10 November 2010

End The War (On Drugs)

Federal Judge Juan Torruella, to reasoned legal analysis what Daffy Duck is to veterinary medicine, hit the front pages of the largest local puppy pee-pad with his statement that "marijuana should be legalized because the war on drugs has failed."

Now if it isn't obvious by now, My level of support for "Tort(ellini)" Torruella is on the par with My desire to pick a blind squirrel to play shortstop for My fantasy baseball team. But even a mentally-challenged blind squirrel--as the saying goes--finds a nut now and then. And Tort(ellini) is spot-on right: the war on drugs has been a colossal failure and legalizing marijuana is an option worth exploring.

Remember Prohibition? Neither do I, but Let's glance back at history. An anti-liquor (temperance) movement swept through the U.S. of part of A., led largely by women for whom alcohol was a key factor in violence, dissolution and poverty. The 18th Amendment, ratified in 1919, just past the end of World War I, made the sale and possession of liquor a crime.

Now how long has alcohol--wine, beer, hard liquor--been a part of humankind? Exactly. People didn't stop drinking, the demand stayed about equal, but now there was a huge price increase in spirits...but not the kind the temperance movement cared for. Enter clandestine stills, speakeasies, organized crime, gangsters and the Mafia culminating in the horrors of NASCAR rolling ads going in endless circles.

How bad did it get? Only one amendment has ever been repealed? Go ahead, guess which one...Right. By the 21st, in 1933. The cost of trying to police/prohibit human nature reached a point of total imbecility.

Fast-forward to 1970 and Tricky Dick Nixon's public relations-fueled "War on Drugs." Penalties were increased, new crimes redefined, law officers empowered, troops deployed and 12 years after the 1998 "deadline", what do We have for this "War on Drugs"? Plenty of drug use, plenty of drug-fueled violence, the largest peacetime prison population in a democracy, with a higher percentage of minorities in jail than South Africa at the height of apartheid.

Are We winning this "war"? How about asking how badly We are losing it? The fact remains, since 1970: people want to use drugs and because demand stays high, prices and profits drive all sorts of consequences, from street-level violence to international arms dealing, the government-prison-industrial complex and a society gutted by fighting a "war" that is caused by its own desires.

So is marijuana legalization a solution? The failure of Proposition 19 in California notwithstanding, (and Let's make this clear: marijuana is California's #1 cash crop and is close to the #1 cash crop in the nation), legalizing marijuana and other drugs is an option. Given the horrendous cost and colossal failure of this "war on Our people's greed for drugs," legalization, and its ally decriminalization, should be explored immediately.

Now most of you will say "Nuh-uh, Jenius. Never happen. Don't work." I have one word and three links to make you rethink your nuh-uh: Portugal. Link One. Link Two. Link Three.

Some of the highlights: reduced drug use and abuse; reduced street crime; lowered prison population; national budget savings and greatly-reduced rate of AIDS/HIV cases. Does that sound like the apocalypse?

Now Portugal didn't legalize much in terms of drugs: it chose a middle path of reducing penalties for its possession in small quantities and personal use. But the results, heading now into their 6th year, are indisputable: an option exists to a useless war on drugs.

Maybe the fact that a federal judge makes the statement is what causes consternation. Granted. Or that it's coming from someone with the acumen of houseplant. Granted. But if 1,000 monkeys typing at random can ultimately produce Hamlet, does it make the play less of a classic?

Ignore the messenger, because he's the wrong one, but glom on the message...because it's absolutely right.

The Jenius Has Spoken.


NatetheGreat said...

You thought the War on Drugs was serious? That was a war on a disenfranchised people creating a way to make money in spite of an government/economy that never was intended to benefit them. Money is power, and disenfranchised people getting it is a threat to those in power. They could give a damn about murder, drug use, etc... just the money part. Typical politics. You can debate the solution to drugs all you want. Just remember it's all about money. Hands down.

Gil C. Schmidt said...

NatetheGreat, I came to the conclusion that the """War on Drugs""" was useless years ago, by comparing it to other """efforts""" to curtail activities, such as corruption and lobbying. (I know: they are all synonyms. Bear with Me here.)

Fact: there are more black men in jail now than there were slaves in 1860.

Fact: there are more Hispanics in jail in the U.S. of part of A., as a percentage of the population, than any other minority group in a free democracy.

Except for black American men.

So you are right: this is more a war against the disenfranchised than against the dealers, a racial war more than a battle against a commodity that the country itself gives increasing value to.

My take in this post is that the otherwise ambling idiot with the ethics of a skanky monkey actually said something cogent and truthful. Goes to show that even a shitbag can hold a flake of gold in its foul innards.

Thanks for dropping by, Oh Nate of the Impressive Nickname.

NatetheGreat said...

Fact: I am part of both of those disenfranchised groups (African-American/Boricua) and have witnessed the alienation of my people all my life.

More important fact: I appreciate you creating this blog and I will be stopping by more often. I feel we have a lot to talk about.

Gil C. Schmidt said...

"Look, we understood we couldn't make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure. We understood that drugs were not the health problem we were making them out to be, but it was such a perfect issue for the Nixon White House that we couldn't resist it."

John Ehrlichman said that, he of Watergate infamy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ehrlichman#Post-political_life

How's that for a "reason" to go to war?