Thank you, James P. Gray

I have been a fan of Superior Court Judge James P. Gray since I discovered his book several years ago: Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs . It was simply one of the clearest and easiest to read arguments against the war on drugs — a particularly good book for someone to read who was just getting ready to consider drug policy reform. I bought 6 copies and have had them out on loan (and given some away).
Well James continues to amaze. His article in Wednesday’s National Post: The war on drugs cannot be won” is superb.

Based on my experience as a federal prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, as a criminal defence attorney for the U.S. Navy JAG Corps, and as a trial judge in Orange County, Calif. since 1983, I’ve concluded that the U.S. government policy of drug prohibition has not only failed, but that it is hopeless.

The problem is not that our law enforcement officers aren’t doing a good job. In truth is they have a dangerous and difficult task, and are doing better than we have a right to expect. They are no more to blame for the failure of drug prohibition than was Elliott Ness for the failure of alcohol prohibition. The problem, rather, is that our prohibitionist laws make the trafficking in illegal drugs so obscenely profitable that we will never exhaust the supply to criminals willing to take the risk of imprisonment in order to produce and sell them.

In fact, our present system is giving us the worst of all worlds. As a direct result of our policy of drug prohibition, crime, violence, corruption, taxes and — in many cases — even drug usage have increased, while the health and civil liberties of citizens have suffered. America’s “prison-industrial complex” has gotten so fat and powerful from the money our governments have budgeted for the War on Drugs that it has become politically dangerous for elected officials to speak out against the current policy. Under these circumstances, it is up to ordinary people — as citizens, taxpayers and voters — to call a halt to these failed policies.

And he asks all the right questions as well…

– Why do we not make distinctions between drug use, drug misuse, drug abuse and drug addiction? I agree that marijuana, for example, can have harmful effects upon the user if taken to excess on a regular basis. But obviously, so can alcohol. I drink a glass of wine almost every night with dinner. Does that mean that I am in need of an alcohol treatment program? […]

– Given that there has never been a society in human history that has not embraced some form of mind-altering drug to use and abuse, should we not put our focus on harm reduction, rather than fighting human nature through prohibitionist mechanism?

And check out this line: “The people of Colombia do not have a drug problem: No one is dying from coca plants. What they have is a devastating drug money problem.”
Good stuff. He ran for Senate in California as the Libertarian Candidate in 2004. He only got 1.7% of the vote. Sad. I’d love to have him in Washington.

[Thanks, Bruce]
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