Should Drug-War Victims Pardon the Drug Warriors?

by Jacob G. Hornberger
Dec. 27, 2013

From the Huffington Post:
In the holiday spirit of forgiveness, Gov. Jerry Brown announced pardons on Tuesday for 127 people.... Most of the individuals receiving full and unconditional pardons had been convicted of drug-related offenses.
Well, isn't that nice? What a good person Jerry Brown is!

Oh, he isn't the only one. President Obama is too. He recently granted clemency to eight drug offenders. Isn't he a good person too?

Have you ever seen anything so ridiculous in your entire life? The federal government has ruined the lives of countless people with its much-vaunted, decades-long war on drugs. And then the president and the California governor show what good and compassionate people they are by offering a tiny few of the people whose lives they have destroyed a pardon or clemency.

It's as though the Mafia goes out and breaks people’s legs and then shows how good, caring, and compassionate it is by handing out free crutches to the victims.

It's all show time at Christmas time. If Obama and Brown really cared about the people whose lives their drug war has destroyed, they would pardon or grant clemency to every single non-violent drug offender rotting away in prison right now. Pardoning or granting clemency to only a few drug-war victims only reveals the hypocrisy of the whole charade.

Of course, a blanket pardon for all non-violent drug offenders would empty prison cells all across the nation, especially of people who are black and Hispanic, which would obviously deprive prisons of substantial income. But so what? Is the income of prison officials so important that it must have priority over justice?

But let's face it: the drug war is all about money -- not just in the form of bribes and payoffs to law-enforcement personnel and judges, but also simply about salaries. Think of the huge drug-war bureaucracy that has been built up over the decades. You've got an army of DEA agents, police, sheriffs, judges, clerks, customs agents, and Homeland Security agents who receive nice drug-war-related salaries. They'd lose their jobs without the drug war.

And let's not forget all those "asset forfeitures" on which state and federal law-enforcement personnel have become dependent. That lucrative drug-war program enables law-enforcement personnel to legally steal cash and other assets from the poor, so as to satisfy the state's voracious appetite for more money, without having to raise taxes.

It is drug-war money that keeps the drug war going. It is drug-war money that keeps ruining people lives.

After all, what good did it do to jail all those drug-war victims during the past several decades? Did it bring victory in the war on drugs? Did it deter others from using or dealing in drugs? Did it accomplish anything at all?

No, all it did was keep an army of law-enforcement personnel, judges, prosecutors, and others in high cotton.

In fact, it also kept drug lords in business. That's one of the little black secrets of the drug war. It's responsible for the very people -- the drug lords -- that the drug war is supposed to put out of business.

But the exact opposite is true. Just as the war on terrorism produces an endless supply of terrorists, the drug war supplies an endless supply of drug dealers.

Meanwhile, the enormous drug-war-generated profits continue to induce ordinary poor people into trying to quickly make a lot of money. They're the ones who are inevitably caught and sent to jail for 10, 20, or 30 years, or life in prison without possibility of parole.

It boggles the mind to think of all the people and their families who have had their lives ruined by the drug war, especially the ones who are living a substantial portion of the only life God gave them in some prison hellhole. It's the drug warriors who are in need of a pardon from the people whose lives they have destroyed with their war on drugs.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News' Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano's show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at and from Full Context. Send him email.

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