Sunday, September 27, 2009

Time to End Government War on Drugs?

Toxicity of Recreational Drugs - Alcohol is more lethal than many other commonly abused substances

Does anyone still believe that marijuana prohibition is working — or that all of the people currently behind bars deserve to be there? Have the hundreds of billions of dollars devoted to educating, persuading, pleading and frightening us away from drugs done the job?

After more than 70 years of criminal prohibition, 41% of the American population report having used marijuana in their lifetime.

Keep in mind that the "federal government's annual drug use survey uses fuzzy math to get their results"

"Conducted by the Federal Government since 1971, the survey collects data by administering questionnaires to a representative sample of the population through face-to-face interviews at their places of residence."
How many chronic and heavy drug users have a consistent residence? That is, if they have any residence at all. It's highly unlikely that SAMHSA's pollsters will reach these people. Not to mention, that most of the people who do use drugs, that they do catch at home, will not truthfully admit to a federal employee that they engage in an activity that could land them in prison for years.
For too long, advocates of prohibition have framed their arguments on the false assumption that the continued enforcement of said laws “protects our children.” As the numbers above illustrate, this premise is nonsense. In fact, just the opposite is true.

The government’s war on cannabis and cannabis consumers endangers the health and safety of our children. It enables young people to have unregulated access to marijuana — easier access than they presently have to alcohol. It enables young people to interact and befriend pushers of other illegal, more dangerous drugs. It compels young people to dismiss the educational messages they receive pertaining to the potential health risks posed by the use of “hard drugs” and prescription pharmaceuticals, because kids say, “If they lied to me about pot, why wouldn’t they be lying to me about everything else, too?”

Most importantly, the criminal laws are far more likely to result in having our children arrested, placed behind bars, and stigmatized with a lifelong criminal record than they are likely to in any way discourage them to try pot.
Table of types of illicit drug use in a lifetime for 2007/2008

Full results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables

Brief history of the war on drugs:

Timeline: 30 years of America's drug war

History of Marijuana Legislation

Harrison Narcotics Act - - 63rd US Congress 1914. Restricted the sale of heroin and was quickly used to restrict the sale of cocaine.

Marijuana Tax Act - - 75th US Congress April 14, 1937, signed August 2, 1937
Attempted to tax marijuana into oblivion Marijuana had not been shown to be dangerous, but the perception that it might be a "gateway drug" for heroin users--and its alleged popularity among Mexican-American immigrants--made it an easy target.

The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act - 91st US Congress October 27, 1970. The federal government took a more active role in drug enforcement and drug abuse prevention. Nixon, who called drug abuse "public enemy number one" in a 1971 speech.

Reagan-era drug policy legislation:

Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign becomes a centerpiece of the Reagan administration's anti-drug campaign. The movement focuses on white, middle class children and is funded by corporate and private donations.

By portraying drugs as a threat to white middle-class children, the administration was able to pursue more aggressive federal antidrug legislation.

Greater emphasis was put on military and criminal punishments rather than treatment solutions. Mandatory minimum sentencing were implemented and a competition between politicians to see who could be "toughest" on crime and drugs escalated to the point where the incarceration rate started to spiral out of control until today when the rate is far beyond any previous time in history
More prisoners today are serving life terms than ever before — 140,610 out of 2.3 million inmates being held in jails and prisons across the country — under tough mandatory minimum-sentencing laws and the declining use of parole for eligible convicts
The passage of the 1986 crime bill, notable for the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences also created the federal Sentencing Commission and the current system of federal sentencing guidelines, which did away with parole in the federal system, ensuring that prisoners would serve at least 85% of their sentences. And it included asset forfeiture.

Passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which established a federal death penalty for "drug kingpins." Reagan signed that bill in his wife's honor.
"Reagan just swept the country along with him. It was that the country was in a state of hysteria, Democrats and Republicans alike. He tapped into this hysteria and drove it to incredible heights. Everybody jumped on the bandwagon. We forget the extent to which everyone was into this. There was a phrase both parties used, 'no one to the right of me on the drug issue the drug policy arena, he was just horrible. If you want a taste of the hysteria and the fear, read my book. You had kids turning in their mothers for smoking pot and people like Joyce Nalepka saying that was the right thing to do. You had Reagan pushing to get rid of Posse Comitatus so he could use the armed forces in the drug war. He was for freedom, but like so many people, not when it came to drugs. The Reagan era spawned all sorts of nasty innovations, and while not all of them came from the White House, they were all part of that same intrusive spirit. We are still suffering from that to this day," Arnold Trebach, author of "The Great American Drug War" and a pioneer in American drug reform and founder of the Drug Policy Foundation in 1988.


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