If Whitney Houston had died from the use of marijuana, politicians would have been screaming to enact even more vigorous anti-marijuana laws. Those who care about evidence know, however, that marijuana is an notably safe drug–it doesn’t cause people to die. Whitney Houston actually died after abusing alcohol, a drug that causes many people to die every year. Because it was alcohol rather than a scheduled substance, Americans treat it as a sad occurrence, without villainizing Houston. In modern-day America, despite the grave dangers of alcohol abuse, alcohol related deaths are given winks and nods by our politicians:
Because drinking is legal for adults, safe in moderation, the rightful font of epicurean reveries and the foundation of a multibillion-dollar industry with lobbyists galore, it gets something of a pass. . . . [H]eavy drinking is the third leading preventable cause of death in this country, after smoking and a combination of bad diet and inactivity. By conservative estimates, it’s directly related to about 80,000 deaths each year, an agent of — or co-conspirator in — cirrhosis, esophageal cancer, overdose, homicide and much, much more. It seeds and squires a broad range of diseases. Multiplies the effects of illicit and prescription drugs. Adds the twitch to a trigger finger. Puts the wobble in legs on a staircase or hands on a steering wheel. And while 8 percent of Americans ages 12 and over use illicit drugs, 34 percent are addicted to alcohol or indulge in what public health officials consider risky drinking . . . .
I just received an email from LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). LEAP is an organization consisting of thousands of law enforcement officers and other concerned citizens, all of them dedicated to taking the violence out of the illicit drug trade. Based on the following facts and links, I continue to agree with LEAP that the drug laws of the United States amount to prohibition and that they are insanely destructive.
As we celebrate Valentine’s Day and the bonds that bring people together, let us not forget the policies that tear them apart. The drug warriors have taken millions of nonviolent drug offender parents from their families for crimes no more morally offensive than those of the rum runners who managed to make ends meet during the last prohibition.
Between 1986 and 1999, the incarceration rate for women grew by 888%! From 1986 to 1996, the number of women in federal prison for drug “crimes” increased tenfold, from 2,400 to 24,000, and the number continues to increase. Many leave children behind. Today, more than 2.7 million American children have lost a parent to a prison sentence, and two thirds of those parents are nonviolent offenders.
In the name of the children, in the name of the family, the prohibitionists destroy both.
LEAP recently addressed the issue of legalization in YouTube’s annual online town hall meeting with President Obama. Although our question to the president received the highest number of votes among the video entries, it was not aired during the forum, leaving many wondering why the number one question would be passed over in favor of less pressing issues like favorite late night snacks or tennis. While the president may not be comfortable following up on last year’s YouTube question from LEAP, we will keep pushing decision makers to address this issue no matter how many times they avoid it or talk around it, because children of nonviolent drug offenders are getting left behind.
In 1980, one out of every 125 children had a parent behind bars. By 2008, that number had grown to 1 in every 28. Think of the average kindergarten class. Think of the child whose parent is missing. Connect the dots to the rest of that child’s life.
LEAP maintains an excellent website filled with resources for anyone who wants to take the violence out of the use of drugs. From the “About” page of LEAP we learn more of facts and figures demonstrating that the “war on drugs” is a failure:
For four decades the US has fueled its policy of a “war on drugs” with over a trillion tax dollars and increasingly punitive policies. More than 39 million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses have been made. The incarcerated population quadrupled over a 20-year period, making building prisons the nation’s fastest growing industry. More than 2.3 million US citizens are currently in prison or jail, far more per capita than any country in the world. The US has 4.6 percent of the population of the world but 22.5 percent of the world’s prisoners. Each year this war costs the US another 70 billion dollars. Despite all the lives destroyed and all the money so ill spent, today illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and much easier to access than they were at the beginning of the war on drugs, 40 years ago. Meanwhile, people continue dying on the streets while drug barons and terrorists continue to grow richer, more powerful, better armed.
The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi turns the tables on Florida politicians who insist that in order to receive welfare payments, Florida residents must first take drug test:
As the Republican presidential candidates challenge President Obama with competing visions for how to improve the struggling U.S. economy, a new documentary questions the amount of money this country spends on the so-called “war on drugs.” Over the last 40 years, more than 45 million drug-related arrests have cost an estimated $1 trillion. Yet drugs are cheaper, purer and more available today than ever. The documentary is called The House I Live In. It examines the economic, as well as the moral and practical, failures of the war on drugs and calls on the U.S. to approach drug abuse not as a war, but as a matter of public health.
The House I Live In won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary this past weekend at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, the largest independent film showcase in the country. Democracy Now! was there earlier in the week, and I spoke with the film’s director, Eugene Jarecki, along with one of his main characters in the film, Nannie Jeter, about what inspired him to look at the war on drugs.
Bad news from Scientific American: We all produce marijuana-like chemicals in our brains. Therefore, all of us need to turn ourselves in and spend time in prison.
[Marijuana] is also something everyone is familiar with, whether they know it or not. Everyone grows a form of the drug, regardless of their political leanings or recreational proclivities. That is because the brain makes its own marijuana, natural compounds called endocannabinoids (after the plant’s formal name, Cannabis sativa).
For some serious criticism of the alleged “war on drugs,” see this recent post.
AT Huffpo, Ryan Grimm discusses the race and class entwined history of America’s attitudes toward drugs, including alcohol:
The reaction of the American government, and its people, to drug use was — and still is — a complex mix of factors, involving lobbying by the medical community, pharmaceutical companies, the alcohol industry, temperance advocates, and religious movements. Historically, the argument has played out — and continues to play out — amid a backdrop of racism and class antagonism. Racism and bigotry were generally not the drivers of prohibition movements, but instead were the weapons used by temperance advocates to achieve their ends. The movement to ban alcohol, for instance, gained its strongest adherents without resorting to bigotry, but when World War I broke out, the movement was quick to tie beer and booze to instantly despised German immigrants, pushing the effort over the Constitutional hump.
The New York Times reports on the ill-consequences that law enforcement officers have suffered for speaking out on our ludicrous “war on drugs.” In the meantime, the membership of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) has grown to 48,000.
See here for more on LEAP.
If the Fourth is such a happy time, shouldn’t we now be equally furious that the government has been rigged to ignore the needs and wants of the People? Over the past few years, I’ve heard dozens of educated middle class Americans admit that Congress has ben bought―federal corruption at the highest levels is now accepted as unquestionable truth.
More recently, I’ve run into more than a few people who have become frustrated with the Occupy movement. For instance, last week I heard this from an acquaintance, who was speaking of the protesters:
Acquaintance: “They should get a job. What the hell are they expecting to accomplish out there?”
Me: Isn’t it a huge problem that all three branches of our federal government make decisions to accommodate large corporations, often ignoring the needs of ordinary citizens? Isn’t that worth protesting.
Acquaintance: “Still, the protesters are stupid.”
Me: What is your solution? Ordinary people are barred from participating in a government that is supposedly to be run by ordinary people. Further, the news media is largely under the control of these same interests―they are too often serving as stenographers for the corporations that pull the strings of the federal Government.
[Fourth of July flag photo]
Along the same lines, here’s an excerpt from an email I recently received from a DI reader:
About your note regarding ways to support the Occupy movement… yes, you are right to encourage people to talk about what is going on, but don’t you think that it is time for those who are actually doing the “occupying” to go home and do their homework. It seems pretty apparent that it is mostly the late teen to early 20 year olds that are involved and that they don’t seem to have any really intelligent, well thought out ideas or goals. The media and general public are already bored with the story, and the whole thing will have been an exercise in futility unless they move on in a dignified way. Their goal should be to have an effect on the 2012 election which is a full year away. They should go home and get organized and become better informed in order to form a voting block that will further their agenda (that is if they can come to a consensus as to what that agenda is).
In short, this reader wants the Occupiers to return home to do the same thing that millions of people have been doing for the past decade, i.e., doing nothing likely to invoke change.
[More . . . ]
The following information is from a mass emailing I was recently sent by LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition):
Late Friday night the White House issued a typical evasive rejection of the several marijuana legalization petitions that collected more signatures than any other issue on its “We the People” website. Even though recent polls show that more voters support marijuana legalization than approve of President Obama’s job performance, the White House categorically dismissed the notion of reforming any laws, focusing its response on the possible harms of marijuana use instead of addressing the many harms of prohibition detailed in the petitions.
One of the popular petitions, submitted by retired Baltimore narcotics cop Neill Franklin, called on the Obama administration to simply stop interfering with states’ efforts to set their own marijuana laws.
It’s maddening that the administration wants to continue failed prohibition polices that do nothing to reduce drug use and succeed only in funneling billions of dollars into the pockets of the cartels and gangs that control the illegal market,” said Franklin, who serves as executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of cops, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating drugs. “If the president and his advisers think they’re being politically savvy by shying away from much-needed change to our drug policies, they’re wrong. The recent Gallup poll shows that more Americans support legalizing marijuana than support continuing prohibition, so the administration is clearly out of step with the people it claims to represent. President Obama needs to remember his campaign pledge not to waste scarce resources interfering with state marijuana laws and his earlier statement about the ‘utter failure’ of the drug war.
United States spends $52 Billion every year attempting to enforce prohibition, a demonstrably futile endeavor. From a recent article in Esquire Magazine, we get to know the “War on Drugs” by the numbers: “15,223 dead and $52.3 billion spent each year.” Don’t believe the White House numbers that claim we’re spending more on treatment than law enforcement–those are cooked numbers, and they are shot down by the numbers in the Esquire article. Therefore, the “war on drugs” is, indeed a matter of good versus evil, but not in the way the federal government preaches. Ken Burns’ recent documentary, “Prohibition,” shines a bright light on every mistake we are now making regarding street drugs. I’ll conclude with a quote by Albert Einstein: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”