Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It - Excerpts
Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed And What We Can Do About It — A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs: In addition to the comments from the author, who is a veteran trial judge in Southern California, the views, observations and experiences of more than 40 judges and justices nationwide are cited in this documented indictment of the failure of our laws of Drug Prohibition. But the book also brings hope, because viable options to our present failed policy are set forth with specificity, and shown where they are being employed successfully in other countries.
Part I: Introduction — Presents a short background of the author and the factors that compelled him to speak out publicly about our failed drug laws, and guarantees that anyone who reads the book with an open mind will reach the same conclusion.
Part II: Our Drug Laws Have Failed
1. Past and Present
An Historical Perspective — Provides a history of why the United passed its laws of drug prohibition. Embarrassingly enough, those reasons have nothing to do with public health or public safety, but were instead based upon racism (the protection of white women from being led astray by minority men) and empire building.
Emergence of the Prison-Industrial Complex — Provides disturbing statistics about the growth of prisons and the prison population in the United States as a direct result of our laws of drug prohibition, which is unmatched by any other country in the world.
2. Increased Harm to Communities
Communities Awash in Illicit Drugs — Demonstrates how illicit drugs are freely available for adults as well as children in our communities. We cannot even keep these drugs out of our prisons, so how can we reasonably expect to keep them out of our neighborhoops?
Violence and Corruption
Domestic — Documents example after example about how the drug money, more than the drugs themselves, is responsible for unacceptably high incidences of violence and corruption in the United States.
Foreign — Documents how drug money from the United States has almost completely corrupted the governments of such countries as Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, and is doing the same thing to Mexico. And the violence that these drug monies have caused is overwhelming, and unnecessary.
3. Erosion of Protections of the Bill of Rights — The War on Drugs has been the biggest cause of the loss of our civil liberties in the history of our country. This chapter sets forth the status of these important constitutional protections when the author graduated from law school in 1971, and then traces how drug cases decided by the United States Supreme Court since that time have severely and probably permanently reduced those protections, and continuing to do so.
4. Increased Harm to Drug Users
Demonization — By "demonizing" or dehumanizing people who use and abuse drugs, we have been able to perpetuate this failed system. This chapter shows how that has been accomplished.
Deterioration of Health — As a practical matter, the War on Drugs has at the same time increased the risk of contagious diseases like hepatitus and AIDS for drug users, and deprived them of medical attention for their conditions. This has, of course, also enabled these diseases to be passed on to people who do not use drugs.
5. Increased Harm for the Future
Conspiracy Theories — The incarceration of disproportionate numbers of minorities, the involvement of law enforcement and other government officials with domestic and foreign thugs in an effort to be informed about and reduce national and international drug trafficking, and the enormous amounts of money involved in these transactions have directly spawned large numbers of conspiracy theories about our government's involvement in drug trafficking itself. Even if these theories are not true, the fact that many people believe them undercuts the legitimacy of our government, and the desire of many people to cooperate with it.
Government Policy: Don't Discuss It! — A major part of our present policy is effectively to keep people from questioning it, and this has been amazingly successful. This end has been accomplished by labeling anyone who even suggests any alternatives to our policy as a drug "legalizer," which connotes, for example, that that person does not feel that these drugs are particularly dangerous, or concerned if our children "purchase cocaine in a vending machine across the street from their junior high schools."
Part III: Options
6. Increased Zero Tolerance — Even though our policy of Zero Tolerance has not worked, it could always be increased. And so, this chapter suggests specific ideas about how we could more fully implement this failed policy. Many of these ideas have actually been advocated by some of our government officials. However, the quote attributed to President Clinton about the definition of insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results," overrides the author's view of the suggestions made in this chapter.
7. Education — This is seen by virtually everyone as being the key to reducing the harm that has and will be caused by the presence of these dangerous and sometimes addicting drugs in our communities. However, it is essential that our education be truthful. Truthful education has been quite successful in reducing smoking in our country, even though it is not illegal for adults to use or possess tobacco. The same would be true for these other presently illicit drugs.
8. Drug Treatment
Rehabilitation — Various non-medicalized rehabilitation programs are discussed in this chapter: both voluntary and involuntary, public and private. And since a RAND Corporation study found that treatment programs are seven times more effective than incarceration, why are they not being more fully used?
Needle Exchange Programs — These programs allow the exchange of a dirty syringe and needle for a clean one, with no money changing hands and no questions asked. That is all. And numbers of studies have shown that they reduce the transmission of dangerous diseases like AIDS and hepatitus, and do not increase drug usage. Many countries in Western Europe have had wonderful successes with these programs.
Drug Substitution Programs — These programs substitute one drug (such as methadone) for a drug addict's drug of choice (such as heroin), and are quite effective for some people, somewhat successful for others, and generally ineffective for many more. But the federal government's micro-managing of these programs is reducing their effectiveness for almost everyone.
Drug Maintenance Programs — Under the strict care and control of a medical doctor, many drug-addicted people in Switzerland are using prescription dosages of heroin that neither result in them getting a "rush," nor in them going through withdrawal. It simply "maintains" these people so that they have been able to function quite well in their everyday lives. And after establishing a relationship with these doctors based upon trust and positive results, an encouraging number of these addicted people have moved on to programs of drug abstinence.
9. De-Profitization of Drugs
Legalization — This approach involves the legal sale and possession of drugs, using the protections of the civil justice system for problems of the quality and labeling of the drugs, and leaves the criminal justice system to address the conduct of the people who use drugs. The chapter suggests that we "legalize" hemp, which would be worthless to smoke or otherwise use for mind-altering purposes, but has enormous potential for manufactured products such as paper, plywood, lacquer, etc. Otherwise, the author views legalization as not being a desirable option.
Decriminalization — Holland is utilizing this option, which allows people to possess and use small amounts of drugs, and as long as they stay within very well known limits, the police are instructed to leave them alone. As a result, the use of drugs in Holland is appreciably less than in the United States. As a former Drug Czar in Holland said, "We succeeded in making pot boring."
Regulated Distribution — This option entails bringing these dangerous and sometimes addicting drugs back under the law, and envisions a system much like what is now being used for alcohol and tobacco. But tighter! No transferring of any kind to children, no advertising of any kind, no sales or special prices, no trade names, only brown packaging, etc. Then the criminal justice system would be used to hold people accountable for their conduct. Since the conclusion is inescapable that these drugs are here to stay, we are faced with the choice of having the drugs either with drug lords or without them.
10. Federalism — This option would allow each state to pass and enforce laws that it believes are best suited for its people. The United States was founded upon this concept, and this would enable different options to be tried and refined. The federal government would be restricted to assisting each state enforce its chosen laws, just as it was upon the repeal of Alcohol Prohibition.
Part IV: What We Can Do About It — What can just one person do about this critical problem? This chapter sets forth specific suggestions. And the answer is, quite a bit.
Appendix A: Resolution — Provides a resolution for drug policy reform that people can sign and send to their elected officials. It has already been signed by thousands of prominent and not-so-prominent people nationwide. And it will have positive results.
Appendix B: Government Commission Reports and Other Public Inquiries — Summarizes numbers of prominent neutral studies for the last hundred years from the United States, Canada and Great Britain, all of which say that we should move away from our present policy of incarceration of people for using drugs.
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