This morning I read “Radical Russ’s” article on theweedblog.com urging ‘marijuana legalizers’ to vote “pragmatically” with a mixture of dismay and resignation. Resignation because, as someone who spent twenty years involved in national politics, I’ve seen this well oiled canard before. Dismay because, by following Radical Russ’s suggestion, the entire anti-war on drugs movement guarantees the status quo.
For those who don’t want to take the time to read the article, I can sum it up for you in one sentence: Vote for Obama because Romney would be worse, and there are no viable third party alternatives who can win.
The problem with his argument is that there’s just enough truth in it to to be dangerous, which is why he, and a good many other people, continue to drink the ‘don’t throw your vote away’ cool aid. Yes, as things stand today, either Obama or Romney will be elected in November. The apparatchik of the two major parties spare no energy in ensuring that their spin machines churn out a constant stream of ‘don’t throw your vote away’ propaganda every presidential election cycle. And the bigger the third party threat, the bigger the propaganda machine is guaranteed to be, aided and abetted by the MSM’s favorite political talking heads, all of whom are in one political camp or the other. Then, of course, there is the deck stacking that makes it very hard for any third party to challenge the cigar smoking titans of the big two. Right down to, and including, the fact that a third party candidate isn’t even allowed onto the debate stage unless they have “at least 15% support in five national polls as of the date of determination. A rule only valid because of the tremendous pressure the two parties bring to bear on the MSM outlets that broadcast the debates. Opinions that might prove more popular than the apparatchik’s approved party message(s) might dilute their power base, you understand. And while the two parties don’t agree on much, one thing they can agree on is that they don’t want to lose their power base.
But just because the MSM and the apparatchik of the two parties have well oiled propaganda machines doesn’t make their propaganda true. What makes it true are people like Radical Russ and millions of others believing it, acting on it, and mindlessly repeating it. Try this thought exercise: Open your wallet (or purse) and take out a bill. It may be a $1, a $5, a $20, whatever. Now ask yourself this: Why is it worth what it says it’s worth? What, exactly, makes that piece of paper worth more than its value in btus of heat if you burned it?
The answer? Because you, and everyone else on this planet, believe it to be worth what the face value says it’s worth and act accordingly. That’s it. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, backing the dollars in your pocket except the widely held belief that Ben Bernanki can make good on his promise that a $20 bill is really worth $20 in goods and services. Likewise, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, guaranteeing that the Republican or the Democrat will be elected save that the majority of those going to the polls on election day believe that to vote for the Green Party, or the Libertarian Party, or the Communist Party candidate they really believe in would be the same as ‘throwing their vote away.’ So they hold their nose, vote ‘pragmatically,’ and then spend the next four years wondering why nothing has changed.
But the day that Americans quit believing the apparatchik propaganda, that truth will no longer be true. The day even a single voting block goes to the polls and votes their heart rather than ‘pragmatically’, all bets are off on just who will make it to the White House.
But that’s not today, you say, and you’re probably right. So, until such time as a majority of Americans do quit believing the propaganda, Radical Russ is right, I need to vote ‘pragmatically’ rather than my heart, right?
Glad you brought that up. Let’s look at that with a clear eye, shall we?
As things stand right now, no national candidate in modern history has every paid a political price for being “tough on crime”—which amongst other things means supporting the War On Drugs. But plenty of national politicians have been crucified for being “soft on crime.” Translation: To date, there has been absolutely no political cost for having locked up and ruined the lives of 2.5 million Americans for drug crimes (just in the last three and a half years). And until there is a political cost, nothing is going to change that political calculus for Obama, Romney, or any other national politican. I’m sorry to burst the bubble of the marijuana legalization warriors out there, but from Obama/Romney’s perspective, marijuana legalization, and even the whole War On Drugs, is a minor issue that can only hurt them, never help them.
There is a myth, promulgated by those of us who have and do work in the political world, and the media, that politicians are leaders. Think about it: How many times have you heard some reporter or lobbyist say something like “our political leaders” blah, blah, blah? But the truth is, democratically elected politicians are not leaders, they’re followers. To survive, they have to be able to read the public mood and flow with it, or they’re out of a job. Any politician who has a real spine and real beliefs for which s/he’s willing to fight will, despite what pollsters and the media tell us about ourselves, quickly find themselves back in private life. Democracies don’t want politicians who fight for their beliefs. They want politicians who fight for our, i.e. the electorate’s, beliefs.
And that dear reader, is why voting your heart, your conscious, even if, and perhaps especially if, the candidate of your heart is in a third party, is so important: It causes political pain! Okay, so maybe you can’t prevent Obama/Romney from being elected this time. But you can dis-empower him! A president who wins with only 40% of the vote has no mandate, no political capital. And the only real power a president has is that granted him by the majority of the people. No majority, no mandate, no political captial to do anything meaningful. It’s W. again—hopefully minus 9/11. Had we not been attacked, Bush would have been nothing more than a placeholder until the next election; a footnote in history.
Imagine an Obama/Romney with no power because the third parties sucked up almost as many votes as did they! Imagine a Congress so polarized by the insertion of real, third party coalitions that it’s even more dysfunctional than it is today. Sound scary? Maybe. But change is always scary, and there is so much to gain!
If enough anti-drug war warriors vote their conscience rather than ‘pragmatically’ as Radical Russ wants you to; if the third parties get enough votes to crack open the monopoly of the two major parties, if even only a little, then—then my friends, the game is on! Then we will finally be heard; we will no longer be able to be ignored by the entrenched plutocratic corpratocracy.
So go out and vote! Vote your heart; vote your conscious; vote for change; refuse to settle! For, as Thomas Jefferson once said: “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
Right now I am so disgusted I’m almost incapable of writing. So instead let me quote from the article I link to below. That will give you a taste of this unconscionable act of Government sponsored and funded police state violence.
If you think you understand how law enforcement operates; if you think it’s anything like those famous police shows like NYPD Blue or CSI, I hope this article opens your eyes a bit. It certainly did mine! What ordinary cops are doing to American Citizens is so reminiscent of the terror tactics of Nazi Germany’s SS or the Soviet KGB it’s horrifying. All thanks to Federal money, given to law enforcement departments who meet certain quotas in prosecuting the “War on Drugs.”
So without further ado, here it is. After a violent assault that hospitalized her, and that this young woman could not get the Chicago Police Department to investigate, this happened:
Shaver, her then-boyfriend and a roommate were in the apartment with her four dogs when the door flew open with the crash of a battering ram. “I thought we were being robbed,” Shaver recalled. “It wasn’t clear to us that they were cops at all. I had a flashback to my attack. I was just terrified. I peed myself. I had peed myself, and I was shaking, trying to gather my dogs while they were pointing these guns at me — these huge guns that could blow me apart. My Vizsla mix ran off, and I was afraid they were going to shoot it. I asked if I could get it, and they said ‘We don’t give a fuck about your dog.'”According to the search warrant, the police were searching for Nate. Shaver said they looked through Nate’s belongings gathered on the couch and found about $900 and a sandwich bag filed with marijuana. They didn’t leave a receipt for what they took.“They were going through his mail,” she said. “They tried to say he was my brother. They kept looking for some way to say he had always lived here. He had mail here, but it was mail he brought from his old place. It all had his old address on it.”Shaver’s boyfriend and roommate were handcuffed. Shaver started to panic. She told the police about her prior assault, and asked if she could take some anti-anxiety medication and change her clothes. They refused.“There were 20 to 25 cops in my apartment now. Some of them were in street clothes. Some of them were in SWAT clothes with face masks. They told me I wasn’t allowed to move. I wasn’t even certain they were police until about two hours later, when a uniformed cop showed up with the warrant,” she recalled.Shaver says she heard laughter from her bathroom and bedroom. “They went to my bathroom and started going through all of my medication, laughing about how messed up I was,” she said. “I also have a ‘lady drawer,’ where I keep sex toys and some sex-related gag gifts friends have given me.” Shaver said that when the cops finally left, they had left her place a shambles. When she looked in her bedroom, the police had emptied the drawer and laid all of her sex toys out on her bed.The raid ruined the door to Shaver’s apartment and she has since been evicted. She filed a complaint with Chicago PD, but never heard back. When she attempted to get a copy of the affidavit for the search warrant to see what probable cause they had for such a violent raid, she was told that since she was not the target of the raid, she is not allowed to see the affidavit. As for “Nate,” authorities have yet to issue a warrant for his arrest.
You know, while it’s certainly the job of columnists to give us their opinion on things, I take exception when they start making up facts to suit their opinion. Especially when that columnist is a veteran who writes for a national paper. But this morning I endured just such a column by George Skelton, of the Captial Journal, in the Los Angeles Times. Skelton takes issue with the California Medial Association’s (CMA) legalization stance (also published in the Los Angeles Times). According to the Times, The CMA believes that:
It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for.
Skelton quotes the CMA as saying:
We need to regulate cannabis so that we know what we’re recommending to our patients. Currently, medical and recreational cannabis have no mandatory labeling standards of concentration or purity. First we’ve got to legalize it so that we can properly study and regulate it.
Which of course, Skelton also takes issue with by asking: “Whatever happened to studying a drug first to determine its benefits and risks, then deciding whether it’s safe enough to legalize?”
If Mr. Skelton knew what he was talking about, he’d know why that can’t be done. It’s been tried! As of August, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will only allow the National Centers for Drug Abuse to study the drug. For what? How to treat abuse, of course. Professor Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts has been trying to get permission to study the plant for nine years, according to this New York Times article.
But the Drug Enforcement Administration—more concerned about abuse than potential benefits—has refused, even after the agency’s own administrative law judge ruled in 2007 that Dr. Craker’s application should be approved, and even after Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in March ended the Bush administration’s policy of raiding dispensers of medical marijuana that comply with state laws.
Which, as this Santa Cruz Patch article explains, has led the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to take the DEA to federal court for upholding a monopoly on research marijuana, and for blocking research into the medical efficacy of marijuana.
Another fact Mr. Skelton overlooked is that the Federal Government itself has conducted research into the medical efficacy of marijuana. Called the Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program, it began back in 1978. Some say there were originally as many as thirty four subjects in the study, this website shows eight. In May of 2008 the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) issued a press release that stated:
The federal medical marijuana program—referred to as a Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program—resulted from a lawsuit filed by glaucoma patient Robert Randall, who successfully showed that his use of marijuana was a medical necessity.
The program slowly grew for over a dozen years. In the wake of a flood of new applications from patients battling AIDS—who found that marijuana boosted their appetites and relieved the nausea often caused by anti-HIV drugs—the George H.W. Bush administration closed it to new applicants in March 1992, but continued supplying federal marijuana to those already receiving it. Four of those patients survive today.
The Federal Government also holds patents on marijuana for medical use. The abstract for US Patent Number 6630507, which is held by the U.S. Government states:
Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention. A particular disclosed class of cannabinoids useful as neuroprotective antioxidants is formula (I) wherein the R group is independently selected from the group consisting of H, CH3, and COCH3.
So on the one hand, the U.S. Government insists that there is no known medical use of marijuana, and blocks research for anything but treatment of addiction, while on the other it holds a patent precisely because its own study found the drug to be efficacious in the treatment of certain medical conditions. Had Mr. Skelton been interested in the facts of marijuana, rather than trying to support his beliefs, he might have discovered this information himself, and asked why the Federal Government continues to deny requests to reclassify marijuana so that research can continue in an independent way, without the obvious conflicts of interest present inside the Federal Government.
Mr. Skelton also scathingly snarks: “What raised my eyebrows was a repeat of the old canard about how locking up stoners eats up too much tax money.” […] “Fewer than 1% of the inmates have been sentenced for marijuana or hashish crimes of any sort, according to state prison data.” Perhaps, but consider this. In a presentation to the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2010, Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance opened with a couple of disturbing statistics.
The United States now ranks first in the world in per captia incarceration rates, with less than 5% of the world’s population but nearly 25% of the world’s prison population. Roughly 500,000 people are behind bars tonight for a drug violation.
Police made 1.7 million arrests in 2008 alone, including 750,000 for nothing more than possession of marijuana for personal use. [pg. 2]
A White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske quote from this LEAP document, entitled ‘Ending the Drug War: A Dream Deferred,’ sums things up beautifully:
“I understand, from firsthand experience as a police officer and police chief, that we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of a problem this complex, and that a ‘War on Drugs’ mentality is too simplistic an approach to be effective.”
Fortunately, Mr. Skelton’s antiquated and unsupported point of view are on the wane. In a poll published last week, Reuters announced that half of Americans now support full legalization of marijuana, Last year a gallop poll showed that 70% approve of legalization for medical use. The only question is, how long will it take lawmakers, who must answer to bureaucracies terrified of having their budgets cut, to answer to their constituents rather than those agencies?
So, yesterday the San Francisco Chronicle published a PRWEB press release about “[Chris] Van Hook, an attorney well-versed in medical marijuana law and the founder of the Clean Green Certified inspection program,” who is helping California Counties “ensure that local medical marijuana growers and dispensaries are operating in accordance with state and local laws.” Van Hook is apparently running around to different counties encouraging them to implement a marijuana inspection program similar to the USDA National Organic Program. He’s encouraging “vendors who supply local collectives” (i.e. growers) to be forced to purchase business licenses and to be certified by his new inspection agency. His new inspection agency would be required, of course, to work under the direct supervision of an attorney. (He’s a lawyer. What else would you expect?)
Now, setting aside the dubious assumption that the only way for an industry to be considered legitimate and legal is for it to be heavily regulated for a moment, the first thing that struck me was: Wait a minute! It’s (more or less) illegal to grow cannabis for sale in California. If this guy is as experienced as the press release claims, he should know that virtually every medical marijuana case that comes before the courts pivots around the question of whether the individual whose liberties have been deprived was growing/carrying/and or possessing enough marijuana ‘for personal use’. Just a couple of months ago there was a rather ridiculous case in Modesto where the accused, who held both a verified medical marijuana card and a doctors order, was arrested because the quantity of processed marijuana s/he possessed was considered too small and was therefore inconsistent with the growing operation found at the residence. Therefore, the cops asserted, s/he was growing ‘with the intent to sell’—the standard umbrella charge.
Right now, growing marijuana is legal in California ‘for personal use’—though what amount constitutes enough for personal use is dubious, even with a doctor’s order. Never-the-less, the courts have refused to allow an affirmative defense. If the cops decide whatever amount you have on you (over the clearly stated half-pound allowed under State Law) is too much for your personal use, or now apparently to little, they can arrest you. Then you’ll have drain your bank account to prove your medical use case in court. Right now, cannabis clubs and dispensaries are nominally legal as they are covered somewhat thinly by the State Attorney General’s guidance on the matter, though the courts maintain they flatly refuse to be bound by the AG’s guidelines. The only part of the puzzle that remains seriously gray under California’s current crazy quilt of medical marijuana laws is the very part on which Van Hook is running around advising local governments: The supply of medicine by growers to dispensaries. And given the current legal situation, his advice to local governments seems crazy!
Is Van Hook seriously suggesting that California Counties put themselves on the hook for inspecting an agricultural product that it is essentially illegal to market under State law and blatantly illegal under Federal law? Is Van Hook suggesting that counties, some of which are totally dependent upon their marijuana growers for their financial survival, force their growers out into the open by mandating business licenses and agricultural inspections of their operations? (Come on in, DEA. You’re welcome!) And even after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich, is Van Hook seriously suggesting the State of California take on the Federal Government over the issue?
I seriously hope it’s none of the above. Hopefully Van Hook is merely preparing California Counties for the time when marijuana is fully legal, but (unfortunately heavily) regulated. Such a time is coming, but it may be a few years off. First, California voters will have to approve State legalization via the coming 2012 ballot initiative. Second, the Frank/Paul bill will have to pass and become law, removing Federal criminalization and returning control of the drug to the states (where all drug enforcement properly belongs). But that may be even further down the road. Congress is extremely distracted by the bright shiny issues that attract media attention, and is likely to stay so through the coming election cycle. So unless Federal decriminalization suddenly becomes a darling of the national media (and if it does, there’s a 50/50 chance it will be cast in a negative light, rather than a positive one), don’t look for the bill to gain enough traction to fly through Congress on wings. Too, the DEA is unlikely to let funding for its ‘war on drugs,’ of which marijuana is a major part, go without a fight. So push back by the agency will be hard and harsh; the will of the people be damned.
In the mean time, Van Hook needs to be very very careful about what actions he advises his clients to take—and when.
A bill co-authored by Representatives Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas) to be introduced tomorrow (June 23, 2011) would end the long standing Federal prohibition on Marijuana cultivation and use, returning control to the States, according to a breaking news story just out in the San Jose Mercury news. The bill’s co-sponsors are John Conyers (D-Mich.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Barbara Lee (D-Oakland).
“The human cost of the failed drug war has been enormous -egregious racial disparities, shattered families, poverty, public health crises, prohibition-related violence, and the erosion of civil liberties. And of course the cost in dollars and cents has been staggering as well – over a trillion dollars spent to incarcerate tens of millions of young people,” Lee said Wednesday. “I co-sponsored this bipartisan legislation because I believe it is time to turn the page from this failed drug war.”
You can read the original article here.
WASHINGTON – June 17, 2011 is the 40th anniversary of America’s War on Drugs. Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle issued the following statement today:
“On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a ‘War on Drugs,’ which has become a relentless violation of the lives and property of Americans, including many who have never taken illegal drugs. These violations continue under President Barack Obama, an admitted former cocaine user who has shown no hesitation in throwing people into prison — a punishment he might have suffered had he been caught. Moreover, although promising to respect medical marijuana use in states where voters have approved it, the Obama administration has already conducted close to 100 raids on patients, growers, and compassion centers in those states.
“America’s first experiment in prohibition involved alcohol, and is widely recognized as a failure. Approved in 1919, Prohibition I led to a steady rise in both alcohol usage and violent crime. The murder rate rose 50% between 1919 and 1933, peaking at 9.7 murders per 100,000 population in 1933, when the country finally decided enough was enough. Immediately after the repeal of Prohibition I, gangsterism went into a swift decline, with all of the major gangs disappearing within 18 months, and the murder rate dropping every single year for more than a decade.
“Prohibition II — the War on Drugs — has been another tragedy. We applaud the efforts of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of current and former police, prosecutors, judges, DEA agents, and others, which issued a 20-page report this month detailing the tragic results of this misguided crusade, entitled ‘Ending the Drug War: a Dream Deferred.’
“In their report, LEAP documented some of the measurable costs: over a million people arrested each year, a trillion dollars spent, and drug gangsterism at a level that dwarfs its alcohol equivalent and which has led to a bloodbath in Mexico that is spilling over into the United States. Not because of drugs, but because of drug laws. And over 120 million Americans have used illicit drugs: only the most deluded observer believes the laws have curbed drug abuse, and only the cruelest believes that 40% of the American population belongs in prison. No wonder 67% of police chiefs say the War on Drugs is a failure.
“Ultimately, of course, this tragedy is the result of our government’s refusal to allow people to engage in peaceful choices as to what they consume. Even if drug use were to rise upon a return to the American tradition of tolerance that existed before the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act, our streets would be safer, innocent people would not have their homes raided and pets killed by narcotics agents entering the wrong house, victims of asset forfeiture laws wouldn’t have their houses and other assets seized without due process, and resources would be freed to spend on improving peoples’ lives instead of destroying them.
“Ten years ago, Portugal decriminalized all drug use, including substances classified as hard drugs. As a Cato Report entitled ‘Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies’ showed, drug use dropped over the next several years and the Portuguese now use marijuana at lower levels than Americans use cocaine.
“It only took Americans 14 years to realize the insanity of Prohibition I. Both practical considerations and simple human decency demand that our government end Prohibition II now.”
Okay, so let me see if I’ve got this straight: We’ve been fighting the so called “War On Drugs” for forty years. Yet, despite the fact that we spend nearly $100 billion a year on this “war”; despite the fact that we now have the highest incarceration rate in the world (yes the world; that means more than North Korea, Vietnam, Iran, and so on), with 20% of the 2.5 million people serving time doing so for drug related offenses; and despite repeated studies by the RAND Corporation and the National Research Council dating back as far as 1986, and this last week the Global Commission on Drug Policy, all showing the inefficacy of drug interdiction and harsh punishments in reducing drug use… Despite all this, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy still insists that “Making drugs more available … will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe.” In other words, the “War On Drugs” must continue.
The question is, why?
It would be easy to, as many do, simply write it off as politics. There’s a lot of money being poured into many government agencies to “fight” this “war”, and government agencies watch their funding sources as closely as any mother hen her eggs. That’s undeniable. But it’s also only part of the story. Some actually believe that:
[Just because] the cost of engaging in a “drug war” is, in dollars and cents, a tremendous economic burden and, as a tool of public policy, of doubtful effect. That does not mean that because a government effort directed at solving a social evil is both costly and of little effect that it should be abandoned, but it does (or should) force us to conduct a very critical cost-benefit analysis as part of our decision-making process.
Ultimately, all of these points are component parts of the national public policy. The legitimate police power of the state, if you are a traditional, Blackstonian, common-law theorist, is that the civil government may not declare evil that which is good nor declare good that which is evil. Good and evil are determined by the revealed Word of God in the Holy Bible and Christianity is the expression of that revelation. —John A. Sterling
In other words, for those like Mr. Sterling, this is a Holy Crusade and efficacy is less important than doing (what these people believe to be) God’s Will.
Others claim that there is a direct correlation between the “War On Drugs” and drug use. Over on Opposing Views David Evans of the Drug Free Schools Coalition claims that:
The facts in the US provide for much optimism: drug control has reduced casual use, chronic use and addiction, and prevented others from starting to use drugs. Drug use in the US is down by more than a third since the late 1970s. This means that 9.5 million fewer people use illegal drugs and cocaine use has been reduced by an astounding 70% resulting in 4.1 million fewer people using cocaine.
This of course flies in the face of every major reputable study done in the U.S. (see above) and Europe and is a bit like President Obama’s statistically vacuous and oft repeated claim of how many jobs he has “created or saved.” There is simply no way to know how many people have opted not to use drugs directly and specifically because of the “War On Drugs” anymore than there is a way to know how many jobs were “saved” directly and specifically because of the Obama administration’s policies. The fact is, to quote from the Global Commission on Drug Policy:
Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers. Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use.
So let’s quit kidding ourselves, shall we?
Despite all interdiction efforts, marijuana is now “by far the largest cash crop in the United States,” according to data published by the USDA. In fact, it is “ …the top 3 cash [crop] in 30 states, and one of the top 5 cash crops in 39 states.” And somewhere between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 Americans (depending on who you believe) use marijuana either recreationally or medicinally, or both. It is now legal in 16 states and a phenomenal 80% of the public now approves of legalization for medical use, according to several major polls.
Clearly, while people aren’t interested in having their streets and towns invaded by drug gangs, or crack houses for neighbors, attitudes about drug use and what should be done about it are shifting, in this country and overseas. Tolerance for governments trying to pummel their people into submission on moral grounds as was attempted with the 18th Amendment (prohibition) is fading fast, and with it patience for treating victimless “offenders” the same as murders and rapists.
The irony here is that, this is a lesson that should have been learned centuries ago. In Utopia, one of the best read books in 16th Century Europe, Saint Sir Thomas More writes:
I must say, extreme justice is an extreme injury: for we ought not to approve of those terrible laws that make the smallest offences capital, nor of that opinion of the Stoics that makes all crimes equal; as if there were no difference to be made between the killing a man and the taking his purse, between which, if we examine things impartially, there is no likeness nor proportion.
If More’s first object in the discussion is to point out that the punishment should fit the crime, his second is that any punishment is a poor substitute for causal remedies. Incarcerating substance abusers doesn’t deal with their propensity for addiction. Branding the poor inner city kid who peddles dope as a trafficker for the rest of his life so he can’t get a job, can’t get funding for an education, and can’t get a drivers license to do any of those things anyway does little to encourage him to do anything but return to the street, embittered, wizened, and hardened. Insisting that a drug that almost as many people use like alcohol, think of as being no worse (and in some ways better) than alcohol, is equal to methamphetamine makes criminals of productive, law abiding citizens. It destroys careers and families; sucks the life out of local economies; and all to no positive effect.
And that’s a good summary of the “War On Drugs”. It has sucked trillions of dollars out of our economy. It has ruined millions of lives. And all to no positive effect that can be measured save through political dissembling or religious sophistry.