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Jacob Hornberger, Future of Freedom
Published: 12 November 2008

The war on drugs can claim three more major victories. No, I'm not referring to how U.S. officials have busted another drug lord or made another record drug bust. We're all accustomed to those types of "triumphs" after 35 years of drug warfare.
I'm referring to the drug busts of the O'Neal family. The actor Ryan O'Neal, his son Redmond, and his daughter Tatum have all been busted for illegal possession of drugs during the past several months.
Don't you feel safer already? Don't you feel like celebrating this giant victory in the war on drugs? Given this monumental triumph, I wonder whether the drug war can now be ended.
One cannot help but feel sorry for this family, not only because of their drug problems but also because of their drug-war problems.
At the age of 10, Tatum O'Neal won an Oscar for her performance in "Paper Moon." She later became addicted to cocaine and heroin and has struggled with her addiction ever since. In a memoir written in 2004, she described how she had triumphed over her drug addiction. Yet, last summer she was caught by New York cops with two bags of cocaine in her possession.
Last month, Los Angeles cops arrested and charged Ryan and Redmond with illegal possession of methamphetamine. Both have been charged with felony possession, which carries a possible sentence of three years in prison.
The O'Neal arrests should cause every American to confront two central points in the war on drugs.
The first point: The O'Neals' drug problems are none of the government's business. It's their business and their business alone.
Sure, if Tatum had gone out and shot someone, or killed someone while driving while intoxicated, or robbed someone, the state would have a legitimate cause for arresting and prosecuting her.
But all she did was purchase some cocaine. Why isn't that her personal business? Why is that the business of politicians and bureaucrats?
The second point: While drugs have destroyed lots of lives, so has the drug war, with no collateral benefits. This destructive war has been going on for more than 30 years. All that it has to show for itself is ever-increasing violence, corruption, government spending, and infringements on privacy and liberty. And there's no end in sight. The drug war just keeps going and going and going.
And all for what? Just to engage in an endless series of drug busts, prosecutions, and punishments whose claim to fame is the ruination of people's lives. The drug war is nothing but a total waste of time, resources, and energy.
Tatum O'Neal is lucky. She was allowed to plead out to "disorderly conduct" and allowed to return to rehabilitation. The plea agreement is an implicit acknowledgement that she didn't deserve to be punished for her possession of drugs. It's unlikely that her father and brother will serve any time either.
There are thousands of less fortunate people who are not accorded the same nice treatment when they're caught with drugs. They're sitting in penitentiaries all across the land.
Hasn't drug-war interventionism gone on long enough? Hasn't it done enough damage? Must we really permit this government program to go on forever no matter how much it fails and no matter how much damage it causes?
It's time for the state to get out of the drug-enforcement business. It's time for the state to leave the O'Neal family and everyone else who's ingesting drugs alone. It's time for the American people to demand an end to this immoral and destructive government program.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org).

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