Sunday, July 6, 2008

Can We Talk About Legalizing Drugs?

Just this last Wednesday, The New York Times ran an editorial titled Not Winning the War on Drugs. As editorials go, it was a very ordinary one that just about any liberal leaning editorial staff could crank out. If you open the link, you will find a position that says that we are not winning the War on Drugs and that we have to do more about the demand side instead of the supply side. Yawn.

But out of this, something extraordinary happened. The folks at the NYT gave its readers a chance to E-mail their comments on this editorial and have them all displayed on a message board. And did they ever! In a time frame of about 11 hours, 227 comments were collected and displayed until the NYT decided to no longer accept comments. But was really so extraordinary was the absolutely overwhelming number of these comments declaring the so called War on Drugs to be a farce that needs to be ended in favor of legalizing or at least decriminalizing drugs. I think this really shows how far we have come on this issue.

Admittedly, some of this can be explained by a NYT readership that is likely more liberal than most because of the paper’s editorial views. After all, it would be hard to believe that a just as many Wall Street Journal readers would be on the same side of this issue. But it wasn’t so long ago that legalizing drugs was just ‘crazy talk’ by some civil libertarians or potheads. And while this view of legalization has not yet found acceptance by the mainstream media or politicians, the increasing number of people who are speaking up against this ‘War’ is hard to dismiss.

All one has to do is to Google ‘War on Drugs’ to get a list of sites that appear to be predominantly negative on this issue. And there you will also find an article listed by 91 year old retired CBS news anchorman
Walter Cronkite “Telling the Truth About the War on Drugs”.

OK, so a bunch of liberal E-mail writers, a retired news anchor and even some noted conservative political commentators like William F. Buckley, Jr. and Milton Friedman have all come out for legalizing or decriminalizing drugs. But surely, we can rely on our law enforcement officials — those who have been on the front line in our War on Drugs and actually doing the drug busts — to reassure us that throwing more drug users in jail is going to make our country a better one. Or maybe not. Since 2002,
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition or LEAP has been speaking out against US drug enforcement methods that are putting more and more non-violent drug offenders behind bars in a futile attempt to arrest our way out of this mess.

Like many of my generation, I took a few puffs when the joint was passed around during parties way back when but have never had the desire to try anything else. It had nothing to do with it being illegal; it just wasn’t right for me. But since I don’t feel I have the right to impose my personal choices on others, I have long been one of those ‘crazy talk’ libertarians who have had a hard time understanding why drugs were even illegal for adults in the first place. So trying to convince me about legalizing drugs is essentially preaching to the choir.

But having said that, I ran across what I believe is one of the best and most comprehensive articles to present a case for drug legalization that may well be quite persuasive for all but the most hard-core social conservatives. The writer, Jack A. Cole, spent twelve years as an undercover narcotics officer and is undeniably qualified to offer an informed opinion on this issue. Although the PDF article in the link below has about 19 pages of text, I hope you will at least someday take the time to read this most informative and worthwhile article

[Since posting this, the PDF link has been removed. In its place, here is a YouTube video link to a presentation by Mr. Cole with the same title It's Not a War on Drugs - It's a War on People]

But I’d like to highlight some especially noteworthy passages from the original PDF article here:
…in the United States…people like me will not only arrest your sons and daughters for possessing so much as one joint but we will take away their driver’s licenses (even if the arrest occurred in their bedroom). That means if they live in rural America or the suburbs where there is no public transportation, they can no longer get to schools or hold gainful employment. If they reside in urban centers that have public transportation but happen to live in government-subsidized housing, we will not only throw them out of the house but their whole family will be evicted — and if they live with their grandparents, those old folks will also have to hit the street, because the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in 2003 that this kind of massive punishment is OK. It is OK, according to them, because, “We are fighting a war on drugs” and when you fight a war nearly anything is acceptable.

Also, thanks to the “zero tolerance” attitude fostered from years of prohibition, when this punished child finally gets free from the lockup and wants to better their condition by going back to school, the State tells him or her they can’t get a government educational grant or loan for that schooling. However, in another crazy paradox of fighting a war on drugs, if they were simply convicted of murder or rape there would be no problem for them. Just apply for it and the loan would be available.

More than a thousand people were arrested as a result of my undercover work. I can’t tell you how many of those young folks would have gone on to have a perfectly productive life had I not intervened but I am sure the number is huge. We have a saying at LEAP,
“You can get over an addiction, but you will never get over a conviction.” A conviction will track you every day of your life because it is on a computer. Every time you go to get a job it is hanging over your head like a big ugly cloud.
But the part of the War on Drugs that is the most mind-boggling for me is the claim by its adherents that they are successfully raising the price of drugs with the idea of making them less affordable. For one thing, most studies have determined that while some drugs like marijuana have become less affordable, they are often replaced by other more dangerous drugs that are harder to detect and can be produced more cheaply. But even if we were successful in making drugs less affordable, wouldn’t this likely drive addicts to steal from others to help maintain their drug habit?

I firmly believe that more and more people here in the US will begin to see the futility and harm in our present methods of drug enforcement. Perhaps the mainstream media will eventually come on board but for now, this issue is apparently still too politically incorrect for them to take a chance.

The same goes for our two major party presidential candidates. We can’t realistically expect an orthodox conservative like John McCain to sign on to such a liberal idea. But
it is disappointing to some that Barack Obama who has openly admitted to experimenting with marijuana and cocaine in his youth isn’t more outspoken about the harm that our present drug policy is inflicting on today’s youth — especially black youth in disproportionate numbers.

Hopefully we will someday get a president with the courage to admit the truth — that the War on Drugs has been an unmitigated disaster — and that it's time for all of us to seriously talk about legalizing or at least decriminalizing drugs here in the US.
We need to stop being blinded by ideology and for once look at results!

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