Good Guys and Bad Guys in the Drug War

Yesterday’s Grand Junction Colorado Sentinel had an interesting article:
Conflict over legalization a growing part of nation’s drug war by Ann Winterholter
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The article includes some quotes from Sheriff Bill Masters, editor of The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War, who had some strong words about the drug war.

“It tarnishes every lawman’s badge in this nation. … It makes me sick.”

Masters said judges have told him today’s mandatory sentencing laws for drug cases have taken away their discretion and don’t allow them to sentence an individual to rehabilitation instead of prison time.

The increased numbers of arrests and prison sentences because of drugs are “gumming up the system,” he said.

In the year before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, there were 750,000 arrests for marijuana possession and one terrorist arrest, he said.

Does the drug war take precedence to the nation’s detriment? “Absolutely,” Masters said.

When a robber or rapist is arrested the community is made safer, “but when I arrested a drug pusher, I simply created a job opening in a long line of people willing to take his place,” wrote Jack Cole, an essayist in “The New Prohibition,” a former detective and undercover narcotics officer with the New Jersey State Police and the current executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

It’s a waste of money, Masters said, to have a clogged criminal system and 9-11 terrorists doing what they want.

Drug laws “just don’t work and it actually increases profitability for drug dealers,” Masters said.

The people and states should be allowed to decide on medicinal marijuana or drug legalization instead of the federal government forcing its will on all, he said.

“Do we need the federal government to be our nanny?” he asked

Good stuff. The article then goes on to interview a number of other local drug war professionals, who disagree.
The thing is, these are classic cases of drug war denial — you quickly see that they don’t agree with anything other than the drug war because they are completely blinded. They are unable to think beyond their limited world that has been shaped by the drug war.
The main sympton of this is noticing some bad thing that is a result of the drug war and using that as a reason to keep the drug war going.
It’s the equivalent of hitting yourself over the head with a club to stop your headaches, and claiming that if you ever stopped doing it, even for a moment, the headaches would be worse.
Here are some examples:
Tonya Wheeler, vice president of Advocates for Recovery:

“I don’t see that legalizing any of the drugs is going to make anything get better.”

The idea there would be less crime is unbelievable to her because the drug addicts would still be here. It doesn’t matter if addicts are buying crack on a street corner or at the drugstore, if they don’t have the money they are still going to steal to get what they want, she said.

And yet, real statistics show that she is wrong, partly because she can only view legalization in one way (selling it over the counter).
This report some time ago in the Guardian showed the lie to her statement (from my FAQ):

Switzerland is now leading the way out of prohibition.æ In 1994, it started prescribing free heroin to long-term addicts who had failed to respond to law enforcement or any other treatment.æ In 1998, a Lausanne criminologist, Martin Kilias, found that the users’ involvement in burglary, mugging and robbery had fallen by 98%; in shoplifting, theft and handling by 88%; in selling soft drugs by 70%; in selling hard drugs by 91%.æ As a group, their contacts with police had plunged to less than a quarter of the previous level.æ The Dutch and the Germans have had similar results with the same strategy.æ All of them report that, apart from these striking benefits in crime prevention, the users are also demonstrably healthier ( because clean heroin properly used is a benign drug ) and that they are more stable with clear improvements in housing, employment and relationships.

Here’s another blind drug warrior from the initial article: Sgt. Tim Grimsby, Grand Valley Joint Drug Task Force operations supervisor, who said:

If drugs are legalized and, for example, there’s a 30 percent increase in the use of meth, imagine the increase in premiums for health, home and auto insurance, he said.

Ahhh, but methamphetamine is essentially a product of the drug war. It’s an ugly drug that came about largely because of the additional drug war restrictions placed on the more stable and safe amphetemines. And I wonder where he gets the numbers for the 30% increase? Out of his ass, perhaps? Especially since the availability of alternate safer and legal drugs is likely to drive meth use to almost nothing.
Then we have former Mesa County Sheriff Riecke Claussen – a real winner. First:

We also aren’t winning the war against auto theft or child abuse, “but no one wants to legalize that,” Claussen said.

You could drive a truck through the holes in logic there. Is he really putting smoking a joint in the same category as car theft and child abuse? We aren’t winning the war against stupidity either, so I guess we’d better lock up Sheriff Claussen.
You see, where he gets sidetracked is opposing legalization in a vacuum. You can’t simply oppose legalizing something. You have to actually have reasons for it to be illegal.
Think of it this way. If you are in favor of legalizing marijuana, then you believe that there is not sufficient reason for it to be illegal. If you oppose legalizing, then you must think there IS sufficient reason for it to be illegal. You have to have specific justifications you can defend that something should be illegal in order to logically oppose legalization.
Claussen continues:

How do you measure how many people haven’t used the drugs because of the laws? It’s one of those “intangible factors,” Claussen said. “It’s hard to count things that don’t happen.”

OK, this guy’s completely over the edge. This statement is the ultimate nonsense defense — essentially saying “We need to keep locking people up and destroying families, because even though we don’t know that it’s having a deterrent effect, who knows? It might.”

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