Saturday, August 23, 2008

A safer society? Legalize drugs

I would never criticize Mitt Romney for changing his mind about what the proper role of government is regarding abortion because I have changed my mind a couple of times over my lifetime. I also have changed my mind about how to deal with drugs.

"Thirty-five years into the “war on drugs”, the United States still has a huge drug abuse problem, with several million problem users of illicit drugs and about 15 million problem users of alcohol. Illicit drug-dealing industries take in about $50 billion per year. Much of the retail drug trade is flagrant, involving either open-air activity or identified, dedicated drug houses. Flagrant dealing creates violence and disorder, wrecking both the neighborhoods where it goes on and the lives of the dealers. Chronic heavy users of expensive illicit drugs steal and deal to finance their habits. Drug injection spreads HIV and hepatitis-C.

On top of all that, we have a highly intrusive and semi-militarized drug enforcement effort that is often only marginally constitutional and sometimes more than marginally indecent.11. That enforcement effort keeps about 500,000 Americans behind bars at any one time for drug law violations, about 25 percent of the total U.S. prison and jail population. A larger proportion of U.S. residents is doing time for drug law violations than is behind bars for all offenses put together in any country to which we’d like to be compared." The American Interest

It’s pretty obvious to many people that our war on drugs is a losing proposition. Prisons are full of drug offenders, but large areas of most cities are off-limits to all but those pursuing the drug trade as sellers and buyers. The amounts of money involved lead to carnage on our streets and corruption in our criminal justice system, while every day’s newspaper brings another story of innocent people murdered because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time or killed in a traffic accident by a druggie. The author of this article makes a good case for legalization; I agree with him as long as some of the savings go into enforcing public intoxication laws to keep druggies off the streets, and severe penalties are imposed for DUI’s.
A safer society? Legalize drugs

By Bill Fried | June 6, 2006 (Excerpts)

“Eddie is an addict and a seller. He feeds his addiction by stealing, often violently… He did prison time, where taxpayers fed and housed him and gave him a stigma that made it virtually impossible for him to re integrate into society upon his release. Except as a drug dealer.

He is part of an established food chain, an elaborate, international protection racket. To defend his turf -- maintain market share -- he joins an armed gang, as does his connection, as does the syndicate that supplies his connection, as do those who protect the producers.

At every stage, corruption and violence. Elements of the police and military look the other way. Selected judges and politicians look the other way. The great source of drug demand, the United States, hops into bed with drug runners to pursue its geopolitical aims. Billions of dollars slide around. Those who don't have their hands out have their hands tied. Those without connections get hounded and jailed….

His failure is defined as a personal one; his usage is defined as criminal. He may be arrested, put in expensive jails, and guarded. Meanwhile, politicians puff sanctimoniously about ``cleaning the streets" and ``ridding the projects of drug dealers."

But, in fact, we know that he'll be replaced, as will every corrupt person in the entire international supply chain. There will be inevitable ``personal" failings all up and down the line. The incentives and despair are too great.

But what if we step back and take a radical new look at this, what if we dive down to the epicenter and pull the plug from this dysfunctional vortex? What if we legalize and control the drugs in question: marijuana, heroin, cocaine, to name three? Clinics could dispense these drugs affordably, and some of the $69 billion that Law Enforcement Against Prohibition documents we spend on ``enforcement" and ``interdiction" could go to treatment , for which there is already unmet demand. For the kids, hip anti drug messages could parallel the successful anti-smoking campaign. In the absence of prohibition, drug use may actually decline among the young.

What will our society look like as we transform outlaws into clients?
There will be millions of people on drugs.

There are currently millions of people on drugs.

But there would be significantly fewer human tragedies; fewer broken lives and families; less crime on the street; fewer people in jail (especially minorities); less State Police and State Department corruption. We would live in a safer, gentler country.

Many drug addicts will be cured and live normal lives.

Many will never kick the addiction but will live mostly normal lives, like functioning alcoholics; holding down jobs, remaining in marriages, and raising children; a monkey on their back, but getting by.

And many will remain mired in drugs. They will consume drugs as the morbidly obese consume food -- until they self destruct. Even with legalization and control and all the support in the world. Some folks will simply fail, and their failure will be a small though intense tragedy. But it will be theirs and that of their families. Not ours. Not everyone's.”

For a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of drug use and the consequences of drug law enforcement in America go here.


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At 1:12 AM, Blogger brityank said...

Sorry to say, it will never happen. There are too many powerful interests that would be hit hard by any form of legalization/treatment. We used to have Cops -- "Protect and Defend". Now we have LEOs -- "Coerce and Oppress" -- Law ENFORCEMENT Officers. The entire Justice system is riddled with liars and conmen, promising protection of the public but delivering plea-bargained lies.

The WOD has been a boon to the Drug Corporations, SWAT teams, Military Hardware venders, the Private Prison Industry, Private Security firms, to say nothing of the Federal Alphabet Agencies, such as TSA, BATFE, ad nauseum.

Toss in the grifters of 'K'-Street and the offices and their inhabitants of the 535 Princely Potentates in DC, and you can understand why there is so much spent both for and against drugs.


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