I’m still stunned that President Obama has decided to crank up the federal drug war by clamping down on medical marijuana dispensaries. This has been yet another political about-face by Barack Obama. Don’t we have anything better to do with our tax dollars and energies than to throw people in prison for using a substance that makes them feel good, where that substance is far less dangerous than alcohol? And keep in mind that there are legally available pharmaceuticals that have comparable effects on one’s psyche, available only if the user is wealthy enough to afford the doctor appointment and the pharmaceutical.
But wait . . . the stories is even worse. As reported by Glenn Greenwald, there is is evidence to counter-balance the idea that currently illegal drugs are always destructive:
[T]he deceit at the heart of America’s barbaric drug policy — that these substances are such unadulterated evils that adults should be put in cages for voluntarily using them — is more glaring than ever. In light of his comments about LSD, it’s rather difficult to reconcile America’s adoration for Steve Jobs with its ongoing obsession with prosecuting and imprisoning millions of citizens (mostly poor and minorities) for doing what Jobs, Obama, George W. Bush, Michael Phelps and millions of others have done. Obviously, most of these banned substances — like alcohol, gambling, sex, junk food consumption, prescription drug use and a litany of other legal activities — can create harm to the individual and to others when abused (though America’s solution for drug users — prison — also creates rather substantial harm to the drug user and to others, including their spouses, parents and children: at least as much harm as, and usually substantially more than, the banned drugs themselves). But no rational person can doubt that these substances can also be used responsibly and constructively; just study Steve Jobs’ life if you doubt that. Jobs’ praise for his LSD use is what I kept returning to as I read about the Obama DOJ’s heinous new policy to use the full force of criminal prosecutions against medical marijuana dispensaries in California.
In the meantime, do you know how your local law enforcement officers are spending most of their time?
To make it clear: I’m not advocating drug use. I’m stating facts that make it undeniable that the “war on drugs” is much more dangerous to all of us than the use of those drugs.
There’s a drug-related arrest in the U.S. every 19 seconds. Consider, also, that 45 people are massacred in the U.S. every day thanks to our “drug war,” and that it is this “war” that causes the violence. This is a war that has failed at every one of its announced objectives. Many of our law enforcement officer have declared the “war on drugs” to be an immoral war. Consider this conservative judge’s harsh words toward the “Drug War.” The most harmful thing about marijuana, according to Judge John Gray, is jail. Here’s why: the “war on drugs” by the numbers. It’s time to take a deep breath and get over America’s obsession with imprisoning otherwise law-abiding citizens for partaking of a relatively harmless drug.
What the hell is wrong with us?
LEAP included me on a mass emailing that contains some stunning statistics:
New FBI Numbers Reveal Failure of “War on Drugs”
A new FBI report released today shows that there is a drug arrest every 19 seconds in the U.S. A group of police and judges who have been campaigning to legalize and regulate drugs pointed to the figures showing more than 1.6 million drug arrests in 2010 as evidence that the “war on drugs” is a failure that can never be won.
“Since the declaration of the ‘war on drugs’ 40 years ago we’ve arrested tens of millions of people in an effort to reduce drug use. The fact that cops had to spend time arresting another 1.6 million of our fellow citizens last year shows that it simply hasn’t worked. In the current economy we simply cannot afford to keep arresting three people every minute in the failed ‘war on drugs,'” said Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “If we legalized and taxed drugs, we could not only create new revenue in addition to the money we’d save from ending the cruel policy of arresting users, but we’d make society safer by bankrupting the cartels and gangs who control the currently illegal marketplace.”
Today’s FBI report, which can be found at http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010, shows that 81.9 percent of all drug arrests in 2010 were for possession only, and 45.8 percent of all drug arrests were for possession of marijuana.
A separate Department of Justice report released last month shows that Mexican drug cartels are currently operating in more than 1,000 U.S. cities, whereas two years ago they were in 230 U.S. cities. Meanwhile, a new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report released earlier this month shows that nearly one in 10 Americans admit to regularly using illegal drugs.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the “war on drugs” and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. More info at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.
You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the people at LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). This organization consists of law enforcement officers who have come to the stark realization that the “war on drugs” is more destructive than the drugs themselves. That means that the law enforcement officers now agree with 76% of Americans who “have come to realize that the war on drugs is a failure” (Zogby International (October 2008)). How many law enforcement officers agree that the war on drugs is a failure?
LEAP is made up of current and former police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents, corrections officials, military officers and others who fought on the front lines of the “war on drugs” and who know firsthand that prohibition only worsens drug addiction and illicit drug market violence. Including our civilian supporters, LEAP represents more than 40,000 people in more than 80 countries.
LEAP has now released a short brochure titled “Ending the Drug War: a Dream Deferred.” The focus is the hypocrisy of Barack Obama. Consider this comparison of how the war on drugs was treated by the man who started it, Richard Nixon, with the way it is being treated by Barack Obama (the following quote is from LEAP’s “Ending the Drug War”):
While the Nixon administration’s public messaging carefully stressed punishment, it directed resources primarily toward public health. Today, the Obama administration’s press releases emphasize public health while its funding requests are actually weighted toward punishment.
The LEAP report quite reasonably insists that actions speak louder than words, and follows the budget dollars Mr. Obama has allocated toward the use of illegal drugs versus the number of dollars used for treatment and counseling. When one considers these numbers, one can see that the Obama administration is putting a high priority on punishment, and deemphasizing treatment. When one follows the same budget dollars, one can also see that the United States is pouring gasoline on the drug war fire in Mexico:
One of the ugliest signs of the failure of the war on drugs is the wildly escalating rate of illegal drug trade murders in Mexico. Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels shortly after taking office in late 2006, nearly 40,000 people have been killed in attacks that the media calls “drug violence,” but which are in fact the predictable turf battles that accompany the policy of prohibition. The tally of dead of course includes cartel members themselves, but an alarming number of the fallen are police officers and civilian bystanders as well as some U.S. citizens.
(See page 9 of LEAP’s well-documented report). 40,000 dead people is a lot of blood on the streets to “protect” Americans from drugs that they want to use at a time when most illegal drugs have legal equivalent available with a prescription through your local drugstore (and see here), or available without a prescription at your local tavern.
The source of the hypocrisy of Barack Obama is his admission that criminally prosecuting illegal drug users is not effective and his complementary admission that he thinks of drugs as “more of a public health problem.”
OK, Mr. President. If you feel that way, why have you acted the opposite? Instead of calling it “the war on drugs,” it’s time to call it what it is: Prohibition. And prohibition has been proven to not work.
NORML asks where your police officers are, and the answer is revealing:
A local St. Louis judge recently told one of my co-workers that prosecutors are finding it almost impossible to convict someone for mere possession of marijuana. The people are apparently speaking, in the form of jury nullification. Perhaps they too think that their limited numbers of police officers should be focusing on violent crimes and other serious crimes such as burglary.
Forty-five people were murdered in the United States yesterday (16,591 homicides for the year 2009). And another forty-five will be murdered tomorrow. And another forty-five every day of the year and next year and next year.
What happened in Norway was terrible. A Christian extremist named Anders Breivik killed 91 people.* It was clearly a massacre. Here in the United States, we have a massacre the size of Norway’s every other day, but we don’t call it a “massacre” because the killings aren’t as geographically clustered–but then again, many of them are clustered in the inner cities of America. And if we don’t call it a “massacre,” we don’t feel as compelled to do something to stop the killings. Something simple like calling off the “war on drugs.”
For anyone who objects that I’ve called the Norwegian killer a “Christian,” I’m willing to make a deal. Next time a Muslim inflicts violence in America, will you agree that you won’t describe him as a Muslim when you describe his conduct? That would avoid a double-standard. Deal?
LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) is disappointed that Barack Obama has reneged on his promise to turn over the enforcement of marijuana regulation to the states. Here’s the first paragraph of an email I received from LEAP today:
Previously, the Obama administration wanted the public to believe that they were going to respect how states decided to handle medical marijuana legalization and regulation. But a new memo released to the public today confirms that this president is simply continuing the harassment and interference policies of the Bush administration when it comes to actually providing patients with their doctor-recommended medicine.
Here’s the evidence that Barack Obama seeks only more wasteful and destructive prohibition. As you can see, there is no sharp line protecting those who are using marijuana at the recommendation of their doctors. Why not?
Like my European friends, I believe we can adopt a pragmatic policy toward both marijuana and hard drugs, with a focus on harm reduction and public health, rather than tough-talking but counterproductive criminalization. The time has come to have an honest discussion about our drug laws and their effectiveness. When it comes to drug policy, you can be soft, hard…or smart.
I whole-heartedly agree with Rick Steves, and I admire him for taking this forthright stand, even when taking this could lose him some customers and fans. Speaking of fans, I recently met two brave souls pushing for medical marijuana in front of Busch Stadium, where thousands of fans get high on liver-threatening beer. While I discussed medical marijuana with them, they were jeered and scorned by several fans. They described cancer patients they knew who would like to use marijuana in Missouri, but were afraid that they’d be arrested and thrown in jail. Folks with similar situations are described in this recent NYT piece.
Every year authorities arrest more than 750,000 people each year for possessing or using an extremely safe drug that many people find pleasurable and others use because it relieves them of pain. This is more than the entire population of South Dakota, and these users include many people you know and respect. I mentioned LEAP at the top of this article. LEAP consists of law enforcement officers who have seen first-hand that prohibition fails. LEAP’s approach is this:
We believe that drug prohibition is the true cause of much of the social and personal damage that has historically been attributed to drug use. It is prohibition that makes marijuana worth more than gold, and heroin worth more than uranium – while giving criminals a monopoly over their supply. Driven by the huge profits from this monopoly, criminal gangs bribe and kill each other, law enforcers, and children. Their trade is unregulated and they are, therefore, beyond our control.
History has shown that drug prohibition reduces neither use nor abuse. After a rapist is arrested, there are fewer rapes. After a drug dealer is arrested, however, neither the supply nor the demand for drugs is seriously changed. The arrest merely creates a job opening for an endless stream of drug entrepreneurs who will take huge risks for the sake of the enormous profits created by prohibition. Prohibition costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year, yet 40 years and some 40 million arrests later, drugs are cheaper, more potent and far more widely used than at the beginning of this futile crusade.
We believe that by eliminating prohibition of all drugs for adults and establishing appropriate regulation and standards for distribution and use, law enforcement could focus more on crimes of violence, such as rape, aggravated assault, child abuse and murder, making our communities much safer. We believe that sending parents to prison for non-violent personal drug use destroys families. We believe that in a regulated and controlled environment, drugs will be safer for adult use and less accessible to our children. And we believe that by placing drug abuse in the hands of medical professionals instead of the criminal justice system, we will reduce rates of addiction and overdose deaths.
Here’s yet another incredible story. I listened carefully, but I still don’t get the motive. I’d like to see a few dozen subpoenas issued so that the American People and the Mexican People can get to the bottom of this idiocy.
What do you do when you cannot any longer find a scientist to support your government’s self-destructive policies? You declare that you don’t want any further scientific input. That’s what the UK has done regarding the idiotic “war on drugs.” No scientists are stepping up to lend support that the “war on drugs” is a good idea. Therefore, who needs scientists?
Who would have ever thought that we’d hear this sort of thing uttered by Pat Robertson:
“We’re locking up people that have taken a couple puffs of marijuana and next thing you know they’ve got 10 years with mandatory sentences,” Robertson continued. “These judges just say, they throw up their hands and say nothing we can do with these mandatory sentences. We’ve got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes and that’s one of ’em.
“I’m … I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot, that kinda thing it’s just, it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people. Young people go into prisons, they go in as youths and come out as hardened criminals. That’s not a good thing.”