Speech at San Francisco City Hall
October 30, 2000

Good morning, my name is Alex Tabarrok and I am the research director and vice president of The Independent Institute, a non-partisan, public-policy think tank located in Oakland.

Although we call it a “War on Drugs,” the government’s campaign is actually a War on People. It is a War that is directly or indirectly responsible for ruining the lives of millions and creating a host of serious social problems like violent crime. New research by Jeffrey Miron, Professor of Economics at Boston University and an Independent Institute Research Fellow, now shows that one-quarter to one-half of all the homicides in the United States can be traced to the War—a War which has turned our inner cities into fire-zones against the innocent and the poor just as Prohibition did in the 1920s and 1930s.

The War on non-violent drug users has millions of victims, some of whom are rotting in jail today while murderers and rapists are released because the prisons are too crowded.

The War is becoming the civil rights issue of our time. The War incarcerates African-American men and women at much higher rates than whites. Shockingly, thirteen percent of the total black male population of the U.S. is now ineligible to vote, mostly because of the War. Tragically, we have brought back “Jim Crow” though the back door.

In recent years, a new offensive in the 40 billion dollar war against drug users has been launched against women. Since mandatory minimums have been enacted, the number of women in prison has exploded. Women are the fastest growing and least violent segment of the prison and jail populations. A large majority of the women in federal prisons are there for non-violent violation of the drug laws. And it goes almost without saying that African-American and Hispanic women are imprisoned at much higher rates than white women.

The War is a civil rights issue not just for minorities—it is a civil rights issue for anyone who cares about equal justice and the rule of law, anyone who wants to protect our constitutional rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizures, and anyone who want our rights of free expression protected. It is Orwellian that the government has been using our money to bribe television, magazine, and newspaper producers to promote the War while at the same time trying to chill opposition to the War with legislation that would make the very discussion of peaceful drug use a criminal offense.

The government is ripping children from parents, disenfranchising voters, trampling our constitutional rights, abusing justice, and all for what—to prevent adults from controlling their own bodies. The War on People masquerading as a “War on Drugs” must end. It is time for Peace.