You asked what I would do the change things. I advocate for drug treatment courts. Drug treatment courts are an example of the balanced approach to fighting drug abuse and addiction. Drug courts seek to intervene and break the cycle of alcohol and drug addiction, crime, and child abuse. The drug court process begins when an offender is referred to a special court with support staff. Drug court participants undergo intensive substance abuse treatment, case management, drug testing, supervision and monitoring with immediate sanctions and incentives. The drug courts utilize judges, prosecutors, defense counsels, drug treatment specialists, probation officers, law enforcement and correctional personnel, educational and vocational experts, community leaders and others whose goal is to help addicts recover from their addiction and stay recovered. The courts may also provide ancillary services such as mental health treatment, family therapy, job skills training and anger management. Drug courts planning involves criminal justice, child protective services, treatment, law enforcement, and educational and community anti-drug and alcohol organizations.
Drug courts work. Research shows that more than 50 percent of offenders convicted of drug possession will return to criminal behavior within a few years. In contrast, those who complete a drug court have lower rates of recidivism that range from 2 to 20 percent. The drug court is successful because it forces the addict to stay with the program. The addict cannot simply quit treatment when he or she feels like it.
The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime has this to say about drug courts:
The UN 1988 Drugs Convention, UNGASS Guiding Principles on Demand Reduction and related Action Plan specifically target drug-abusing offenders and call on governments to take effective multidisciplinary remedial initiatives. Drug Courts can be a very effective element in an overall package of responses.
UNODC's Legal Advisory Program works closely with professionals, practitioners and organizations in an informal Drug Court network.
Here we have agreement! But on that subject, I am proud to say that I probably established the first drug court in our country back in 1984, when I put in a drug court for alcohol-related offenses. We screened the offenders in order to determine who was addicted to alcohol. Then we put them into a program that required total abstinence from alcohol, to the degree that, as I told them, if they even eat rumcake and I found out about it, I would put them in jail.
Our success rate was about 65 percent for 9 months, which was as long as I was able to keep statistics. But as I am sure you will agree, even though they work, drug courts take a high amount of judicial and staff time. In other words, they are expensive. So I believe we should spend those resources on those people who are causing harm to others because of their drug usage. And we will never run out of those people. And the people like Robert Downey, Jr. (whose situation you still have not addressed) who are not causing harm to others, should not be brought into the criminal justice system at all.
So we finally have a point of agreement, as long as those scarce and expensive resources are only used for those whose actions bring harm to other people. For those others, who fail our drug morality test, they should not be taking up those resources, and actually should not be in the criminal justice at all.
And what about the other questions? In the legal profession, we understand that if a question is asked to another, and there is no answer forthcoming, the law treats this as an admission by silence. So without a response, all of us will infer that there is no answer, and that therefore you agree.
As previously stated the cost of keeping drugs illegal far out weighs the cost of legalization. Drug use is not "personal." Drug users may commit murder, or child or spouse or elder abuse, or rape, property damage, assault and other violent crimes under the influence of drugs. This includes marijuana as the studies previously sent to you confirm. The criminal justice system protects the victims of drug users and can be used to get the drug users into treatment. The victims include:
Children of drug users - Many children have drug using parents and are abused or neglected by those parents. Drug use is not a victimless crime.
Parents - The parents who have addicted children or who have lost children to drugs need our support. We can help them to take legal action against those who gave the drugs to their children.
Grandparents - Many parents are addicted to drugs and as a result their children are being raised by their children's grandparents. In addition, many grandparents have addicted grandchildren.
Victims of domestic violence - Spouse abuse and abuse of relatives are caused by drug abuse.
Students - Students are often victimized by violent drug users in their schools. In addition, the ability of the school to provide an orderly learning environment is impaired by drug users.
Drugged driving victims - Many people are injured or killed by drugged drivers.
Crime victims - People who have been assaulted and/or been robbed by drug users or otherwise harmed by them deserve protection.
Patients victimized by so called "medical" marijuana - Ill people who choose to use marijuana instead of legitimate medicines may become sicker due to marijuana use.
Elder abuse - Many elders are abused by drug users.
Sexual victims - Drug use leads to sexual promiscuity and spread of AIDS and other blood borne infections. These victims need support and protection.
We are not making progress in this discussion.
Mr. Evans continues only to focus upon the issue that makes him comfortable, which is, of course, drug usage. And he is certainly correct, drug usage brings harm often to the user, as well as to others. But what he steadfastly and intentionally ignores are other ways to address those problems. He says drug use is not "personal" because others are harmed.
Well, the vast majority of drug use actually is personal, and no harm in any form comes to anyone else. For example, the federal government's statistics show that about 12 million people now in our country are using marijuana on a regular basis. (And those stats only reflect the people who voluntarily respond to a survey taker who is standing at their doorstep. So you can imagine how many others are not so willing to "self--report their marijuana usage.) Obviously the vast, vast majority of them are not violating the law, except by the purchase and use itself. But you continually provide us with a shopping list of crimes that do occur in which people are subject to murder, child or spouse or elder abuse, or rape, property damage, assault, etc. by others who have a drug problem, and I continue to agree with you. And nothing I say is intended to minimize that problem. But I also continue to say that the answer is to arrest and prosecute those perpetrators in court. Hold people accountable for their actions, because, just like with alcohol, the drugs do not have to be illegal to hold people accountable for what they do.
The criminal justice system is good at that. And if the perpetrators have drug problems (and the definition of a drug problem in many ways is that people commit crimes while under the influence of drugs), use the court system to punish them appropriately, and also to coerce them into treatment. Drug Courts, which Mr. Evans says he supports, are truly effective in that regard. But they are quite expensive, so they should be reserved for those people who are committing crimes, and not people like Robert Downey, Jr. who are harming only themselves. If the perpetrators are successful in that treatment, everybody wins. If the perpetrators are not successful in that treatment, remove them from society by putting them behind bars, because they will continue to be a threat to our safety. (By the way, it really is ironic that judges like me tried for years to establish drug courts, and were opposed by people like Mr. Evans because we were "coddling criminals," etc. But now, as we have seen, Drug Courts are the only change that Mr. Evans feels should be made from our present [failed and hopeless] approach.)
But if he and others like him simply refuse to acknowledge, much less discuss, the harms expressly caused by our present system, there becomes a diminishing return of carrying on the conversation. So in one last effort, Mr. Evans, do you agree that drug money also presents problems for our society and the world? Yes or No.
For example, do you agree that juvenile gangs in our country get an appreciable amount of funding from the sales of illicit drugs? Yes or No.
Do you agree that juvenile gangs in our country do not get any amount of funding from selling alcohol? Yes or No. Do you agree that terrorist organizations all around the world get an appreciable amount of funding from the sales of illicit drugs? Yes of No.
If you do agree, do you feel that any changes should be made in our nation's policy to address any of those problems? Yes or No. If so, what do you recommend?
Do you agree that the United States, the Land of the Free, leads the world in the incarceration of our people? Yes or No. We have 5 percent of the world's population, and about 25 percent of its prisoners. Does that make you happy, or do you think something should be done about it?
And finally for the moment, will you please tell us your thoughts about the actions taken in Switzerland, with the full support of the Swiss government, to prescribe heroin to heroin-addicted people. What do your footnotes say about these people's experience of seriously reduced crime, reduced drug selling and usage, 50 percent increased employment, and eventually increased requests for drug treatment? They have found that their children understand that being addicted to heroin is not a good thing, and they have seen that this is not the road they want to travel. How do you think our children would come to a different conclusion?
If you simply ignore these entire areas of the equation, I must simply say, without meaning to be unduly combative, that it is senseless to continue a discussion with you.
Judge Gray in essence claims that the US experiment with alcohol prohibition proves that problems result when a government attempts to make a popular substance illegal. The legalizers claim that there were increases in organized criminal organizations who sold alcohol illegally. The legalizers claim that it is better to legalize, tax and regulate drugs than to make them illegal.
A look at the history of Prohibition shows that this argument is deeply flawed for two reasons:
1. The circumstances surrounding Prohibition are so different than those of today that it is not helpful in analyzing present-day policy;
2. Prohibition was successful and did not create all the negative consequences that the legalizers claim it did.
David Teasley, an analyst with the Congressional Research Service of the US Library of Congress, did an in-depth analysis entitled, "Drug legalization and the Lessons of Prohibition." Teasley concluded that:
A comprehensive analogy between Prohibition and the modern drug problem is problematic in at least two major ways. First between the two eras there are significant differences that tend to undermine the pro-legalization analogy. Second, many arguments of the pro-legalizers are weakened by their reliance upon a widely held set of popular beliefs about Prohibition rather than upon recent historical evidence. Such attempts to create this analogy based upon these popular beliefs about Prohibition serve only to confuse the debate over legalization of illicit drugs.
What differences exist between the time of Prohibition and now?
(1) During prohibition the government sought to restrict the consumption of alcohol although lacking the consensus of the nation. Even during Prohibition most people had experience with and accepted alcohol. That is not the same today for illicit drugs. Prohibition went against the national consensus whereas the current drug policies do not.
(2) Prohibition laws were different than illicit drugs laws today. During Prohibition it was only illegal to sell alcohol and not to drink it. Today, it is both illegal to sell and to possess and use illicit drugs. Today's laws can be used to target the users while those of Prohibition could not.
(3) During Prohibition several U.S. states did not support the federal laws and this caused tension between the state and federal governments and hampered effective prosecutions. Today, the states have signed the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, and a state/federal consensus exists not present during Prohibition.
(4) Criminal penalties for illicit drug use are more severe today than in the 1920's so there is a more potent deterrent effect.
(5) During Prohibition the US was "dry" while the international community was "wet" and thus the US was at odds with the international community (much alcohol was imported from Canada). However, today the international community is resolute when it comes to drug policy as witnessed by three U.N. conventions on the use of illegal drugs.
(6) During Prohibition the structure of the government agencies designed to carry out the Prohibition laws was unstable, narrow and filled with political appointees. Today the U.S. national drug strategy involves over a dozen federal agencies coordinated by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The government bodies that enforce our drug policies are much larger, with better resources, and are much more professional than their Prohibition counterparts.
We cannot analogize the history of Prohibition with today's drug policies because there is not that much in common. Prohibition was on balance a successful policy for the following reasons:
1. There is no doubt that prohibition curbed alcohol abuse as its use declined by 30 to 50 percent. Deaths from cirrhosis of the liver fell from 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 to 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to mental hospitals for alcohol psychosis fell from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to 4.7 in 1928. Suicide rates decreased 50 percent and the incidence of alcohol-related arrests also declined 50 percent.
(2) Prohibition did not cause an increase in the overall crime rate but there was an increase in the homicide rate. However, the increase in homicides occurred mainly in the African-American community, and African-Americans at that time were not the people responsible for trafficking in alcohol.
We cannot legitimately compare Prohibition with our current efforts to control drugs because there are too many differences in the laws, the political establishment, the moral consensus, and the international community.
Judge Gray argues in essence that the "war" on drugs has failed. The major consumer of illegal drugs in the World is the US. The facts in the US provide for much optimism. The US has applied demand reduction, law enforcement, education and treatment to its drug problem. What are the results? There was a 33 percent reduction of the number of new heroin users from 156,000 in 1976 to 104,000 in 1999. Drug control has reduced casual use, chronic use and addiction, and prevented others from starting to use drugs. Drug use in the US is down by more than a third since the late 1970s. This means that 9.5 million fewer people use illegal drugs and cocaine use has been reduced by an astounding 70% resulting in 4.1 million fewer people using cocaine.
The recent evidence is clear that the U.S. approach works. Data released in 2008 from the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Study (MTF), the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) System to Retrieve Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE), and workplace drug tests performed by Quest Diagnostics showed that illicit drug use among young people continued to decline from 2001, with a 25 percent reduction in overall youth drug use over the last seven years. This means there are approximately 900,000 fewer young people using drugs today, compared to 2001. Additional declines in past-month youth use of specific drugs over the seven year period include:
• 25% reduction in marijuana use;
• 50% reduction in methamphetamine use;
• 50% reduction in Ecstasy use; and
• 33% reduction in steroid use.
The 2008 data show significant changes in the street-level price and purity of cocaine (key indicators of stress in the drug market) which suggests the supply of the drug on American streets is dropping. Positive drug tests for cocaine use among adults, as indicated by results of workplace drug tests nationwide, fell 38 percent from June 2006 through June 2008. Among young people, there was a 15 percent reduction in past-year use of cocaine from 2007-2008.
However, the 2008 data from the MTF Study shows a softening of youth anti-drug attitudes and beliefs (widely believed to be precursors of behavior) related to perceptions of harmfulness of marijuana and social disapproval of marijuana use. These counter trends occurred after drastic cuts to the US's largest youth drug education and prevention initiative, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Over the last nine years, Congress has slashed resources to this vital program by 68 percent, from $185 million in 1999 to $60 million in 2008.
In his posting, Mr. Evans said that "the advocates of legalization claim that if drugs were legal, crime and violence would decrease because it is the illegal nature of drug trafficking that fuels crime and violence, instead of the violent and irrational behavior that drugs themselves induce. The flaw in this argument is that most violent drug related crime is committed because people are under the influence of drugs. The use of drugs changes behavior and causes criminal activity because people will do things they wouldn't do if they were rational and free of the drug's influence."
Okay, let's wait a minute!! This is what "drug warriors" frequently do (See, I can label people on the other side too.), they lump all drugs together and then make generalizations. I agree that sometimes people use methamphetamines or PCP and then do things they otherwise would be restrained from doing. Of course, the same thing is true for alcohol. But
I simply reject that argument with regard to many other drugs, especially the most widely used illicit drug by far, which is marijuana. No one uses marijuana and then goes out to hold up a liquor store or a bank, or if that happens, it is truly rare. And heroin is much the same thing. People do not take heroin and then commit crimes because all the heroin really does is calm them down. Instead, it is the absence of heroin that makes people commit many crimes in order to get the money to buy more. Switzerland now has a program in which medical doctors prescribe heroin to addicted people (Have you noticed that I don't say addicts, junkies or hypes? Because these people are human beings, and have many of the same desires, needs and failings that all of the rest of us do. Of course, that does not at all stop me from holding them accountable for their actions!!), which they can obtain at inexpensive prices at a pharmacy. Those people mostly are now taking care of themselves and their families, many are now employed and paying their taxes, and living mostly normal lives. Without a doubt, we should employ a similar program in every town and city of our country where is a need. So don't let anyone put all drugs in one box and then make those generalizations.
Furthermore, most people who use illicit drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin, actually only use it on the weekends in party situations, and the only crimes they commit are the purchase and usage of the drugs themselves. The prime example is that gifted actor Robert Downey, Jr. (He seems to be doing quite well now, but he will always be highly subject to relapse. Accordingly he is called a recovering drug-addicted person, not recovered.) But what he actually has is a medical condition. And it makes as much sense to me to put Robert Downey, Jr. into jail for his heroin addiction as it would have to put Betty Ford in jail for her alcohol addiction! What they have is a medical condition!
So THE answer in this area is to HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS, BUT NOT FOR WHAT THEY PUT INTO THEIR BODIES!! Furthermore, I am a Libertarian, and I deeply believe that the government has as much right to control what I put into my body, as an adult, as it does to control what I put into my mind. That is literally none of their business. But if Robert Downey, Jr., Betty Ford, or you or I drive a motor vehicle impaired by marijuana, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, or any other mind-altering and sometimes addicting substances, bring them to judges like me! We will hold them accountable, just like we do now for alcohol-related offenses. But these drugs do not have to be illegal in order to hold people accountable for their actions!
The criminal justice system is quite good at holding people accountable for what they do, but not good at all in controlling what they put into their bodies. So therefore, it must stoop to lower measures in an attempt to do so. These involve things like using snitches, undercover officers, wiretaps, paid informants, and other a-typical police activity like that. And all of this is highly expensive, frequently unreliable, and can be quite dangerous for the police, as well as everyone else. So look at it this way, the tougher we get on prosecuting drug crime, literally the softer we get on the prosecution of everything else. For example, and I quote this in my book Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed, we were only half as successful in 1990 in our prosecutions of homicides as we were in 1980. Why? Because the Reagan Administration once again cranked up the investigation and prosecution of low-level drug crime.
We only have so many criminal justice resources, so why not use them for those cases in which people are causing harm to others. If someone burglarizes your house, and happens to be drug-addicted, judges like me can force them into treatment. But let the otherwise law-abiding people who use drugs alone, or try to help them (if they actually need help, because many of them do not) through honest and truthful drug education, and the availability of drug treatment on demand.
Okay, I'm going on and on again. But once people spend some time on this critically important issue, they will see that there are much better ways in trying to reduce the harms that will occur because of the presence of these sometimes dangerous and addicting drugs in our communities. Many other countries in Western Europe know this, even though they are no more drug abuse tolerant than we are, and they are getting much, much better results than we are. In the meantime, the United States has only 5 percent of the world's population, but about 25 percent of its people in custody. And at least in this area, the chant of "We're Number One!" does not make me proud!
Judge Gray makes the claim that our resources spent on drug offenders would be better spent elsewhere. The legalization theory holds once legalization is implemented that governments will save billions annually in drug enforcement and related court and prison expenses. In theory, these funds could then be redirected to drug abuse treatment programs. However, the increased billions in health/social expenditures related to the expanded level of drug use following from legalization would be more than the amounts saved from the law enforcement/criminal justice
In addition to the concrete losses that are symbolized by those billions of dollars, we must also consider the destruction of lives, and the lost opportunities for self fulfillment and lost dreams and the spiritual losses of lost relationships, lost love and lost hope.
Costs to the Taxpayer - The drug legalization advocates claim that the funds allegedly saved from giving up on the drug problem can be better spent on education and social problems. However, compared to the amount of funding that is spent on other national priorities, drug control spending is minimal. In 2002, in the US, the amount of money spent by the federal government on drug control was less than $19 billion. These funds did not go to enforcement policy only. They were used for treatment, education and prevention, as well as enforcement. The US Drug Enforcement Administration was only given roughly $1.6 billion, an amount the US Defense Department runs through about every day-and-a-half or two days. In the fiscal year of 2002, the total federal drug budget was $11.5 billion. In contrast, the US spent about $650 billion on the nation's educational system. Our effort to provide education is a long-term social concern, with new problems that arise with each generation. This is similar to drug abuse and addiction and yet no one suggests that we give up on education. Isn't keeping young people off drugs and out of addiction just as important?
The increased health/social costs related to expanded levels of drug use would be more than the amounts saved from the law enforcement/criminal justice costs. A study on US justice costs showed that relative to other government expenditures, criminal justice system expense is small, less than 3 percent of the budget when contrasted to national defense/international relations uses of over 18 percent, education 13 percent, and interest on the debt, almost 11 percent.
By far the most compelling economic argument against the legalization of drugs is the social costs associated with such a policy.
Social costs - Using the US as an example, the social costs of drug use make it clear that the costs of controlling drugs are well worth it. Legalization will increase drug use and drug-related costs. A detailed look at the cost of drug abuse in the US was done by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy. They looked overall costs, health care costs, productivity losses, costs of other effects and crime related costs.
Overall Costs of Drug Use - Total costs of drug use were $180.9 billion in 2002, increasing 5.34 percent annually since 1992. These costs are health care costs, productivity losses, and other costs. Costs in 1992 were $107.6 billion. The largest proportion of costs is from lost potential productivity, followed by non-health other costs and health-related costs.
Health Care Costs - Health-related costs were projected to total $16 billion in 2002. Substance abuse-related health care costs are projected to have risen 4.1 percent annually between 1992 and 2002.
Productivity Losses - By far the largest component of cost is from loss of productivity, at $128.6 billion. In contrast to the other costs of drug abuse (which involve direct expenditures for goods and services), this value reflects a loss of potential resources.
Cost of the Other Effects - The final major component of costs came to $36.4 billion in 2002. These primarily concern costs associated with the criminal justice system and crime victim costs, but also include a modest level of expenses for administration of the social welfare system. Between 1992 and 2002, the costs for the other effects of drug abuse rose at a 6.5 percent annual rate.
Crime-related costs - When these costs are aggregated a more complete picture is gained of the role of drug-related crime in the total economic impact. It is estimated that $107.8 billion, or almost 60 percent of total costs are related to crime.
Comparison to health problems - This study and prior estimates indicate that drug abuse is one of the most costly health problems in the United States. The estimates have followed guidelines developed by the U.S. Public Health Service for cost of illness studies. These guidelines have been applied in earlier studies of drug abuse in the U.S. (e.g., for 1992, 1985, 1980, and 1977), and to cost of illness studies for virtually all of the major health problems. Accordingly, these estimates can be compared meaningfully to estimates for e.g.. cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, alcohol abuse and mental illness. The National Institute of Health collects and reports on cost estimates for the major health problems in the nation. Based on estimates from the 1990s employing generally comparable methodologies, drug abuse ($124.9 billion in 1995) is comparable to heart disease ($183.1 billion in 1999), cancer ($96.1 billion in 1990), diabetes ($98.2 billion in 1997), Alzheimer's disease ($100 billion in 1997), stroke ($43.3 billion in 1998), smoking ($138 billion in 1995), obesity ($99.2 billion in 1995), alcohol abuse ($184.6 billion in 1998) and mental illness ($160.8 billion in l992).
Damage to families - The issues regarding drug abuse and families are summarized in position papers prepared by UNDCP and the World Health Organization (WHO). [FN5] Studies show that illicit drug abuse has a strong correlation with the disintegration of the family. [FN6]
Drug-effected babies - Hundreds of thousands of babies in the US have the possibility of health damage due to their mothers' drug abuse. Estimates of drug-exposed babies range from 1 to 2 per cent of live births (40,000 to 75,000) to 11 percent of live births (375,000). [FN7] Cocaine use by mothers may increase risk of maternal complications, including abruptio placentai, pregnancy loss, and preterm labor and risk for fetal/neonatal problems including intrauterine growth retardation, reduced head circumference, prematurity, and increased perinatal mortality and developmental and behavioral problems.
Drug related deaths - There are four sources generally accepted for reliable data about drug-related deaths in the U.S. The numbers are under reported, but no one has found a way to systematically collect and report the numbers from year to year. The best data we can get shows drug-related deaths to number from about 16,000 to 20,000 per year in the U.S.
We are still exclusively on drug usage, and no answers have been forthcoming about any of the other critically important issues. But nonetheless, here are further thoughts on the issues of drug usage.
Question, Mr. Evans, if cocaine, heroin, marijuana or any others of these presently illicit drugs were available in any form of regulated distribution, would you use them? Probably not, and the overwhelming majority of other people would not either. (And if they would, they are probably using them already.) So saying that large numbers of people would use them where they are not already is virtually insulting, fear mongering, and silly.
In addition, I believe that marijuana usage certainly has its dangers. No question in my mind. But I stand firmly on the belief that easily the most harmful thing about marijuana is jail. It is generally believed that the last four presidents of the United States at one time or another used marijuana. Would it have helped them to have been arrested and jailed? And what about others like a fairly good Olympic athlete named Michael Phelps? People, including young people, can overcome drug usage with honest education and treatment, where necessary. But what they cannot overcome is a criminal conviction.
One more question: A few years ago, Florida Governor Jeb Bush spoke publicly about his family's anguish that his two daughters were found to have a (I think it was a) prescription drug problem or addiction. And what he said was that his family needed privacy and understanding, and his daughters needed treatment. I completely agree, and I felt for all of them. So if WE have a problem (namely, us middle and upper class Caucasians), we need privacy and treatment. But if THEY have a problem (namely, the lower classes and people of color), they need jail! That is what is happening all over our great country. Doesn't that fact bother you? If so, what do you propose we you do about it?
Obviously you are unreachable with regard to the usage issues. But there are other equally important issues. What are your thoughts about these? I await your answers.
You make a lot of claims but do not document them. What are the sources for your claims? You are very weak on documentation. What would you say to a lawyer who came to your court so ill-prepared?
As for your claim that the drug war is racist may I ask you a question: why is it that the people who advocate for drug legalization are mostly white upper class liberals like yourself? There are some African Americans who do but the two most prominent I know of graduated from Yale (not exactly lower class). Legalization is an idea of the elites.
I was a Public Defender in Newark New Jersey for two years and I lived there including in the inner city. People there see the devastation of drugs and they do not want more drugs. I spent the next 15 years setting up drug and alcohol treatment programs in New Jersey's prisons and courts.
I have been a criminal defense attorney for nearly 40 years. I have never known anyone to go to prison for small amounts of pot. Please read my previous email about who is really in prison for marijuana.
To say that the most dangerous thing about marijuana is jail would not go over well with parents whose child is addicted to marijuana and whose marijuana use was a gateway to other drugs.
Marijuana is the number one drug that kids are in treatment for. Scientific literature shows that use of marijuana is a major risk factor in the development of addiction and drug use among our schoolchildren. One study showed that of nearly 182,000 children in treatment, 48 percent were admitted for abuse or addiction to marijuana, while only 19.3 percent for alcohol and 2.9 percent for cocaine, 2.4 percent for methamphetamine and 2.3 percent for heroin. Our drug treatment facilities are full of young people dealing with marijuana related substance abuse problems.
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, marijuana accounts for tens of thousands of marijuana related complaints at emergency rooms throughout the United States each year. Over 99,000 are young people. The data is grim. According to the DAWN the admissions to emergency rooms for marijuana are:
• 6-11 years old 380
• 12-17 years old 39,035
• 18-20 years old 27,742
• 21-24 years old 32,154
This is a total of 99,311.
I am not at all unprepared. This is not a debate in which he who has the most points wins. This is a discussion about human lives, as well as crime and misery. And the questions I raise deserve answers.
And you have given few.
Today our children are being recruited to sell illicit drugs. Why? Because
of the money. I have been in Juvenile Court and have seen the result of this failed and hopeless system first hand. Do you not agree that children today, both in and outside of juvenile gangs, are selling all of these illicit drugs, and then using them along the way because of this exposure? And don't you agree that none of them are selling alcohol or cigarettes? What kind of references do I need to cite to establish these facts?
The facts are that the policy you are attempting to defend is directly putting our children in harm's way. Please address these issues that count above all others. Drug money is corrupting not only our adults, but also our children. (Much less, the children in Mexico, Colombia, Afghanistan, and everywhere else around the world.) Why do well meaning people like you not even discuss, much acknowledge, that fact?
Your statement that drug policy reform is predominantly advocated by "white upper class liberals, like (my)self" is amazing. First of all, I am no one's liberal. And neither is Milton Friedman or George Shultz, both of whom endorsed my book (which I wrote not for money, but to encourage an open, honest and truthful discussion of the entire issue -- and it is working).
But maybe you have not noticed that one of the first proponents of this discussion was Kurt Schmoke, the courageous and gifted former mayor of Baltimore, who happens to be black. And there are a multitude of other people of color who favor a change away from the failed and hopeless policy of Drug Prohibition as well, such as Jessie Jackson, the Rev. Chip Murray of the First AME Church of South Central Los Angeles, and many others.
And what difference does any of this really make as to who favors the discussion? What matters is the issues, not the race or gender of the proponents.
In fact, I, as a conservative judge in a conservative county, held a press conference way back in April of 1992 and stated my conclusions that there must be a better way. This was at some risk to my professional career. But since I literally hate what these drugs and this drug money are doing so much, I put my career at risk to discuss this matter. I saw it then, and I see it now, as a matter of patriotism. In fact, the most patriotic thing I can do for the country that I deeply love is to assist it in changing away from this harmful policy. Harmful? That is not strong enough. This is the most failed policy in the history of our country since slavery!
So yes, there is a devastation because of this entire matter. But our country is really facing two substantial problems. One, which is still the only issue you keep focusing upon, is drug problems, and I don't mean by anything I say to diminish those problems. But the other is drug money problems -- the problems that you continue to ignore. And I stand without fear of viable contradiction in saying that the drug money problems are far and away more serious than the drug problems themselves. Then once we resolve the drug money problems, which we clearly can do by changing our approach, all of us can focus even more heavily upon the drug problems. And many of those can be addressed by honest drug education, and by serious drug treatment.
In fact, on that issue are you aware that the RAND Corporation issued a study way back in June of 1994 that said that taxpayers get seven times more value for their dollar with drug treatment than they do for incarceration? Seven times more bang for the buck! So why are we continuing to try to incarcerate our way out of this problem?
And you say that we don't put people in prison for marijuana use? Flat out not true! Today we in California alone have literally thousands of people in prison for doing nothing more than smoking marijuana. Who are they? Those people who were in prison for some kind of offense, and then released on parole -- always with the condition that they use no form of illicit drug. Then for whatever reason they smoke marijuana, and then either fail their drug test, or fail to show up for it, and instant statistic, they are back in prison. I certainly agree that their doing this was irresponsible. But nevertheless, many of them had put their lives back in order, had jobs, and were supporting themselves and their families. And now all of that was lost, and taxpayers are spending about $30,000 per year to keep them behind bars, and their families are back on welfare. And for what? They once again failed our drug morality test. Really a stupid situation.
Since you continue to ignore the most aggravated of the problems, it is hard to continue a conversation. But maybe we both can continue to try.
You have implied that I do not care about children, that I am a racist, that I am unpatriotic and now you imply that I am not decent. Oh my!!! Earlier this year the United Nations had a vote to continue or not our current anti-drug polices. They vote was to continue them. All of your arguments were raised and they were not persuasive with the U.N. The International Narcotics Control Board that interprets the U.N. anti-drug conventions issued a position on legalization of drugs that first states the argument of the legalizers and then provides a response. The INCB position was obtained from their annual reports on their Web site.
[Editor's Note: Don't forget to chime in with your own opinions about marijuana legalization in the talkback area.]