending the War on Drugs would allow for U.S. legal drug business to compete against the black market, and win (due to things like lower costs [70-80% cost drop is predicted] and, quite simply, legality) — legal businesses tend to compete illegal ones out of business.

However, continuing the War on Drugs would fuel the black market, and the illegal drug trade would create huge problems in terms of crime and violence. The direct harm of the War on Drugs, then, exacerbates with military violence. There are five problems created by the black market in drug trade: gang violence in the U.S. and Mexico, funding insurgent groups and terrorist networks, the direct casualties of military action, access to children, and greater health risks from drugs.

Gang Violence. The black market causes substantial violence within the United States, and in its borders. American drug demand fuels most of Mexico’s cartels, creating much of the violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. It also fuels American cartels — cartels that fight with competitors, and engage in armed robbery and similar black market activities (i.e. gang violence).  The Global Commission on Drug Policy explains:

The global war on drugs has failed . . . prohibition has failed in tackling global consumption of drugs, and has instead led to the creation of black markets and criminal networks that resort to violence and corruption in order to carry out their business. This drug-related violence now threatens the institutional stability of entire nations.

 

Terrorism. Black market trading in drugs funds insurgent groups and terrorist networks. Mark Kleiman, et al. explain,

“Drug revenues support insurgents, other armed non-state actors, and corrupt officials, while counternarcotic efforts create hostility to state power. None of this would be true if the drugs and crops in question were made legal.”

A crucial example of this is the Taliban — the opium trade is the main source of revenue for the Taliban. Drug legalization would help fight such major criminal networks.

Military Action. In some respects, the War on Drugs is literally a “war” — major portion of it involves military action. The reason for this is simple: the government needs to fight the sort of dangerous gangs and criminal networks that trade in drugs. 1,100 people are murdered within the U.S. every year due to the War on Drugs. American involvement in the drug wars of Mexico and Colombia have even larger impacts, in the form of fighting cartels — with staggering death tolls in those respective theaters, alongside millions displaced.

Children. In the status quo, in various countries — including the United States — ghettoized or homeless children are often a target to sell street drugs to; they become the victims of drug abuse. Even “young children” are often addicted in many parts of Kenya. This is unique to the black market because illegal drug sellers frequently market their drugs toward children, and get them addicted to drugs for their profit. The problem is substantially reduced when drugs are legal, because under a legal system, drug sale is going to be regulated and isn’t going to go to children.

Health. Black market drugs are frequently adulterated with toxic substances — a cost-saving measure. Multiple drug addicts and users, therefore, face substantially more negative effects when black market drugs are used. This adulteration also causes further harms such as heavy metal poisoning. However, in a legal setting, organizations like the FDA can ensure that drugs are regulated, tested for poisoning and purity, and given warning labels, allowing for information that drugs are unhealthy (that some people — like children — actually don’t possess). Furthermore, under illegality, there’s no means to issue clean needles, to prevent diseases like HIV/AIDS from spreading due to illegal drug use.

In conclusion, the black market in drugs causes multiple fatalities due to criminal networks, provides access to children, and poses a major health risk.

Minorities

The War on Drugs has a disproportionate effect on socially marginalized groups: African-Americans, Hispanics, the working class, and the socio-economically disadvantaged have all been disproportionately affected by the Drug War. I argue that this offers sufficient reason to end the War on Drugs. There are a couple of ways in which the War on Drugs perpetuates racism and classism; I’m going to look at two key things. First, I’m going to look at how the criminal justice aspect of the Drug War harms minorities. Second, I’ll talk about why black market drugs disproportionately affect communities of minorities.

The first issue is criminal justice. Although African-Americans in the U.S. aren’t more likely to use drugs, they’re more likely to get incarcerated for drug offenses. A 2009 report from Human Rights Watch reached a similar conclusion: the War on Drugs is a classic example of structural racism against African-American communities. When African-Americans are sentenced for drug-related offenses, they’re more likely to have longer, harsher sentences too — according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, drug sentences for African-Americans were 13% longer than drug sentences for whites between 2007 and 2009.

Why are there such substantial racial disparities caused by the Drug War? The most important reason is that white people tend to have greater political influence than minorities. This means police officers are more likely to enforce drug laws in neighborhoods without substantial numbers of rich elites, who disproportionately tend to be white people. An analysis by Project Know found that drug laws were disproportionately enforced in black-majority communities. Since police officers get funding through drug arrests, they target the places where it’s easy to make arrests: neighborhoods with poor economic conditions (i.e. those where drug users are more likely to abuse drugs openly). In other words, white drug dealers are (1) too rich and powerful for police officers to bother arresting, and (2) tend to sell drugs indoors, which means police officers get easier drug arrests by arresting black people.

Furthermore, the for-profit prison industry continues to perpetuate the flawed notion that imprisonment is a solution to things like poverty, which explains the class-based targeting of individuals for drug offenses. Since African-American individuals are likely to be poor, they’re targeted in a similar manner. This is combined with the fact that people in power have an incentive to perpetuate fear of drugs. Political critic Noam Chomsky explains:

[T]he fear of drugs and the fear of crime is very much stimulated by state and business propaganda. The National Justice Commission repeatedly points out that crime in the United States, while sort of high, is not off the spectrum for industrialized societies. On the other hand, fear of crime is far beyond other societies, and mostly stimulated by various propaganda. The Drug War is an effort to stimulate fear of dangerous people from who we have to protect ourselves. It is also, a direct form of control of what are called “dangerous classes,” those superfluous people who don’t really have a function contributing to profit-making and wealth. They have to be somehow taken care of.

The Drug War functions alongside means to disenfranchise black people — photo ID laws, gerrymandering, zoning laws, and so on — to ensure that the upper classes dominate the electorate. This isn’t some conspiracy theory: it is fact, and most research agrees. [Note: It’s more nuanced and complicated than this, but this is essentially the base of it.] What’s the harm? The mass-incarceration of these youth leads to a stripping of economic productivity — further reducing the quality of life of socioeconomically disadvantaged minorities. Ending the War on Drugs is ending the subjugation of minorities through criminal justice. 

The second issue is that minority communities are disproportionately targeted by the black market in drugs, and the lack of rehabilitation worsens the problem. The black market creates drug-dominated neighborhoods, focusing on poor African-American and Hispanic communities, leading to a deterioration in the quality of life in such neighborhoods. When drugs are legalized, there’s no “targeting” of neighborhoods by the legal market — ensuring that people aren’t essentially coerced into doing drugs.

Freedom

The right to liberty is a fundamental right — and it is the right that grounds all other fundamental rights (i.e. the right to life, property, equality, and so on). There are only two conditions when the government can infringe on the freedom of an individual: either (1) if the action would result in harm to any non-consensual other, or would overall be detrimental to society, or (2) if the person who makes the choice is unable to make such a choice entirely. The latter is something that very rarely occurs, and I’m not going to explore that in too much detail — mostly, it’s in the case of adolescents and kids who don’t have a sufficiently developed brain to make the choice to, for instance, drive, or consume alcohol. This idea is encapsulated in John Stuart Mill’s harm principle:

The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized society, against [their] will, is to prevent harm to others.

Why is the right to liberty, when these conditions are not met, a fundamental right? First, the right to liberty gives the government political legitimacy. Before the State existed, in the “state of nature” or the “natural condition of humankind,” individuals were entirely free from any form of restraint by the government. We consent to give up some of this liberty in exchange for preventing harm to ourselves, which we didn’t consent to. We want our conditions to be better. Therefore, the only legitimate purpose of the State is to prevent harm to people who didn’t consent to the “harm.” This is enriched by the right to liberty, and forms a limiting principle that the government cannot cross.

Second, the harm principle allows individuals to subjectively weigh costs and benefits. The government typically legislates in order to maximize the interests of the people — but when there’s no interpersonal calculation of interests, and only intrapersonal ones, those interests are subjective. Thus, only the individuals themselves can weigh those interests.

Why is this relevant to the War on Drugs? Quite simply, drug use is a self-regarding act. There’s no substantial third party harm — any of it is outweighed by the harm from continuing drug prohibition. While the choice to use drugs might sometimes be illegitimate (especially with overly addictive drugs which you want to quit using but can’t), most often, it is a perfectly legitimate choice, that the government shouldn’t infringe on — at least for individuals above the age of 22 or so, when they can make decisions for themselves. To be sure, drug use is a bad thing, but it’s going to continue anyway — so the government shouldn’t go beyond its legitimate limits to constrain things simply because they’re “bad.” Ending the War on Drugs protects the right to choice.

Conclusion

I’ve shown you that the War on Drugs fuels a dangerous black market, disproportionately harms marginalized groups, and violates the right to choice. What are the implications of these three truths? The answer: we must end the War on Drugs, immediately. But that’s not as straightforward as that sounds. What do I support in the process of ending the War on Drugs?

First, I think that drug use — of any recreational drug — shouldn’t be treated as criminal activity. In the case of addiction, it should be treated as an activity that should be prevented by rehabilitation. We ought to have free drug rehabilitation programs and no prison sentences for any nonviolent drug offenders, to integrate them back into society.

Second, I think the use of most soft drugs and certain hard drugs — specifically, those that the black market feeds on — should be legal. I don’t advocate the legalization of every single drug — just certain drugs to ensure that this dangerous illegal activity doesn’t continue. These drugs are obviously going to be regulated in terms of purity, the age of consumption, etc. and we’re going to ensure that people of certain communities aren’t targeted.

The War on Drugs has been an abject and total failure — causing thousands of deaths every year, violating the freedom to choose, and disproportionately harming socially marginalized groups. It’s time to end this repression of the people, by ending the War on Drugs.

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