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August 2006
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Another good OpEd in the Seattle Times and more

We’re just racking up the support for drug policy reform in a range of major newspapers. Also importantly, the most intelligent, factual, well-written and well-argued pieces tend to be on our side. Sort of goes against the stereotype of the wild-eyed druggie legalizer, doesn’t it? In fact, more and more it is the prohibitionists who come off as off on a trip disconnected from reality.

From Neal Peirce

SEATTLE — Is it time to forge an “exit strategy” for our prolonged “war on drugs”? That question — normally considered a “no-no” in legal circles, especially among prosecutors and police — has been raised by the prestigious King County Bar Association since 2000. And the results have been impressive. […]

The uncomfortable truth is that despite decades of aggressive government crackdowns, U.S. drug use and drug-related crime are as high as ever. Made profitable by prohibition, violent criminal enterprises that purvey drugs are flourishing. Harsh criminal sanctions, even for minor drug possession, have packed jails and prisons. Public coffers have been drained of funds for critical preventive social services.

Prohibition has failed to stamp out markets and quality, or increase street prices for cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana. The drug war kicked off by President Nixon in the 1970s costs $40 billion or more a year. It is a massive, embarrassing, destructive failure.

But politicians are normally afraid to question the system for fear of being called illegal-drug apologists. So how did the King County Bar get the ball rolling? “It’s the messenger, not the message” — the credibility of the bar association, says Goodman. The King County Bar in fact assembled a nationally unprecedented coalition of supporters, ranging from the Washington State Bar Association to the King County and Washington state medical associations, the Church Council of Greater Seattle and the League of Women Voters of Seattle and Washington.

Read the whole piece — there’s a lot of good stuff there. Now, clearly the King County efforts are only a fraction of the distance we have to travel for long-term meaningful drug policy reform, but it’s a positive and active step, and they continue to have active plans to “switch from punitive approaches” in order to “[shut] down the criminal gangs that now control the drug trade.”

For marijuana, control by cartels that now provide huge quantities might be broken by state licensing of home production and non-commercial exchanges. Or a state distribution system like state liquor stores, demonstrably effective in denying sales to youth, could be established.

Concrete, practical steps and ideas. Taken despite the full propaganda weight of the federal government and the unconscionable silence of the so-called drug policy academics like Mark (prohibition doesn’t work but there’s no other alternative so we have to keep trying) Kleiman.


A couple of other items:

“bullet”

TalkLeft mentions the potential next face-off between California and the federal government if Governor Schwarzenegger signs the industrial hemp farming bill.

“bullet”

Good letter by Sam Ehrlichman today in the New York Times:

Bob Herbert tells the heart-wrenching story of a woman whose family was killed as payback for testimony against a Baltimore drug dealer in 2002. He advocates a cultural shift in a swath of urban, black America, saying “it is up to blacks themselves” to “create a cultural environment that turns its back on crime.”

Unfortunately, it will be difficult for such change to occur until we rethink our disastrously failed drug war. Under the current policy of prohibition, there is an enormous economic incentive for people to turn to dealing drugs.

Just as happened during the era of alcohol prohibition, dealers arm themselves and form powerful gangs that infest every corner of our society. Without prohibition, those dealers would be out of business.

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