(War on Drugs. . . .)
The WOD since ‘68 Each succeeding presidential administration since Nixon has reinvented, then escalated The WOD. Example? Attorney General Janet Reno couldn’t have been more candid when addressing members of the military, the defense industry and the intelligence community in November, 1993. Remember, this is just months after Waco, when U.S. military forces aided local police, with deadly results. Reno urged, “And let me challenge you to turn your skills that served us so well in the Cold War to helping with the war we’re now fighting daily in the streets of our towns and cities across the nation.” Pray, which war was that, Janet?
Marijuana busts have doubled since Clinton took office and, in 1997 alone, 695,000 Americans were arrested for pot, about 90% for mere possession, according to R. Keith Stroup of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijunia Laws (NORML), quoting the FBI’s own statistics. One in seven prisoners confined for drug offenses is in for marijuana. Of the almost two million prisoners in the U.S., nearly 300,000 of them are in for some kind of drug related offense.
A Lose/Lose Scenario Let’s get real here. The greatest hazard to health of any drug is its criminalization. As Margaret Mead pointed out long ago, criminalizing a substance that is relatively mild, obviously non-addictive in the literal sense, and highly available, sends a message. By lumping all presently illegal substances in the same category despite vast differences among them—especially lumping marijuana with far more dangerous drugs—we send the message that we cannot be trusted to tell the truth. And if we lie about drugs, what else do we lie about? No policy of “zero tolerance” can make a lie into a truth. What starts as a “war on drugs” soon escalates into a “war on people.”
The last time we (re-)discovered this timeless human truth was during the Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s. The crime and corruption generated by outlawing booze were far, far worse for society than problems associated with individual abuse of alcohol itself. It took a decade for the nation to acknowledge this fact and repeal the prohibition.
It is the profit motive artificially created by criminalization that incites sociopathic behavior, fracturing the social contract and eroding community standards. Such behavior presents a far greater health hazard to society than the individual smoking of pot or even snorting cocaine or shooting heroin. Dr. Jocelyn Elders, former U.S. Surgeon General, and Dr. Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, and others have been trying to tell the American public this for years.
What was true of alcohol prohibition is true of drug prohibition. The price our nation has been forced to pay during all the decades of this chicanery is beyond counting. We have become a cruel nation inflicting massive suffering on millions of people caught within the grinding system of a “get-tough” policy gone mad.
And we lose economically too. Our nation has been forced to relinquish a major economic boon in developing the environmentally benign products and practices of the hemp industry. Yet, all this has been deceitfully concealed from the public by the use of the most sophisti-cated techniques of disinformation. Why would our government do such a thing?
Collateral Damage As bad as the damage done to the country’s moral compass by The WOD, is the “collateral damage” of this bogus war. Examples are endless. Right here in Oregon, the Molalla police department has a program that encourages parents to bring in their children for free drug testing. The two-year-old program, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, screens participants at police headquarters for various drugs, and reports its findings within 15 minutes. Word is, the program will likely expand statewide this year.
Just great! Now I can deliver my child to my local police station and instruct her to “just pee into this nice container here for this nice policeman so we can invade the mystery of your body to find out if you’re a criminal or not.” What a sensitive way to deepen the trust bonds between me and my child while introducing her to the realities of “civilized” adult life. And all at no charge!
NORML’s Allen St. Pierre remarked, “Parents intent on evaluating their children’s excrement for evidence of past drug use can go to any major drug chain store and purchase a private drug test, rather than expose their children to the criminal justice system and its structural infirmities.”
To understand our national priorities vis-a-vis The WOD and our children, let’s look at comparisons. Our children’s education fund is being literally looted by WOD warriors. In California, for instance, new prison spending has out-distanced that of new colleges by 19 to 1. And there’s no end to it. California predicts all its prisons will be filled to capacity by April, 2001. (What’ll we do? Build more!)
In California, prison guards—many of whom being high school drop-outs—receive higher pay than college-educated teachers. And with endless increase in prisoner population, we keep needing more of them. In recent years, thousands of the state’s teachers have been laid-off, with the savings going to the criminal justice system. I don’t mean to begrudge a guard his or her pay for such stressful, dangerous work in that horrific environ-ment. But what about society’s education needs, which so many politicians have given so much lip service to for so long?