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Harry Browne on Drugs

2000 Libertarian Nominee for President


Before we had drug laws, we didn’t have big drug problems

Q: From your party brochure: “It’s time to re-legalize drugs and let people take responsibility for themselves.”

BROWNE: Before we had drug laws in America, we didn’t have the widespread drug problems we have today because the pharmaceutical companies ran the drug business, not criminal gangs in the inner cities. All the drug war has brought us is widespread drug use with gangs preying upon children at schools. When it was perfectly legal for a child to walk into a store and buy heroin, children didn’t walk into stores and buy heroin because, number one, it wasn’t forbidden fruit and, number two, nobody was preying upon them at schools; they had no interest in it whatsoever. Bayer sold heroin in this country as a pain reliever and sedative. If I’m elected president, somehow, on my first day in office, I will pardon unconditionally everyone who’s in a federal prison on a non-violent drug offense.

Source: Third Party Debate on Meet the Press , Oct 22, 2000

Harsh sentences imprison 683,000 citizens; not drug kingpins

The Drug Warriors will tell you that harsh sentences strike fear in the hearts of America’s drug kingpins. But cases in which a big-time drug dealer receives a long prison sentence are very rare. One-time offenders and innocent bystanders get sentences ranging from a few years to life without chance of parole.

This is not just a technical problem that needs to be corrected. These injustices are inevitable in any plan to prosecute victimless crimes. Without victims to testify, the state must [make offers] to truly guilty people to provide testimony. The drug kingpins have plenty of names to give the prosecutors, and so they obtain reduced sentences. But the low-level drug runner has little to offer-so these people wind up with the worst sentences.

The drug warriors may want you to believe that only drug kingpins go to prison. But in 1998 alone, 682,885 Americans were arrested for possessing marijuana. More than half of the prison population of 2 million are non-violent offenders.

Source: The Great Libertarian Offer, p.102 , Sep 9, 2000

We can’t mandate an end to personal tragedies, like drugs

If someone does harm to someone else, he should be prosecuted. It doesn’t matter if he was taking drugs or drinking alcohol or eating Twinkies. If a drug user starts beating his wife, he should be prosecuted. If he does harm to his family, say, by spending the rent money on drugs, that’s unfortunate, but this happens all the time. It is the height of absurdity to think the government can solve these problems. We cannot mandate an end to personal tragedies. There is no simple political solution to these problems; in fact, the harm comes from thinking there is a political way. We’ve tried that, and it fails. Then comes the inevitable escalation, the urge to try something else, until the next thing you know, they’re monitoring e-mail, they’re looking at people’s bank accounts, they’re using informers to “solve” the problem. Something should be done, say people, but the government can’t fix these problems, and this escalation is inevitable any time you try to prosecute victimless crimes.
Source: Week Online interview (www.drcnet.org/wol) , Jul 6, 2000

Let states decide drug laws, not feds

Q: How would a legal drug regime work?

A: The federal government would have no involvement whatsoever. The states would be free to set up their own systems. We would see a wide variety of policies; in some states everything would be illegal, [some] would have complete legalization. This would be a natural transition period in which people would look at what works best. I believe that states with the most stringent laws would have the highest crime rates and the worst drug problems.

Source: Week Online interview (www.drcnet.org/wol) , Jul 6, 2000

Drug War breaches 4th Amendment civil rights

Browne spoke out today against H.R.2987, the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act -- a bill that would trash your right to privacy, due process and free speech. The bill empowers the police to conduct secret searches of your property, often referred to as “black bag” searches. It creates a new type of search warrant that allows police to enter your home or place of business, conduct a search, seize or copy files from your computer, and not tell you about it until months later. Another provision of the bill allows government agents to seize your property without giving you a list of the seized items.

“This an outright assault on the Fourth Amendment,” said Browne, “But if you are out to demonstrate that you’re a law and order politician, that pesky amendment a real drag. But that’s exactly what the Constitution is supposed to be -- a drag on government power. The only way to stop the politicians from further injections of unconstitutional authority is to end the insane war on drugs.”

Source: Press Release “High on the Hill” , May 27, 2000

Drug War makes streets a war zone

I steadfastly oppose the Drug War. I believe it has made our streets a war-zone with innocent bystanders caught in the confusion of drug raids or drive-by shootings and that this war has wreaked havoc on our civil liberties.. I would pardon all federal, non-violent drug offenders because these people are not a threat to anyone and because we could use the space to keep real criminals behind bars so those individuals cannot add to their list of victims.
Source: Email correspondence from the candidate with OnTheIssues.org , Jan 27, 2000

Decriminalize pot; end the war on drugs

Source: 2000 National Political Awareness Test , Jan 13, 2000

Admits pot use; but it’s none of your business

Q: Have you ever done cocaine or marijuana? A: I have nothing to hide. I smoked marijuana about four times in the 1960s. But it’s not the question of MY life - it’s the question of YOUR life. I don’t believe reporters and bureaucrats should be prying into your privacy and your life. I feel that I should set an example, by saying that my life is my own, so I’m inclined to say, “It’s none of your business.”
Source: The Alan Colmes Show, WEBD NY 1050 AM , Aug 26, 1999

Crime rate soared in 70s Drug War like in 30s Prohibition

Drug use today is many times what it was 30 years ago. The crime rate peaked in 1933 when alcohol prohibition was repealed after a steady rise during prohibition. The crime rate then fell for 30 years until drug prohibition started in the 1960s. Cocaine wasn’t a problem in this country until temporarily the government succeeded in cutting of f the supply of marijuana. When the government temporarily succeeded in getting rid of cocaine, then crack appeared. A new supply will always take its place.
Source: The Alan Colmes Show, WEBD NY 1050 AM , Aug 26, 1999

Replace costs of enforcement with costs of addiction

Suppose all drugs became absolutely legal tomorrow - would you start snorting cocaine? We have the enormous costs of drug use already. So what are we afraid of? Addiction affects a certain percentage in the population. Most people are able to drink without becoming alcoholics, and most people [would not become drug addicts]. We can’t go running people’s lives.
Source: The Alan Colmes Show, WEBD NY 1050 AM , Aug 26, 1999

Legalization removes the rebellious appeal of drugs

[When asked about the Libertarian Party’s pro-legalization stance on drugs with regards to the chaotic conclusion of Woodstock ‘99, Browne responded]: Part of the reason that that sort of thing happens is just as in the ‘60s, [drug use] is a badge of courage against authority. It is a way of rebelling. But you can’t rebel against something that’s legal. People don’t rebel against liquor, against smoking, against these other things except in very minor ways, but they do rebel against the drug laws.
Source: Matt Drudge, ‘The Drudge Report,’ Fox News , Jul 31, 1999

Increased govt monitoring does nothing to reduce drug use

You gave government the authority to [monitor bank accounts] when you said they could search and seize people without a warrant and without probable cause. The government rifles through your bank account looking for evidence with which to hang you. It’s going to be reading your e-mails & taking your property. It’s doing all of these things, & it’s not doing anything to reduce drug use at all. What I want to see is our government abiding by the Constitution, which would end this nightmare of prohibition.
Source: Matt Drudge, ‘The Drudge Report,’ Fox News , Jul 31, 1999

Bank profiles aimed at drug dealers will fail

Know Your Customer is a proposed regulation to develop a customer profile [of] your banking habits. [Since financial tracking began in 1970, the purpose has been] to assure that you don’t deal drugs. Why do such programs fail? Because those at whom it is aimed make it their business to know the regulations and circumvent them. A drug dealer won’t keep his money in the bank -- to have his transactions reported to the government and his assets seized by zealous DEA or Treasury agents.
Source: http://www.harrybrowne2000.org/ “Your bank account” 5/16/ , Feb 19, 1999

Schools were safer before the War on Drugs

End the War on Drugs, to make our schools safer. Brewers and distillers don’t recruit children to run drugs or hook other kids on liquor; nor do they give them guns to take to school. Neither would legal drug companies. Before the War on Drugs, the worst schools in Los Angeles were safer than L.A.’s best schools are today.
Source: http://www.harrybrowne2000.org/ “7 Ways” 5/16/99 , Jul 13, 1998

Pardon non-violent drug offenders to free prison space

Browne does not building more federal or state prisons; nor funding for “boot-camps” as alternative sentencing for adult first-time felons. Browne says, “End drug prohibition and the War on Drugs, and immediately pardon all federal non-violent drug offenders, in order to free prison space for murders, rapists, and child molesters.”
Source: (Cross-ref to Crime) Project Vote Smart, 1996 , May 1, 1996

Govt has no Constitutional authority to prohibit any drugs

End drug prohibition and the War on Drugs. The federal government has no Constitutional authority to prohibit any drugs. It required a Constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol (which produced the same explosion of crime that drug prohibition has caused).
Source: 1996 National Political Awareness Test , May 1, 1996

No funding anti-gang programs; end Drug War to end gangs

Browne does not support harsher penalties for youths; nor prosecuting youths as adults; nor using “boot-camps” as alternative sentencing for juvenile offenders. Browne further does not support increasing funding for community programs that focus on preventing youths from joining gangs. Instead, Browne would “end drug prohibition and the War on Drugs, in order to take the profit out of drug-pushing and gang membership.”
Source: 1996 National Political Awareness Test , May 1, 1996

War on Drugs is a crusade against victimless crimes

The crusade against victimless crimes reaches the apex of absurdity in the War on Drugs. It is the quintessential example that government doesn’t work. Government has failed completely to stop people from taking drugs. It can’t stop drugs from coming into the country. It can’t even stop drugs from getting into its own prisons. And yet the politicians keep telling us that the next freedom taken from us will be the price that finally pays off in getting drugs off the streets and away from our children.

It ought to be obvious by now that this War will never be won. Government can’t stop the supply, it can’t reduce the demand, and its strong-arm tactics don’t work. We have paid for this fruitless crusade in billions of tax dollars, the corruption of police forces, the loss of civil liberties, soaring crime rates, and gang warfare. The War has served only to undermine our protections against reckless law enforcement-and to make life easier for violent criminals.

Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by H. Browne, p.130-1 , Jul 2, 1995

Marijuana is not unconditionally evil; allow medical use

Marijuana is very effective in relieving chronic pain; alleviating nausea for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy; and treating glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and other medical conditions. No one has ever been known to die from smoking marijuana, and no scientific study has indicated that smoking marijuana leads inevitably to heavier drugs. But the Drug Warriors prefer to let patients suffer, rather than acknowledge that marijuana isn’t an unconditional evil.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by Harry Browne, p.133 , Jul 2, 1995

Truth is a casualty in the War on Drugs

Truth is a casualty in the War on Drugs. Because they’re in a losing battle, the Drug Warriors grow progressively more hysterical in trying to justify their activities. It has become impossible to discuss calmly any issue concerning drugs. Much of the misery coming from illegal drugs occurs because they are illegal. People sometimes die or become sick from poorly formulated illegal drugs or from overdoses of them, because the law prevents reputable companies from providing a safe product in standard doses.
Source: Why Government Doesn’t Work, by H. Browne, p.132-3 , Jul 2, 1995

  • Click here for 6 older quotations from Harry Browne on Drugs.
  • Click here for definitions & background information on Drugs.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by Harry Browne.
  • Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by Harry Browne.
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Page last updated: Mar 13, 2014