Juan R. Torruella, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit
"One Judge's Attempt at a Rational, Discussion of the So-Called "War on Drugs"
Spotlight Lecture at Colby College, Waterville Maine, April 25, 1996
I was recently reading a book entitled The Buried Mirror, by a well-known Mexican author, Carlos Fuentes, a former ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, who on commenting upon Columbus' "dis-orientation" in mistaking his discovery for that of the islands off Asia, observed that:
[E]ver since, the American continent has existed between dream and reality, in a divorce between the good society that we desire and the imperfect society in which we really live.
I believe this comment is apropos the subject about which I am going to speak today.
Our Nation has been engaged in a "war on drugs" since at least the mid-1970's. As with other wars, there is confusion over purpose as well as disagreement over tactics, for in war we tend, in the heat of battle, to lose sight of rationality and the continued need to search for the truth. And so the time has come when we must stand back from the trenches to determine where we are, what we have accomplished, and where we want to go.
The discussion of this topic essentially involves considering the views of two divergent camps: (1) those who urge that the present laws not be relaxed and even that, in some cases, they be made more stringent, and (2) those who promote, in varying degrees, the decriminalization of the distribution and/or use of at least some presently illegal drugs.
Of course, part of the "problem" is defining what is the "problem." To some there appear to be several reasons why government should reduce the availability of drugs. Yet not all within this group embrace all those reasons, although some do. Some believe drugs are bad for those who consume them, and that a proper role of government is to protect people from themselves. From this perspective, restricting drug use is analogous to protecting the public from unsafe food or, with a different focus, to the prohibition of pornography, even if used privately. There are others who justify the war on drugs not simply because of what drugs do to users per se, but because of what users do to others. Those who adhere to this view believe in the prohibition of drug use because drug users commit criminal acts to get drugs, or cause harm to others while under the influence of drugs, or because of the consumption of public resources to treat people who use drugs.
Of course, whether any of these conditions are in fact "problems" depends in part on one's ideas of how people should live their personal lives and on how society should function. Whether these are "problems" also depends on whether, from an empirical perspective, drug use has the consequences that its critics claim. Furthermore, even once we conclude that there is a "problem," and we identify its nature, we must determine whether it is a problem worth dealing with and, if so, what is the best course of action to deal with it. This in itself is the subject of much debate. The point is that we have to be conscious of the fact that there is general disagreement not only regarding the ends that we pursue, but also as to the means by which we should conduct this so-called "war on drugs."
That said, I must confess that I have chosen today's topic with some trepidation. The most obvious reason for this hesitancy is, of course, the fact that as a public official, particularly one charged with deciding issues and cases related to drug offenses, I must do nothing which compromises, or even gives the appearance of compromising, the impartial adjudication of disputes arising under the laws that have been enacted by Congress. Although judges must be cautious in speaking out on matters of public policy, on the other hand, judges have an obligation to speak out when their work gives them a perspective on a particular issue that others do not have. In the matter of drugs, legislators and executive branch officials see the issue from an overall policy perspective, but influenced, and properly so, by public opinion and public fears. Professors and other researchers see drug issues from the vantage points of their various disciplines, and those involved in various advocacy groups see the issue from their particular points of view.
Lawyers and judges who participate in drug litigation, however, see the drug issue on a case-by-case basis, and when they see enough of those individual cases, they should begin to see a mosaic. But while lawyers see the cases from the standpoint of the prosecutor or the criminal defendant, judges see both sides. I think all these perspectives are important in helping us analyze the problem, but I fear that up to now the analysis has not been sufficiently informed by the judicial perspective.
I believe that there is sufficient intellectual room to allow for what I would hope would be a rational discussion of the diverse questions raised by this subject. These are issues regarding which judges have remained almost universally silent, notwithstanding that judges are in a unique position to significantly contribute, by virtue of their experience and observations while on the job, to focusing on these complex social problems. This collective judicial experience is sorely needed in advancing improvements in the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice. After twenty-one years on the bench, ten of which were spent in a very active and intensive trial court, I believe that I have sufficiently lost my judicial innocence, at least to the extent of allowing me to speak frankly about this admittedly controversial subject. Furthermore, because my record as a sentencing judge hardly classifies me as being "soft" on crime and particularly on drug related crime, I believe I can speak from a position which is non-apologetic. It goes without saying, of course, that the views I am about to express are just that, my views at the present. They in no way represent those of the court I sit on, or its members, or the federal judiciary in general, and, of course, I reserve the right to change them. Nevertheless, so that the world can sleep in tranquillity tonight notwithstanding my remarks today, let me assure all that I take my oath of office seriously and that I will continue to fully comply with it, irrespective of the personal views I may express today. The essence of the judicial role is to apply the law regardless of one's personal view of the law or how one might try to change it if one sat, not in the courtroom, but in a legislative chamber.
The fact of the matter is that my personal views on this subject have changed over my years on the bench, and they have changed dramatically. This has happened gradually, but if I were to pick a point in time when this process started, I could tell you it was towards the end of my district court tenure, and perhaps even more specifically, as a result of a trip that I took to El Salvador in the mid 80's, sponsored by the State Department, to speak to the Salvadoran judiciary and bar regarding the American legal system. After the incident which I will presently describe, I realized that I had already unconsciously started to become dissatisfied with the drug laws and their administration, and with the obvious lack of tangible progress in containing what seemed to be a losing battle in the war against drugs. This gradual change in point of view came about in part because I intuitively felt that the strong sentences that I and other colleagues, were handing out, as well as the massive government efforts of which I was aware, seemed to have little or no impact on the increasing flow of drugs into this country. I also detected a change in the nature of the defendants and groups that were appearing before me. While at first they seemed to be at best a bunch of disorganized amateurs, they started more and more to be well-organized professional criminals. I remember the defendant that was tried before me, who was caught with $10 million in manager's checks in his left shoe, and who owned a "coffee" farm in Colombia that was almost as big as Puerto Rico. The banker who testified said under oath that he saw nothing unusual in being presented with mountains of shopping bags full of $20 to $100 bills which the defendant brought on a regular basis, and which took three bank employees from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. to count. This, and similar incidents, started me thinking that something was rotten in Denmark, and that the system was endemically faulted.
In any event, toward the end of my tour in El Salvador, which I should mention, was right in the middle of the civil war in that country, I was speaking to a bar group in one of the smaller cities. Somehow the discussion got around to issues related to drug enforcement. I expounded, I suspect somewhat long-windedly, my views to the effect that the United States needed the cooperation of Latin America in stopping the drug traffic by stricter enforcement, by stopping corruption, by eradicating the illegal crops, etc., etc. The audience was very polite, in fact one or two of those present may have actually clapped when I finished. A hand was then raised in the back of the room. The speaker identified himself as a lawyer, who said to me very deferentially: "Honorable Judge, we very much appreciate your presence and the advice you have given us, but don't you think the United States could help us in solving this problem?" I answered that as I understood the situation we were already sending considerable sums in aid, and that we had a lot of resources committed to the interdiction of drugs from Latin America and the prosecution of violators. To which he responded, "Excuse me your Honor, that is not the help we are in need of. What we need is for your country to stop consuming these drugs. If your people were not buying drugs, we would not be growing and selling them. We would rather sell you coffee, or oranges, or bananas, if you would only stop buying and consuming drugs." At first glance this is a rather trite, and perhaps insignificant interchange, but it hit me like a sledgehammer between the eyes, and brought home what I had already suspected, that there might be something fundamentally wrong with our traditional approach to the drug problem in the United States.
This leads to a second reason for hesitating in choosing this subject for today's discussion. As complicated as this issue appears based on what one reads in the newspapers or what I see in, and sense from, the briefs that lawyers present to me, as well as the cases I heard when I was a trial judge, once I began to delve into the reams of government reports, scholarly journals, and interest group advocacy, these issues reveal themselves to be truly mind-boggling. Worst yet, after it is all done you are left with a persistent feeling that there may be no single answer, and certainly that there is no quick and easy solution. It is thus a particularly frustrating subject for me because I am generally pretty much result oriented.
Drug enforcement policy involves the consideration of issues as diverse as both international and national politics, law enforcement, sociology, economics, organizational dynamics, and penology, to mention only the most salient. In addition to these there are complex scientific, pharmacological and health questions. And, of course, there are the moral quandaries raised by the various policy choices or alternatives. Needless to say, in the time we have allotted, we can only briefly discuss some of these topics and the manner in which they may help in providing a solution(s). But I do not think either the complexity of the subject or our concessions to the brevity of life should deter us from exchanging views, for we must start at some point and now is as good a time as any. In fact, I believe that more vigorous and frank public discussion of these issues is what is presently needed.
One last caveat. Do not in any way misinterpret anything that I say here today as an endorsement of any type of drug use, legal or illegal. Nothing could be further from my personal beliefs. Mine is but an attempt at rational discussion of what I understand to be essentially a health and social problem, rather than a criminal one.
What I will try to do is to layout some basic, generally accepted facts, analyze what I think they mean, list the pros and cons that are claimed by the various exponents of the different view points, and express some very tentative conclusions. Despite everything I have said, I am afraid you will be disappointed if you came here looking for sure-fire answers. In fact I may very well be raising more questions than answers. But I believe that in itself may serve a useful purpose.
I. THE MAGNITUDE OF THE PROBLEM
I believe that we must start by getting some handle on the figures that delineate the issues. Because my remarks are directed almost exclusively at issues raised by the drug trade with and in the United States, right off we are faced with a distortion, to what extent I do not know, caused by the inability to accurately factor in many of the trans-national influences that have indirect, but important, impact upon the solution of any national drug problem. What I mean by that is best illustrated as follows. For example, how is more, or less, enforcement in or by the United States affected by the failure to follow suit by the rest of the international community? Or, how will legalization in one jurisdiction be affected by the failure to carry out such action elsewhere? Will the drug trade, and/or addiction, move trans-nationally, as it is affected by these factors? These questions are obviously far from exhaustive, but are sufficient to illustrate what is rather obvious: that we are dealing with a subject that will not yield to mathematically-certain solutions. In fact, the inability to account for the effects of trans-national influences is part of a larger problem that one encounters when trying to understand so complex a phenomenon as drug use. I am referring to the presence of competing explanations for most of the trends I will describe to you. I am not the person and this is not the forum for the kind of complex multi-variate analyses that would be necessary to isolate all the many factors that might be associated with, say, an apparent increase in the use of one drug or an apparent decrease in the use of another. Again, all I can do is present the facts I have found, tell you what I think they mean, and invite your consideration. Thus, for present purposes I think it best to just recognize the existence of these conditions, and then move on.
For our purposes I will only cover marihuana, cocaine and heroin, of the illegal psychoactive drugs, and tobacco and alcohol of those that are legal. I have included tobacco and alcohol within the scope of this already complicated scenario because comparison between the societal treatment given to legal and illegal drugs, and the outcome of this treatment, is in my view an important consideration in forming an opinion as to how to determine what course of action should be taken. As close as possible, the period covered will be that commencing in 1973, which is more or less the official commencement of the so-called war on illegal drugs, and on through 1994, which is the latest year for which complete statistics are available.
Let me say that I would be surprised; in fact, disappointed, if at least some of you do not disagree, if not with the figures that I quote, then at least with some of the conclusions that I reach therefrom. I can only say that it is very difficult to get truly comparative statistics in a complete fashion. I will admit to having engaged in some extrapolation, and there are many times when we end up comparing apples with oranges, because that is the best we can do. I have tried to be as objective as possible, and will be more than happy to reveal the sources from which I have extracted my statistics and conclusion.
A. Trends in the use of psychoactive drugs in the United States
Let me start by stating the overall problem in terms of the general numbers: it is estimated that there are about 46 million tobacco users, 105 million alcohol users and almost 12 million illicit drug users in the United States. These groups are, of course, not mutually exclusive as there are undoubtedly many drug users who can be found within the ranks of more than one of these groupings, and in any combination thereof.
In 1970 the per capita consumption of tobacco for those over 18 years was ten pounds per year. This figure had dropped to five pounds per year by 1992, a decrease of 50% in tobacco use during this period. The percentage of cigarette smokers 18 years of age and older had dropped from over 40% in 1965 to about 25% in 1990.
2. Alcoholic Beverages
The average annual household expenditure for alcoholic beverages decreased from $289 in 1987 to $268 in 1993, after a peak period between 1990-1992 of $293-301. This shows a decrease in overall alcoholic consumption of 7.2% between 1987 and 1993. Perhaps more revealing are the age group historical trends. In the 12-17 year old group 54% used alcohol in 1974 compared to about 41% in 1993 thus showing a decrease in use among teenagers. In the 18-26 age category about 82% used alcohol in 1974, increasing to 87% in 1993. The over 26 age group remained stable at about 90% throughout the period.
3. Use of Illicit Drugs
There were significant declines in the use of illicit drugs through the 1980's. This went from almost 14% for all persons over the age 12 in 1979 to about 6% for that same group in 1993, a general decrease of about 59% in the use of illegal drugs during this period.
a. Cocaine In 1974, about 3% of those 12-17 years old reported using cocaine, which declined to less than 1% by 1993, after peaking at over 4% for the 1979-1982 period. In the 18-25 age group there was an overall decline from 8% in 1974 to 5.0% in 1993, with a peak of close to 20% in the 1979-82 period. The over 26 age group has generally increased from half a percent in 1976 to nearly 2% in 1993 reaching a peak of around 4% in the 1982-85 period.
b. Marihuana In 1974, close to 1 in 5 persons aged 12-17 used marihuana, which dropped to about 1 in 10 by 1993, after a peak of over 20% during the 1977-1982 period. For ages 18-25 this figure also decreased from about a third in 1974 to about a fifth in 1993 with peak years of over 40% in the 1974-82 period. Again, there has been an increase in the 26 and older group from almost 4% in 1974 to over 6% in 1993, with the peak hovering around 10% in 1982 and 1985.
c. Heroin All age groups show a general decline in the use of this drug. The 12 to 17 years old age group went from 1% in 1974 to only two-tenths of a percent in 1993. Those in the 18 to 25 years old bracket went from almost 5% to 0.4% in the same period, and those 26 years old and over declined from half a percent to a base that was too small to be statistically reliable from 1974 on.
B. Some costs of drug use in the U.S.
1. Illegal Drugs
In 1973 the total amount spent to enforce the drug laws of the United States was less than $100 million. In 1994 this figure had grown to $12 billion annually, more than 121 times that of 1973. Parenthetically, violent crime rates nearly doubled during the same period, from 417 per 100,000 population in 1973 to 757 in 1992. Drug distribution offenses represented roughly 40% of all federal prosecutions and 50% of all federal prison admissions in 1993. Federal prison authorities report that about a third of federal inmates have moderate to severe substance abuse problems. It is estimated that the average annual cost of holding one prisoner ranges from $20,000-$30,000 per year. The cost of building new prisons, depending on climate and security level, range from $50,000 to $200,000 per prisoner.
State and local government expenditures for drug enforcement are substantial but more difficult to determine with precision. A 1987 study estimated that $5 billion were spent for drug enforcement investigations at a local level in 1985, a figure which, if accurate, has obviously increased substantially since then. Between 1981 and 1986 state and local drug arrests grew 59%, and thereafter increased an additional 23% from 1986 to 1991. In 1980 only 7% of those admitted to state prisons were convicted of drug related offenses, while by 1990 this figure had risen to 32%.
About 5,000 people die annually from causes directly attributed to the use of illicit drugs, that is from "overdosing." The annual cost of illegal drug abuse in the United States has been estimated at $167 billion. The federal government spends about $11 billion annually for health care and disability costs associated with drug abuse.
The Federal government spent about $1.6 billion in 1994 on drug abuse campaigns.
2. Legal Drugs
In 1965, the annual death toll from smoking related diseases was estimated at 188,000, which figure more than doubled to 434,000 by the mid 1980's. These figures do not include the almost 40,000 nonsmokers who die each year from ailments associated with the inhalation of passive smoke. The annual cost of tobacco use to American society has been estimated at $147 billion. The federal government spent approximately $43.56 billion on health care and disability benefits for treatment of disease and illnesses associated with tobacco.
During the period 1989 to 1993 U.S. cigarette advertising and promotional expenditures went from $3.6 billion to $6 billion per year. During 1995, and throughout most of this period, the government spent an estimated $120 million a year on its anti-smoking efforts, mostly on medical research.
U.S. cigarette advertising and promotional expenditures* 1989-93 (in billions)
(*TV and radio advertising was prohibited effective January 2, 1971)
In 1991 it was estimated that there were about 10 million alcoholics in the United States, and that a total of 73 million adults have been touched by this condition. Each year there are some 45,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the United States and thousands of women who drink during pregnancy bear children with irreversible alcohol-related defects. It is estimated that there are a total of 100,000 alcohol-related deaths each year in the United States. The total annual cost of alcohol abuse in the United States for 1990, including direct governmental and private spending as well as indirect costs such as lost productivity, was estimated at $136 billion. In 1994 about 12 billion were spent by the federal government on health care and disability. Two-fifths of all crime leading to state prison sentences is committed under the influence of alcohol.
Overall media advertising of alcoholic beverages (adjusted for inflation) decreased from a high of $1.5 billion in 1986 to 808 million in 1993. Approximately $250 million were spent by the beer industry alone in the last decade on programs to curb alcohol abuse.
The salient facts from the above statistics can be summarized as follows:
1. Between 1973 and 1993 there was a general decrease of about 59% in the use of illegal drugs in the United States.
2. During the same period there was a 12,000% increase in government spending in enforcing laws related to illegal drugs.
3. Violent crime increased by 100% during this period.
4. There was a decrease in the use of alcoholic beverages of 7% and that of tobacco of 50% during this period.
5. In 1993 the annual amounts spent in promoting alcohol consumption was $880 million, and for tobacco $6 billion. In that same year $25 million were spent in anti-abuse campaigns against alcohol, and $120 million in anti-smoking efforts. The anti-drug campaign by the Federal government was $1.59 billion in 1994.
6. The combined annual cost to society of alcohol and tobacco abuse ($383 billion ) is 2.29 times the total cost of drug abuse ($167 billion).
Drug Use Comparison
Comparison of Advertising Campaigns Promoting Use vs. Anti-Abuse (in billion dollars)
Federal Government Spending/Drug User - Ratio (1994)
What conclusion do these statistics suggest regarding illegal drugs? Has the war on drugs been a success? Is the present strategy cost effective? Does the present treatment of legal drugs tell us anything that might be of help in terms of strategy to deal with the use of illegal drugs?
The challenge to devising a rational drug policy is to find least-cost solutions to the problems created by the age-old fact that some human beings take more of various mind-altering substances than is good for them (or their neighbors), and by the modern fact that the amount and variety of available psychoactives is rapidly increasing. Implicit in both the status quo and legalization views, as well as the many combinations in between, are cost/benefit calculations in which each side argues that the costs outweigh the benefits.
A superficial overview of the facts and statistics that I have quoted leads me to conclude that the tremendous investments made by the government in law enforcement efforts in the war on drugs have resulted in rather modest gains when compared to the relatively insignificant educational investments made by the government to discourage tobacco and alcohol use, and the reductions in use resulting therefrom. That would lead me to conclude that when it comes to reducing drug use the government gets more bang for the dollar from education than from enforcement. A second preliminary conclusion that I reach is that there appears to be some correlation; correlation, not necessarily causation; between increases in violent crime and more vigorous enforcement of prohibition. Lastly, I conclude that although there appear to be societal costs for tobacco and alcohol use of more than two times that of using illicit drugs, government spending related to the use of illegal drugs is twice that spent for tobacco and alcohol abuse. A parallel analogy is that although there are ten times more tobacco and alcohol users than users of illegal drugs, government spending on users of illegal drugs is twice the amount spent on tobacco and alcohol users.
II. MAINTAIN THE PRESENT POLICY OR ADOPT A NEW ONE? WEIGHING THE ARGUMENTS
One who takes up this topic walks into more than the mass of empirical data about usage, cost, and trends that I have just summarized. There is also a crossfire of arguments for maintaining the present policy and for adopting a fundamentally different policy. Those arguments not only see the empirical data differently; they also see different moral and legal dimensions to the debate over drug policy.
The current policy calls for attacking both the supply and the demand sides of the illegal drug equation. This policy has various, more specific elements: continued international enforcement, border interdiction, domestic efforts to reduce the available supply, attacks on the economic base of traffickers by criminalizing money laundering and by seizures, and various educational and rehabilitation programs. Not all proponents of the current policy favor all elements, or give each element equal weight.
There is similar disagreement among those who favor a fundamental shift in current policy, those, in other words, who advocate "legalization" or "decriminalization." These terms, although technically meaning different things have, in the heat of the debate, been used almost interchangeably. Some advocates of legalization want all psychoactive substances to be available to any willing buyer. However most would limit legal availability to adults, and apply the new policy to only some of the current illicit substances. "Legalization" is also used to describe the idea that addicts with established drug habits should have legal access through clinics. This is generally within what is meant by "decriminalization." Most advocates of "decriminalization" would keep distribution illegal, at least by private persons, but would end arrests of consumers.
Massachusetts attorney Richard Evans, a reform activist, places the alternatives to prohibition into three groups: decriminalization, limitation, and regulation and taxation. Under decriminalization, drugs would remain illegal but the possession would be treated like a minor traffic violation, with little or no loss of liberty and/or fines imposed on the possessor. The limitation models would make drugs legally available but within clearly defined limits as to which institutions and professions could distribute the drugs. This approach has also been called the "medicalization" model. Under the regulation and taxation proposals the controls would be similar to those presently applied to alcohol use. This latter model is the preferred solution of many knowledgeable commentators favoring legalization.
Despite these conflicting themes within the two basic positions, it is possible to delineate some basic questions. I see five:
1. Is the current policy capable of limiting drug use in a realistic way?
2. Which alternative imposes greater costs on society, permitting the use of drugs or prohibiting the use of drugs?
3. Does the current policy adequately promote education and treatment as well as law enforcement, and is there an adequate balance between these three courses of action?
4. What can we learn from the various attempts at drug legalization?
5. Is the current policy basically fair in its application?
I want to summarize the contrasting answers to these five basic areas and tell you how I come out, at least tentatively.
1. Is the current policy capable of limiting drug use in a realistic way?
Proponents of the current policy argue that the very fact that dangerous drugs are illegal is one of the most powerful deterrents to their use. They point to the reduction of 59.1% in overall drug use from 1979 to 1993 as proof. A comparison between the number of people that use illegal drugs with those that use alcohol and tobacco illustrates this point.
Opponents of the current policy may concede that it has reduced drug use, just as Prohibition reduced alcohol consumption, but they argue that the "war on drugs" initiative is cost ineffective when compared to the results achieved. An increase of 12,000% in the enforcement budget between 1973 and 1993 to achieve a 59% decrease in illegal drug use would appear to be highly cost ineffective, particularly when the modest amounts spent by the government in tobacco use education have apparently contributed to a 50% drop in the use of tobacco for that same period.
They argue further that, viewed from a broader perspective, the economic forces of supply and demand make it virtually impossible to control the drug trade in any realistic sense.
As to supply: Law enforcement officials readily acknowledge that they intercept only a small percentage of drug shipments from abroad. Attorney General Janet Reno said in 1993 that she has "always being struck" by a statement made by federal officials to a Dade County, Florida grand jury in 1983. At a time when stepped up federal efforts had managed to interdict only about 25% of the drugs entering the southwest United States, they said that 75% of the drugs entering would have to be cut off before interdiction was effective, a figure which they described as "economically prohibitive."
The problem is even worse. Even assuming that effective interdiction could be achieved as well as successful crop eradication in source countries, the resulting squeeze in the supply of drugs available to the U.S. consumer would be counterproductive. It would merely cause the price of illegal drugs to rise. As a result, addicts would have to commit more crimes to acquire the needed cash to pay for drugs at a higher price, and more criminals would have an incentive to enter the drug trade because the opportunity for higher profits would be greater. On this last point, it is estimated that $500 worth of heroin or cocaine in a source country brings a return of as much as $100,000 on the streets of most American cities. What other product permits for such a markup (20,000%), tax-free? Yet, it is the black market created by prohibition that allows it.
As to demand: It is pretty obvious to most observers that users of illegal drugs are de facto and morally the principal cause of our drug dilemma. In the United States alone there are one million regular cocaine users (once/week) and five million who regularly use marihuana. As the Salvadorian lawyer said to me, "If you weren't using it, we wouldn't be growing it and selling it to you." The need to emphasize demand reduction is recognized by many leading experts, although I have yet to see any proposal that takes into account the hard facts of real politics. The only places that I am aware of in which there is real, no-nonsense demand side enforcement against users are Malaysia and Singapore, as well as some Muslim countries. There, the possession of any amount of illegal drugs is a hanging offense. I do not favor such draconian measures, and regardless of my preferences, I do not see the political climate for such demand side enforcement, and for that reason I do not see much possibility for stemming the demand for illegal drugs in the United States by the use of prohibition tactics. Thus the tremendously lucrative black market, estimated at $150 billion a year in the United States alone, is likely to continue unabated. Incidentally, it is reported that marihuana is the number one cash crop in the United States.
It was precisely the political attitude against enforcing the drug prohibition laws against young people of nearly all ages and all social classes that brought about the decriminalization of marihuana in 11 states during the 1970's. An attorney involved in lobbying attempts to reduce the penalties for simple possession typically explained to the Utah state senate that: "These are your kids, after all." Another stated "that the courts would be reluctant to convict in marihuana possession cases since the marihuana problem was hitting middle-class families and Mormon youth." Although such tolerance is typically not exhibited towards minority users, particularly when "harder" drugs are involved, the fact is that we cannot prosecute and put all users in jail, even if we wanted to. Already more than one in forty American males between the ages of 14 and 34 are locked up.
One possible corollary to be gleaned from this scenario is that drug use, legal and illegal, is principally a health problem which is best dealt with not by driving it underground with prohibition tactics, but by having it out in the open to allow for treatment and education. Peter Reuter concludes that drops in marihuana use by high-school age users, particularly in the 1980's, are related more to changed perception of the health dangers of such use than to enforcement efforts. It is difficult to understand why illegal drug addiction should be treated differently from alcoholism or nicotine addiction: all are basically public health problems.
2. Which alternative imposes greater costs on society: permitting the use of drugs or prohibiting their use?
Proponents of the current policy argue that the harm caused by drugs is not restricted to the users. I believe they deal effectively with the so-called "libertarian" point of view that is espoused by at least a minority of respectable persons from diverse walks of life; people who say that criminal sanctions cannot, and should not, prohibit personal conduct which does no harm to others. It is not the business of government, they say, to protect people from themselves. An individual should be free to engage in the private use of drugs because the right to ingest substances is part of the right to self-determination.
For starters, I note that this alleged right to self-determination rests on a constitutional foundation yet undeclared. More important, however, drug use does cause harm to others. Proponents of the current policy point to such secondary effects as crime, accidents, and public nuisances. All those things have innocent victims quite apart from the users. Drug use also imposes various costs on society; the costs of lost productivity, and prenatal injuries. The annual external costs of cocaine and heroin use alone have been estimated at $24 billion.
Moreover, public opinion is overwhelming against legalization, and such action would not only be unpopular but would send the wrong message, particularly to the younger age groups.
Opponents of the current policy do not dispute these costs. They dispute that prohibition is the best way to reduce them. Legalization, they say, would eliminate the criminal entrepreneur and enterprise endemic to the illegal drug black market as well as most of the negative downstream effects related thereto.
Before comparing dollar costs, it is important to consider their argument that prohibition exacts its own toll on the very concept of a free society. One does not have to embrace the libertarian argument to see a moral contradiction in our current approach to drugs. Interestingly enough, Nobel prize economist Milton Friedman said that "The economic problem [of drug use] is strictly tertiary. It is a moral problem . . . What scares me is the notion of continuing on the path we're on now, which will destroy our free society." Opponents of the current policy note that very few people would today seriously argue in favor of the criminalization of tobacco or alcohol use. Nevertheless, opponents compare the 5,000 deaths directly attributed to the use of illicit drugs with over 570,000 annually directly caused by alcohol and tobacco use. In fact "[a]lcohol is the drug most associated with many forms of violence, including domestic violence." And the direct and indirect antisocial consequences of tobacco abuse are scientifically indisputable. What, we are asked, is the morality of prohibiting drug use but not the alcohol or tobacco use?
Whatever the moral argument, however, we also need to consider the social and economic costs of the current policy and ask whether the costs of an alternative policy would be as great. Opponents make these arguments.
First, they say, prohibition inflates the price of drugs, inviting new criminals to enter the trade; it reduces the number of police officers available to deal with violent crime; it fosters adulterated, even poisonous drugs; and it contributes significantly to the transmission of HIV.
Moreover, the black market underground economy created by prohibition allows a huge pool of economic power to be controlled and influenced by criminal elements. Competition for these funds is directly responsible for most of the so-called "drug-related violence." Prohibition provides a case history. The murder rate not only rose with the start of Prohibition, and remained high during its existence, but in fact declined for eleven consecutive years after it ended. Similarly, the rate of assaults with firearms rose during Prohibition but declined for ten consecutive years after repeal. Whatever violence is associated with the multi-billion dollar alcohol industry today as regards the production, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages, it is undeniably insignificant when compared to the violence that accompanied these activities during Prohibition.
The competitive or "turf" related drug violence is intrinsically related to prohibition and therefore it is logical to conclude that it would virtually disappear with the elimination of the drug black market. Economic compulsive crime, that is, crime that addicts do to finance an expensive habit, should also decline dramatically with the repeal of prohibition. That leaves so-called psychopharmacological crime, that is, crime induced primarily by the impact of the drug upon the body and emotions of the user. A study of this last group revealed that in only 7.5% of homicides involving any drugs was a psychopharmacological label justified, and even in these cases, the most common element was alcohol.
More people die every year as a result of the war against drugs than from what we call, generically, overdosing. Milton Friedman, an advocate of legalization has estimated that as many as 10,000 homicides a year are plausibly attributed to the drug war.
Because the sums of money generated by the illegal drug trade are so large, prohibition has placed tremendous economic power in the hands of organized crime. This economic power is the result of both the large amounts of drug generated money and the fact that there is an unregulated market of illegal products. This power allows the corruption not only of law enforcement officers, but also of all levels of public officials, and related politicians. The most salient example of this subversion is presently being witnessed in Colombia with its alleged election funds scandal, in which it is claimed that President Samper's election campaign was partially financed by the Cali drug cartel.
The current policy, say its opponents, creates general contempt for the law with more serious and permanent societal costs. Both federal and state laws prohibiting drug use are frequently violated with impunity by many citizens. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, "here in the United States, in every state -- in our cities, in our suburbs, in our rural communities . . . drugs are available to almost anyone who wants them. They could well have added to their list, "even in our jails," for it is an acknowledged fact that even in the allegedly secure environment of our prisons, illegal drug use is rampant.
Finally, opponents point to the resources that would be freed-up if we abandoned our current policy. In the area of crime prevention alone, 400,000 policemen as well as multi-billion dollars in federal and state law enforcement and penal expenditures would be available for treatment, education and "regular" criminal police work. Additionally, our court systems would be freed up to handle not only the non-drug criminal docket but the societally important civil docket as well.
Tax revenues from alcohol and tobacco amount to $38.82 billion yearly. I believe it is a fair assumption that the legalization of the drugs presently proscribed would allow their taxation in substantial amounts. Certainly the revenues from their taxation would be higher than at present. The precedent for reaping public funds from the wages of sin is certainly well-established. Additionally, the presently tax-free income profits derived from the sale of illegal drugs, would come into the mainstream of income taxation.
3. Does the current policy adequately promote education and treatment as well as law enforcement, and is there an adequate balance between these three courses of action?
There is almost unanimous agreement among independent observers that the apportionment of anti-drug funding is lopsided. Historically, about three-fourths of available funds have been earmarked for supply reduction (enforcement, interdiction and foreign assistance initiatives), with only one-fourth of the money being assigned to demand reduction (prevention and treatment).
Yet treatment is seven times more cost effective than prohibition. One dollar spent on treatment of an addict reduces the probability of continued addiction seven times more than one dollar spent on incarceration. Unfortunately, treatment for addicts is not now available for almost half of those who would benefit. Yet we are willing to build more and more jails in which to isolate drug users even though at one-seventh the cost of building and maintaining jail space, and of pursuing, detaining and prosecuting the drug user, we could subsidize effective medical care and psychological treatment.
Proponents of the current policy argue that the pharmacological effects of drug use generally support prohibiting their use. E. Leong Way provides a hierarchy of drugs according to their addictiveness and harm, placing cocaine and alcohol at the top, and marihuana and tobacco at the bottom. Avram Goldstein claims alcohol and tobacco are the greatest health problems, and that legalizing other substances will only create further problems. Dramatic examples of drug-related harm caused by cocaine and opiate use include toxic reactions, drug overdose deaths and the spread of AIDS among needle sharing addicts. Cocaine, which is an extremely potent central-nervous system stimulant, has the physical effects of increasing temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, all of which can cause serious bodily injury, including death. Heroin, is of course, highly addictive with all the concomitant problems that flow from such a condition.
Even as to marihuana, which many regard as having few if any serious health effects from marihuana, there has not been an opportunity for wide-scale study. There is, however, at least some credible evidence that marihuana causes lung damage. Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles have reported that the respiratory burden in smoke particulates and absorption of carbon monoxide from smoking just one "joint" is some four times greater than from smoking a single tobacco cigarette. They found that one "toke" of marihuana delivers three times more tar to the mouth and lungs than one puff of a filter-tipped cigarette, and that marihuana deposits four times more tar in the throat and lungs and increases carbon monoxide levels in the blood fourfold to fivefold. Aside from the health consequences of marihuana use, research by the Center for Psychological Studies in New York City, conducting research on the behavioral aspects of drug use, has led to the conclusion that the use of marihuana severely affects the social perceptions of heavy users.
Proponents also note that the pharmacological effects resulting from the use of most illegal drugs (I should say, alcohol as well) also increase the chance that users will become victims of crime.
Finally, although mandatory civil commitment is a controversial subject, there is considerable statistical evidence in support of this approach, because there is a definite correlation between length and intensity of treatment, and rehabilitative success.
Opponents of the current policy tend to emphasize the modest health risks associated with at least some drugs, particularly marihuana. Harvard's Lester Grinspoon, for example, has documented the alleged medical benefits of marihuana. Few opponents claim that all drugs are beneign. Most argue instead that the national effort to control their use should be fought as a public health war, with the government putting addicts into the public health system as it has done with alcohol and tobacco abuse. As previously stated prohibition has led to deaths through the use of adulterated drugs and is a principal cause of the spread of HIV virus, especially, as noted below, among African-Americans. Prostitution for drugs and "crack" babies are also direct consequences of prohibition.
4. What can we learn from the various attempts at drug legalization?
We should commence with the case of re-legalization of alcohol use in this country, i.e., the repeal of Prohibition.
Whatever its faults, proponents say, Prohibition showed that the law can reduce the use of dangerous substances. Prohibition reduced alcohol consumption by 30% to 50%, and led to a dramatic decline in both cirrhosis deaths and hospital admissions for alcohol related psychosis. According to John C. Lewis, a former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the repeal of Prohibition resulted in a huge increase in the use of alcohol. Data substantiate Lewis's claim: from 1916-1919, per capita consumption of alcohol for the drinking age population in the United States was 1.96 gallons. It dropped to 0.90 gallons during Prohibition and increased thereafter to 1.54 gallons between 1936-1941, to 2.43 gallons by 1989. To be sure, prohibition failed to eliminate drinking entirely, and it produced a black market, but we are told to use the lessons of the Prohibition era to refine the current policy rather than throw up our hands and hopelessly assume that history can only repeat itself.
Proponents also note that the annual societal cost of tobacco and alcohol is 2.3 times that of prohibited drugs. Furthermore, the ratio of the annual deaths is close to 500:5 as between the two groups. Legalization of alcohol and tobacco has thus had serious effects on society, and there is good reason to assume that the legalization of presently illegal drugs would follow the same road, nullifying any or most predicted benefits from such action.
Furthermore, say proponents, legalization would increase the supply of drugs, thus lowering their prices and putting them within the economic reach of more people. At least one observer claims that this increase will be mostly among children. Alcohol use since the end of Prohibition tends to support the conclusion that legalization will increase the use of drugs. This assertion also seems to be supported by the rate of use of tobacco (1:5) and alcohol (2:5) as well as the absolute number of users (46.3 and 105 million), which far outstrips that of prohibited drugs (1:25 and 11.5 million).
Proponents of the current policy regarding illegal drugs argue that legalization and decriminalization of drugs in other countries has failed to deal with the problems that substance abuse casues. Opponents of the current policy see these experiences in a more favorable light.
Probably the most frequently cited country in this regard is the Netherlands. Proponents of the current policy argue that the de facto decriminalization of soft drugs was more the result of the absence of policy, and belated adaptation to already existing circumstances, than of any rational, well-considered action. "Drug tourists" from Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and France flock to the Netherlands because of its permissive rules for soft drugs. By contrast, and cognizant as I am of the dangers inherent in making trans-national comparisons, I think it is fair to say that Dutch drug policy has generally been more successful than U.S. drug policy. Dutch drug policy has evolved in partial opposition to the internationally dominant ideology of prohibitionism. While fully in line with international control policies against wholesale drug trafficking, Dutch policy on drug use has sought de-escalation and normalization. Problematic drug use is accepted as an inevitable, but limited and manageable, social and public health problem of modern society. Harm reduction is the core concept; it is translated into extensive low level and non-conditional prescribing of methadone, social-medical assistance for drug users, large-scale free needle exchange programs, and the pragmatic acceptance of several "free zones" where the consumer drug market is left largely undisturbed.
The average age of heroin addicts in the Netherlands has been increasing for almost a decade. HIV rates among addicts are dramatically lower than in the United States. Police do not waste resources on non-disruptive drug users but focus on major dealers or petty dealers who create public nuisances. The decriminalized marihuana markets are regulated in a quasi-legal fashion far more effectively and inexpensively than in the United States. The level of use in the Netherlands is substantially lower than in countries waging a "war on drugs" including the United States, and until recently, Germany. Among Dutch youths 17-18 years old, only 17.7% used marihuana at least once in their lives, compared to 43.7% in the United States. In fact overall, only 4.6% of the Dutch have used marihuana at least once in the past month, compared to 16.7% in the United States.
A dramatic comparison of the results of the Dutch and American policies can be seen in comparing some statistical data between Amsterdam and Baltimore. Amsterdam, which has a population of about 700,000 had between 5,000 and 7,000 addicts, which yields a rate of between 714 and 1,000 hard-core drug users per 100,000 population. Baltimore, with approximately the same population at 737,000, had at least 45,000 addicts, or 6,105 addicts per 100,000 population. In 1991, Amsterdam reported 20 residents dead from causes related to drug use, as compared to 269 reported in Baltimore.
Those who would maintain the current policy, though, point to other countries as well. For example, they note, in 1963 Great Britain instituted a policy of medical prescriptions to heroin addicts, but discontinued the policy in 1983 due to a 100% increase in the numbers of addicts and an increase in the crime rate, which was partially attributed thereto. Others point to the Swiss experiment in a Zurich park, which created a drug use zone. There the number of drug addicts increased from a few hundred in 1987 to over 20,000 by early 1992, of which about 20% were foreigners. In closing this experiment the authorities claimed an unacceptable increase in use, violence, crime and health costs. For another example, Spain and Italy, which have legalized the use of cocaine and heroin, but not distribution, have the highest rates of both drug use and overdose of all European countries.
Finally, in at least one of the United States, Alaska, decriminalization of marihuana, which took place in 1975, was deemed to be a failure. Notwithstanding a reduction in the daily teenage marihuana use nationwide of 75% since 1978, in Alaska it increased to twice the national average. In 1990, Alaska voted to recriminalize the use of marihuana.
But opponents of our current policy have their own examples to cite. They point to the experience of the states that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marihuana for personal consumption in the 1970's. There was no increase in the level of marihuana use in these states. Indeed marihuana consumption declined in those states just as it did in states that retained criminal sanctions against marihuana. Similar results were experienced in the Netherlands, when marihuana consumption was decriminalized in 1976, and in the Australian state of South Australia, where that action was taken in 1985.
The success of these programs has depended at least partially on law enforcement support. Unfortunately, such support is unlikely in the United States because the bureaucratic side of the law enforcement establishment has substantial economic self-interest in a $14.1 billion pie. One could cynically conclude that, although for different reasons, this puts the law enforcement community and traffickers in the same boat as far as the present discussion goes, i.e., both groups are opposed to legalization.
5. Is the current policy basically fair in its application?
Proponents of the current policy argue that, whatever problems in the current system, any change will work to the greater disadvantage of the least fortunate in society. Legalization, they argue, will lower the price of drugs. Since drug use among the poor is more sensitive to price reduction, a proportionately higher increase of person in those groups will use drugs as a result of legalization. In other words, legalization will increase drug use most among the poor, and there is an obvious link in this country between being poor and being a racial minority. Thus the poor generally, and racial minorities in particular, will feel the heaviest brunt of drug use's physical harm to users, as well as the secondary costs of increased crime, accidents, and public nuisances.
Opponents of the current policy argue that it produces much more profound unfairness in society than any program of decriminalization or legalization would create.
First, prohibition's enforcement has had a devastating impact on the rights of the individual citizen. The control costs are seriously threatening the preservation of values that are central to our form of government. The war on drugs has contributed to the distortion of the Fourth Amendment wholly inconsistent with its basic purposes. Particularly in the areas of search and seizure, we have seen major changes in the law brought about by Congress' and the courts' zeal to support the enforcement of drug prohibition. I will not make a full laundry list, but courts have allowed the issuance of search warrants in drug cases based on anonymous tips, have put in jeopardy the attorney-client relationship through the forfeiture of fees, and have permitted the use of the grand jury to inquire into the attorney-client relationship. Some of the most egregious actions committed by the government have been in the area of forfeitures in which courts have allowed abuses which seriously undermine principles of legality and due process.
In the federal courts a regime established by Congress requiring the imposition of high mandatory minimum sentences and a series of non-discretionary sentencing guidelines have caused a substantial number of individual injustices. In my opinion the rule of law is debased by the imposition of disproportionate criminal sanctions.
As a judge, I am also struck by how much of the penalties for drug trafficking are imposed on others than those most culpable. For example, the importation and selling of drugs is controlled by one set of people, but it is implemented by quite another -- the so-called "mules," often poor people, conscripted to smuggle or sell drugs by powerful organizations. Depending on the preferences of the prosecutors, they are charged, tried, and convicted in what may be a futile attempt to reduce their numbers -- futile if, as I suspect, there is an inexhaustible supply of people willing to take a chance on drug dealing in order to make a little money. Although I would be the last to justify their commission of crimes for profit, the fact is that these people, who have little information to trade to the prosecutors, end up with heavy sentences, while in the scheme of things the "big fish," if caught at all, are able to work out deals with the government which may leave them with light sentences or even without any prosecution. This is something that goes beyond mere injustice in the inequality of treatment, it is essentially an immoral outcome which tarnishes our entire judicial system.
In leaving this point, let me add what may sound like an exaggeration, but for which I invite your considered ponderation. There are many cases in the history of humankind, some of recent vintage, in which citizens have been willing to give up their collective civil rights in the name of, and in exchange for, an illusory achievement of so-called law and order. Seen from one viewpoint, there undoubtedly was a large measure of law and order in Hitler's Germany or Trujillo's Dominican Republic. But in the long-run, the surrendering of fundamental principles in exchange for temporary peace has proven to be short-sighted. I do not say we have yet reached such a crossroads, but I do say to you that I detect considerable public apathy regarding the upholding of rights which have been cherished since this land became a constitutional Republic, when it comes to those accused of drug violations. Now I will grant you that people that sell drugs to children and the like are not very nice people, and I do not stand here or anywhere in defense of such heinous conduct. However, we must remember that we do not, and cannot, have one constitution for the good guys and another for the bad ones. Whenever we relax our fundamental standards to catch the latter, the net may have been stretched wide enough to include the former at some future date. I believe it is too high a price to pay, particularly in an attempt to patch the holes of an enforcement system that simply is not even working well.
Opponents also argue that the war on drugs has had a lopsided impact on minorities. The drug war has been a war in which non-whites are arrested and imprisoned at four to five times the rate of whites, even though most drug crimes are committed by whites. The racial impact of prohibition is further seen when one considers that one in three African-American males are imprisoned or under penal supervision for drug offenses.
To these statistics we should add that seventy-three thousand African-Americans have drug related AIDS or have died from it and that among people who inject drugs, African-Americans are about five times as likely as whites to be diagnosed with AIDS. In fact, for African-Americans the risk of getting AIDS is seven times greater than the risk of dying from an overdose. At the very least legalization of drugs would eliminate or greatly reduce multiple-needle use, the principle cause of AIDS infection among African-Americans.
III. TENTATIVE CONCLUSIONS
In the end, we must remember that no important ideological battle has been won solely because one side has better statistics than the other. Moreover, there are limits to our prudent reliance on statistics. What the hard sciences, and what the social sciences, proclaim as true in one age often turn out to be untrue based on further research. And thus we discard the policies based on those proclamations, only to find that additional research removes the scientific underpinnings for the new policies. Keep in mind, for example, that our society generally indulged alcohol consumption until fairly recently. Then the conventional medical wisdom began to counsel total abstinence, only to proclaim, even more recently, the benefits of moderate consumption, at least of red wine, in avoiding heart attacks. And before the Surgeon General's 1964 report on cigarettes, many authorities touted smoking's benefit as helpful to relieving stress. Not too long ago, sociologists and criminologists had great faith that many criminals could be rehabilitated and thus Congress provided very few restrictions on the criminal sentences judges could impose, in order to let parole authorities determine when inmates should be released. In the last 15 years, that whole model has been discarded.
The current policy regarding illegal drugs has apparently been set in stone by Congress without any intention of engaging in any further assessment of the issues raised by prohibition. Thus in 1988 we were told in § 5011 of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act that:
The Congress finds that legalization of illegal drugs, on the Federal or state level, is an unconscionable surrender in a war in which, for the future of our country and the lives of our children, there can be no substitute for total victory.
This rhetoric was followed by a proclamation in § 5252-B to the effect that:
It is the declared policy of the United States to create a Drug-Free America by 1995.
No one seems to have noticed the passing of this deadline without its inflexible goal being even approximated, much less reached.
We must avoid the comfortable assumption that if only we can gather and analyze enough data, we will find the solution to our problems. Empirical evidence sheds important light on whether the present policies are de facto ineffective, but it will take more than empirical evidence for the people of this country to decide whether current policies are inconsistent with the principles of a democratic society and whether our democratic society is capable of assessing the profound policy problems that face it.
There are several difficult questions that are not readily answered by most proponents of legalization or criminalization, but which obviously are relevant to the problem. A non-exhaustive list includes: What forms of governmental regulation, if any, are appropriate instead of prohibition? To what degree, if any, should private distribution of drugs be permitted? As to importation, what controls are appropriate? Is a regulatory regime similar to one now used to control alcoholic beverages appropriate for all drugs? How should a new regulatory regime treat children, adolescents or pregnant women? What kinds of prevention and treatment programs should there be and how should they be funded? Much has to be considered and more answers should be available. Unfortunately, much of the public discussion of these issues has been shrouded in semi-hysteria not unlike the hysteria engendered by the McCarthy senatorial investigations about national security of the 1950s.
I believe that Judge Martin Haines' perceptive comments in an article in the New Jersey Law Journal are apropos:
[The] decades-long indoctrination of the public in the need for a drug war as the only solution to the very serious problem of drugs has had serious consequences. It has prevented the consideration of any clearly necessary, intelligent alternative to a war that has not worked. Few public officials dare to advance alternatives. Doing so threatens the loss of the next election, or the next appointment.
Based upon my experience as a judge and the relevant authorities that are quoted herein, the following are my tentative conclusions:
1. There is a mountain of conflicting evidence and views about the course to be taken. This demonstrates the imperative need for an objective multidisciplinary study to independently assess the facts, and recommend courses of conduct to be followed. This study should be carried out by a commission that is bipartisan, is appointed jointly by Congress and the Executive, and is composed of persons of unquestioned prestige. (Needless to say, this presidential election year is not the time for any such inquiry.) As part of this process there must be a truly national debate about this subject to create conscience and consensus about these problems. Most important, there is a need to keep an open mind about these issues. Lastly, we must act upon the recommendations made by such a body. Our political leadership needs the courage to let the chips fall where they may and to deal with them once fallen. A national referendum by secret ballot might be an appropriate way of determining the issue of decriminalization.
2. There is a need for pilot tests of some types of limited decriminalization, probably commencing with marijuana, and obviously not including minors. Any such tests should be sensitive that in treating people differently, even for test purposes, that their rights to due process and equal protection are not sacrificed.
3. Chronic abuse of illegal drugs should be treated in a fashion similar to other chronic diseases, like alcoholism, and countermeasures appropriate to such health problems should be implemented to a fuller extent.
4. Pending the definitive study proposed, there should be a shift in the funding of enforcement efforts toward an intense educational campaign at all levels. The availability of funds to escalate treatment levels aimed at rehabilitation should also be greatly increased.
Two balloonists drifting over Maine came upon a farmer digging potatoes. They called down, asking him where they were, but the farmer appeared not to notice them and continued digging. They insisted, "Hey you, where be we?" Without missing a stroke or looking up, the farmer answered, "In a balloon, you damned fools!" Are we in a balloon, floating in a dream above reality, without a notion as to where we are or where we are going?
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