116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Gov. Kim Reynolds and fellow Republicans have been sounding the alarm about the threats seeping in from our southern border. Foreigners are bringing in drugs that could kill all of us, they warn. But what about our eastern and western borders?
Just beyond U.S. jurisdiction there is a massive volume of a deadly substance. A fraction of what’s out there is enough to kill everyone in the world. Worst of all, it’s not staying in San Francisco or New York City. This stuff can be found in every town in America.
You probably come into contact with this substance everyday and, naively, you don’t even consider the threat. It’s not a street drug or pharmaceutical. It’s two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen — also known as dihydrogen oxide. The ocean is full of more than enough to drown everyone who has ever been born on this planet.
This all probably sounds silly. It’s literally just water. But this is how Reynolds sounds when she talks about fentanyl smuggling.
It’s textbook drug war propaganda, a continuation of the “Reefer Madness” hysteria last century.
Fentanyl madness has been used by Reynolds and others as a justification for the tough-on-crime policies they favor, both at the border and in the rest of the country. It was one of the big reasons she sent state police to the Mexican border this year, although they did not report confiscating any fentanyl on their trip.
“We want to keep it there and not have it filter through to states throughout our country. We do have a role to play in trying to prevent that from coming into Iowa,” Reynolds said in Cedar Rapids last week.
To get to that figure, we have to make a couple big assumptions that turn out to be wrong. We have to assume 2 milligrams of fentanyl is always a lethal dose (it’s not) and that it could be perfectly administered by forcing every American to ingest it (it couldn’t).
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used both medically and illicitly. Like pretty much every other substance in the world, fentanyl is useful in certain quantities but too much of it potentially is hazardous. Those hazards invariably are overstated by drug prohibitionists.
Drug warriors in the last few years have pushed stories about how just being near fentanyl can knock people unconscious and possibly kill them. It’s textbook drug war propaganda, a continuation of the “Reefer Madness” hysteria last century.
Reynolds’ policy response rests squarely on border enforcement, ignoring everything we know about prohibition, supply and demand. Illicit fentanyl in many cases is a substitute for heroin or prescription opioids. Squeeze its supply and the market will find another alternative.
So, yeah, theoretically cops are confiscating enough drugs to kill every man, woman and child alive. In theory, we also have enough water to drown, enough heavy objects to crush, enough pillows to smother and enough bullets to put one through each of us. It doesn’t make for a very good public safety plan.
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