Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a two-part debate CBS News.com is hosting between James P. Gray, a retired Orange County, Calif. judge who nowadays is a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and David Evans, an author and advisor to the Drug Free America Foundation. Part 2 will be published on Tuesday. We asked both participants to begin by summarizing their positions on the question of marijuana legalization. Meanwhile, make sure to add your own perspectives in the comments section below.
CBSNews.com Special Report: Marijuana Nation
We cannot legalize marijuana because its use has destructive health and social consequences. Marijuana is far more powerful today than it was years ago and it serves as an entry point for the use of other illegal drugs. This is known as the “gateway effect.” Despite arguments from the drug culture to the contrary, marijuana is addictive. This addiction has been well described in the scientific literature and it consists of both a physical dependence (tolerance and subsequent withdrawal) and a psychological habituation.
According to a US report released in June of 2008, the levels of THC – the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – have reached the highest ever amounts since scientific analysis of the drug began in the late 1970s. The average amount of THC has now reached average levels of 9.6 percent (the highest level in one of the samples was 37.2 percent). This compares to the average of just under 4 percent reported in 1983.
Higher potency marijuana may be contributing to a substantial increase in the number of American teenagers in treatment for marijuana dependence. The latest information from the U.S. Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS, 2006), reports that 16.1% of drug treatment admissions were for marijuana as the primary drug of abuse. This compares to 6% in 1992.
The use of marijuana in early adolescence is particularly dangerous. Adults who used marijuana early were five times more likely to become dependent on any drug and eight times more likely to use cocaine and fifteen times more likely to use heroin later in life.
Drug legalization advocates claim that marijuana is less dangerous than drugs like alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. However, studies over the last few years give us a lot of new information about marijuana. They show that marijuana is not harmless but that it is toxic and addictive.
I think that Dave, and everyone involved in this session, will agree that we are all on the same side of this issue, namely we all want to reduce drug abuse, and all of the crime and misery that accompanies it. Where we may have differences of opinion is how best to achieve that goal.
Dave raised some points that are in the minds of many people, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss them. But throughout this discussion I want to be clear on several things. First, I don’t use marijuana, and you could give it away on every street corner and bless it by every religious leader in town, and I am still not going to use it — unless I have some form of medical problem that a medical doctor feels can be helped by this as a medicine.
Second, I strongly agree with Milton Friedman that most of the harms that come from drugs, especially including marijuana, is because they are illegal. Yes, marijuana can have its harms, but far and away the most harmful thing connected with marijuana is jail.
Third, I agree with Dave that the strength of marijuana has seriously increased in the past years. But what Dave doesn’t appear to recognize is that the reason is Drug Prohibition. Why? Because it is a cardinal reason of prohibition always to promote the stronger stuff. For example, if I were a bootlegger during Alcohol Prohibition (as opposed to Drug Prohibition, which is a time we now live in), I would be facing the same criminal justice risks for selling a barrel of beer as I would a barrel of bourbon. So which would I sell? That’s easy, the bourbon. Why? Because I make more money off the stronger stuff, which is bourbon. The exact same principle holds true with regard to marijuana. For the same criminal justice penalties, I could make much more money selling stronger marijuana. So that is the fundamental reason why the strength has increased.
Are you concerned with these problems? They are all caused by Drug Prohibition. Why? Because as soon as you prohibit a substance, you give up all of your ability to have any say whatsoever about how it is sold, the quantities, qualities, age restrictions, or anything else.
The best resolution is to repeal the prohibition of marijuana. Then we could regulate and control it, tax it, and all of this would, as I said earlier, make this substance less available for children.
I have been on the bench in Orange County, California for 25 years, and a federal prosecutor and Navy JAG attorney before that, but there is no question whatsoever in my mind that the most patriotic thing I can do for the country that I love is to help us repeal these prohibitions.
I ask all of you to give all of these things some thought, use all of your experiences and observations, and help me to engage everyone in our country in a full, open, and honest discussion of this critical issue.
Judge Gray has raised issues about legalization and marijuana related crime and that legalization of marijuana would reduce this problem. He also discusses taxes and hemp.
The legalizers claim that as legalized drugs become less expensive, people will no longer need to commit crimes in order to pay for their drug use. The problem with this claim is that some drugs are already inexpensive. Marijuana, the most abused and addictive drug for young people, is very inexpensive. Some drugs can be manufactured in home laboratories. In addition, if drugs were sold legally and have to comply with government regulations and pay the costs of taxes placed upon the legalized drug there is a question whether it is possible to reduce the current price of some drugs.
However, if legal drug suppliers could undersell the black market by offering drugs at a lower price the rates of addiction would rise. Even supporters of drug legalization admit that “low prices would encourage use.” A good example of this is cocaine. Once cocaine began being marketed in the high potency and low cost form of “crack,” addiction rates increased. If addiction rates increase – so will purchase-related crime. Higher levels of drug use cause increased crime, especially property crime to pay for the drugs.
Legalizing drugs would not reduce purchase-related crime, but may actually increase it for two reasons: (1) if we decrease the price of an addictive drug, addicts will merely buy more of it and need more money to buy drugs. (2) there will be more addicts stealing to meet living expenses such as food, rent, etc. Drug abusing offenders are the most active criminals. Dependency on drugs drives people to commit crimes to generate income. Drug users, many of whom are unable to hold jobs, commit robberies and other crimes not only to obtain drugs, but also to purchase food, shelter, clothing and other goods and services. Even if drugs were legalized, addicts will still need to pay the rent and may resort to crime to do so.
The advocates of legalization claim that drug users only damage themselves and therefore they have the right to use drugs. Others 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.
Psychoactive drugs have a powerful impact on behavior. This influences people to commit crimes that have nothing to do with supporting the cost of their drug use. Some offenders suffer emotional and/or brain damage due to drug use, which contributes to mental illness or anti-social behavior. Cocaine-related paranoia is an example. If drug use increases with legalization, so will many forms of violent crime such as assaults, drugged driving, child abuse, and domestic violence.
If legalization will cause an increase in drug use, an increase in drug use certainly will create more criminal behavior. There is a strong connection between drug use and criminal behavior. Drug use studies show that two-thirds of all male and female arrestees tested positive for at least one drug. Cocaine was found in about one-half of males and females, and marijuana was found in 25% of the men and 20% of the women. Opiates were found in 10% of the men and women. Twenty-five percent of the total sample tested positive for more than one illegal drug.
A survey of prison inmates showed that inmates report high levels of drug use prior to the commission of the crime for which they were incarcerated. In the month prior to the crime, 43% were using illegal drugs on a daily or near daily basis, and 19% were using heroin, methadone, cocaine, PCP, or LSD on a daily or nearly daily basis. The study also showed that 35% of the inmates reported they were under the influence of drugs at the time they committed the crime. Marijuana or hashish were most frequently used at the time of the crime.
Approximately 80% of the inmates in a 1986 survey had used drugs at some time in their lives. Only 13% of inmates seemed to fit the pattern of drug addicts who committed the crimes for gain. Of those sentenced for robbery, burglary, larceny, or a drug offence, one-half were daily drug users, and about 40% were under the influence of an illegal drug at the time they committed the crime. The greater an inmate’s use of major drugs, the more prior convictions the inmate reported. Twenty-eight percent of the state inmates reported past drug problems with such drugs as heroin (14%), cocaine (10%), and marijuana or hashish (9%).
A US study of crime victims showed that 30 per cent perceived their attackers to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A study published in the International Journal of Addictions links homicides to the use of marijuana. Interviews with 268 inmates in prison for homicides in New York demonstrated that 71% used marijuana within 24 hours of committing the crime and that they were experiencing some effect from the drug at the time of the crime. Twenty-five percent felt that the homicide was related to their use of marijuana before the crime.
If legalizing drugs will increase drug use, then drugged driving will also likely increase. Many studies show a clear correlation between drug use and motor vehicle accidents, trauma, and dangerous driving. More drugged driving will mean more dead and injured drivers and their innocent victims. Recent studies of intoxicated driving suspects indicate that approximately one-third of those failing standard field sobriety tests will test positive for illegal drugs. Drug tests on the bodies of 168 fatally injured truck drivers found that marijuana was found in 13%; cocaine was found in 8% and amphetamines in 7%.
This conversation is helpful, because Dave Evans is bringing up many issues that are on the minds of lots of people. I will go through them, line by line, and discuss them. But the difference between my discussion and that of Dave Evans is that I will respond to his points, and even acknowledge the strength of some of them, because no program is perfect. But he probably will not do the same thing. Because one thing is clear. We are facing two substantial issues here: one is drug problems, and I do not intend anything
I say in this area to minimize them. But the second is drug money problems, and without a doubt, these are far, far worse than the drug problems. So far, you have not heard Mr. Evans even address, much less acknowledge, the drug money problems expressly caused by our policy of Drug Prohibition, both here and around the world. I ask him to respond to them as well.
He says: “The legalizers claim that as legalized drugs become less expensive, people will no longer need to commit crimes in order to pay for their drug use.”
First of all, calling us “legalizers” is a tactic that most people who support our present policy use. And it is expressly intended to freeze people’s minds, and shut off discussion. Why? Because the use of that term brings the connotation of such things like that people like me don’t care if your 14 year-old daughter buys cocaine in a vending machine across the street from her junior high school, or other such idiocy. Now I know Dave Evans, and he is not included in this statement, but that is exactly the connotation that most people who use that term wish to convey. And it is not true, at all! In fact I hate what some of these drugs do so much that I want to change our system to reduce those harms!
And besides, this sounds technical, but it is an important distinction, I do not want “legalize” anything. When you think of the legalization of drugs, think of aspirin. There are no restrictions on advertising, quantity, age of purchaser, or location of sale, and the price is set by the free market. What I wish to install is a system of the strictly regulated distribution of some of these drugs — starting with marijuana. This would be similar to what we do now with tobacco and alcohol. And in order to keep the marijuana from being advertised, the government would have to own the product. Would there be problems? Of course, because as I said, no program is perfect.
But this system would be far, far, far better than what we are doing now. In fact, anything would be better than what we are doing now!
With regard to his comment that people will no longer need to commit crimes in order to pay for their drug use, that is silly. Of course many will because nothing is perfect. But that crime would be greatly reduced. For this, please focus upon the results in Portugal, where they decriminalized the use of all drugs back in 2001. Mr. Glenn Greenwald of the CATO Institute published a report about the results just a few months ago, and he reported that when this occurred, overall drug usage became slightly lower, but problem drug usage was reduced by about half!
The reason behind this was twofold. First, under the prior criminal system, drug addicted people legitimately feared their own government, so they were highly unlikely to bring their problems to the government. But now that people would only receive an administrative citation for the use or possession of drugs, which would require them to appear before a medical staff to discuss their drug usage (and this staff was not at all connected to the criminal justice system), the drug addicted people were now willing to enter treatment programs is much, much greater numbers.
Second, now that the government was no longer spending such large amounts of money on the investigation, prosecution, and incarceration of drug-addicted people, they had much more money to use for drug treatment. So those treatment programs were funded. This is seen as a truly effective program, and is one we should not only study, we should emulate.
The first sentence of Mr. Evans’ second paragraph says: “However, if legal drug suppliers could undersell the black market by offering drugs at a lower price the rates of addiction would rise. Even supporters of drug legalization admit that ‘low prices would encourage use.'” He is basically right. Anyone with half a sense of economics will understand that if the demand is the same, and the price is cut in half, or even reduced, (and the substance is no longer illegal for adults), usage will certainly increase. But not necessarily addiction. Actually, as we have already addressed by the experience of Portugal, addiction and other problem drug usage would probably decrease, because treatment would be more available, and the drug addicted people no longer would be automatic criminals, so they would be much more likely to seek help.
And if we followed the experience of Holland, where all drugs were decriminalized several decades ago, after 6 to 12 to maybe 18 months, probably usage would decrease as well. The Minister of Health of Holland held a news conference numbers of years ago and said that their country, where anyone 16 years of age or older can go to a coffee house and get marijuana, they only have half the marijuana usage per capita as we do in the United States — even for teenagers!! And then he went on to explain why by saying that “We have succeeded in making pot boring.” Of course, we glamorize it in our country by having it illegal, and by having an incredible profit margin to sell it to us, our neighbors and our children. We must learn from Holland’s experience. This is more fully discussed in my book “Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed.” Holland does have one problem, however, that they do not know what to do about, and that problem is that a full third of the people who use and abuse drugs in their country are foreigners. I have no suggestions, but obviously since we are so much larger, we wouldn’t be as likely to have the problem.
Judge Gray mentioned the Netherlands. The Netherlands chose to liberalize drug policy to its regret. For example in the 1970s, “coffee shops” emerged in the Netherlands offering marijuana products for sale. Even though possession and sale of marijuana are not technically legal, the coffee shops were permitted to sell marijuana under certain restrictions to include a limit of no more than 5 grams sold to a person at any one time.
The Dutch saw the use of marijuana among young people more than double. The use of ecstasy and cocaine by 15-16 year olds rose significantly. After marijuana use became normalized, consumption among 18 to 20 year-olds nearly tripled – from 15 per cent to 44 per cent. It has since declined due to a anti-marijuana program by the government.
The government also looked again to law enforcement by announcing a “Five Year Offensive against the Production, Trade, and Consumption of Synthetic Drugs.” They also established the Penal Care Facility for Addicts similar to the Drug Courts in the US. This facility is designed to detain and treat addicts (of any drug) who repeatedly commit crimes and have failed voluntary treatment facilities. The offenders may be detained for up to two years, during which time they will go through a program of detoxification and training for social reintegration.
By 2004, the government of the Netherlands formally announced its mistake. The government of the Netherlands stated that “cannabis is not harmless – either for the abusers or for the community.” The Netherlands began to implement an action plan to discourage cannabis use. The action plan to discourage cannabis use includes elements such as drug prevention campaigns, mass-media anti-drugs campaign, increased treatment efforts to cannabis users, and encouragement of administrative and criminal law enforcement efforts. This brings the Netherlands “closer towards full compliance with the international drug control treaties with regard to cannabis.”
The Netherlands has recently announced they will be appointing a “Drug Czar.”
Drug use went down in Portugal not due to legalization but because the country put on a big effort to get people into treatment.
As for the Netherlands, my wife is from there and we have visited there often over the last 30 years. Pot use among Dutch kids was very low before they “decriminalized” pot. It was about 5%. It is now approaching US levels but is still lower than the US. It has risen substantially due to the more relaxed attitude. As my previous comment indicated, they have now publicly regretted their decision and they are cracking down and making a big effort to educate kids about pot. The quality of life in Amsterdam has deteriorated over the years due to pot use.
A few years ago the U.K. downgraded the illegal status of marijuana from a more serious offence to a lesser offence. In 2005, during a general election speech to concerned parents, British Prime Minister Tony Blair noted that medical evidence increasingly suggests that cannabis is not as harmless as people think and warned parents that young people who smoke cannabis could move on to harder drugs.
In 2008, just four years after the status of cannabis was downgraded, the U.K. government upgraded the classification of marijuana from a class C to class B offence and they announced a new system of escalating penalties for adults caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana. Officers will now be able to arrest first-time offenders. The U.K. government took this action because of the “more lethal quality” of the cannabis now available. The government believes that marijuana is a gateway drug and that reclassification was needed to “send a message to young people that it was unacceptable.” There will also be more robust enforcement of laws banning the supply and possession of marijuana and a new approach to tackling marijuana farms and organized crime. The government will also work with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to use existing laws to curtail the trade in marijuana paraphernalia.
In February 2007 the UN Office on Drugs and Crime released a study entitled: Sweden’s Successful Drug Policy: A Review of the Evidence. [FN1] The Swedish drug control policy has been guided by the goal of achieving a drug-free society and the unequivocal rejection of drugs and their trafficking. The report noted that: “The clear association between a restrictive drug policy and low levels of drug use is striking.”
In 1969, the Government of Sweden approved a ten-point program for increasing public efforts against the drug problem. The ten-point program was heavy on law enforcement measures but also covers demand reduction issues, in particular, the provision of treatment services to addicts and the prevention of drug abuse.
Sweden has the lowest drug use rate in Europe.
Your comment that increased pot use will not lead to more addiction is preposterous. The advocates of drug legalization claim that legalizing drugs would decrease addiction rates in two ways (1) People (particularly young people) use drugs because they are illegal and the users get a thrill from breaking a social taboo. Legalization will remove this incentive. (2) If drugs were legalized, civil society could spend the money that we presently spend on the criminal justice system on treatment of addicts and that would reduce addiction.
This argument does not work when we consider that drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana are dangerous and highly addictive. The scholarly opinion and historical evidence are clear that if these drugs are legalized, then the rates of drug use and addiction will climb. This will lead to misery, death, social disorder and massive spending.
It is true that marijuana is not only used more by young people than any other drug, it is the most used illicit drug by everyone — by far. And it is also true that the cost has been decreasing, for decades. But it is also true that it is easier for our young people to get marijuana than alcohol. And if you ask them, they will tell you the same thing they tell me. Why? Because illegal dealers don’t ask for I.D.!
When I talk with groups of high school or college students, I ask them that if I were to give each one of them $50 in cash right now, how many could come back by noon tomorrow with $50 of marijuana, if they wanted to? (The key is if they wanted to.), and routinely two-thirds of the young people raise their hands. That is not to say they are doing that, but if they wanted to, they would know where to go.
So under the present policy of Drug Prohibition, we couldn’t make marijuana more available if we tried! Today, no one is offering a free sample of Jim Beam Bourbon or Marlboro Cigarettes on a high school campus, and if they got even close to doing that they would be in a world of trouble. But free samples of marijuana, methamphetamines and other illicit drugs are offered all the time. Why? For the money. So I ask Mr. Evans to respond to this statement: As soon as you prohibit a substance, you give up all of your ability to regulate or control it. And, like Mr. Evans says, these drugs can be dangerous. So why abandon all decisions about strength, purity, price, age restrictions, and place of sale to gangsters?
Think of it this way, these drugs, dangerous as some of them can be, are here to stay. We have tried to make them unavailable to anyone — and particularly our young people — and we undisputedly have not been successful. In fact, all of you know who Charles Manson is. Are you aware that he was transferred from Corcoran State Prison several years ago because he was found to have been selling illicit drugs from his prison cell. And he was in solitary confinement! So if we can’t keep these drugs out of our prisons — and we can’t — how do we think we can keep them off the streets of any of our towns or cities?
And today, adult drug dealers are recruiting young people to help them in the drug distribution business. They use them as lookouts, `go-fers,’ couriers, etc. And then (and I saw this continually when I was presiding in Juvenile Court), as soon as their reliability is established, they trust the young people to sell small amounts of drugs in their communities. So I ask you, and I ask Mr. Evans, when you have 15 year-old boys (or girls) selling drugs in their communities, whom do they sell those drugs to, people like Mr. Evans and me? Nonsense! They obviously sell to their 14, 15 and 16 year-old peers. Thus recruiting more young people to a lifestyle of drug usage and drug selling. It is not a pretty sight, and it is all caused by our policy of Drug Prohibition. (None of them today are selling alcohol or cigarettes.) So once again, virtually any other policy would be better than the one we have now.
Mr. Evans’ next sentence was: “Some drugs can be manufactured in home laboratories.” And of course he is right. But I make the same response. That is also caused by Drug Prohibition. And look at all of the problems this brings. For example, methamphetamine laboratories are dangerous, because they literally can explode. And also the fumes are quite dangerous to breathe. So when these are in homes, often there are children residing there, and they are exposed to and harmed by the fumes. Or if the labs are placed out in the wilderness, they invariably pollute the ground water and the landscape. We don’t have those problems with the manufacture of licit drugs.
And that is not to begin to address the quality control problems with home-manufactured drugs. And that is a major problem, because no one knows when they have cooked up a bad batch of methamphetamines until their customers start keeling over, etc. We had the same what I call “Bathtub Gin” problems during Alcohol Prohibition, but they disappeared immediately upon the repeal of that failed policy. When responsible businesses, overseen by the FDA, begin to manufacture the products, at least those quality problems virtually disappear. And, of course, so do the “Al Capone” problems of the distribution of the drugs. These are not at all minor points. Do you disagree, Mr. Evans?
Mr. Evans writes: “In addition, if drugs were sold legally and have to comply with government regulations and pay the costs of taxes placed upon the legalized drug there is a question whether it is possible to reduce the current price of some drugs.”
He is right. Probably the question I have been asked in all of these 17 years I have been discussing this critically important issue that I have trouble answering is: “I don’t trust the government. If they see they can gain revenue by selling these drugs, they will be inclined to increase that revenue by advertising the drugs, and raising (or sometimes lowering) the price.” That is a big problem, and one that can be overcome only by continued vigilance of the voters. But otherwise, the government will always have a trump card: it can always lower the price to about two cents higher than an illegal dealer can sell at and still stay in business. (Because remember, it will still be illegal to buy, possess or use any drugs not sold within the new government system.) Actually, if we had to give the products away to drive the illegal dealers out of business, we still could do that, and in the overall scheme of things, would not really be that expensive. But obviously it would never come to that.
But imagine the difference in life if we didn’t have illegal drug dealers in our communities, and all around the world. Think of it this way: when we finally came to our senses and repealed Alcohol Prohibition, homicides went down nationwide by 40 percent in the first year! And they continued to be reduced every year thereafter until the Second World War. I am absolutely convinced that we will experience the same phenomenon when we come to our senses and repeal Drug Prohibition!
Furthermore, every terrorist organization in the world uses the profits from the sales of illicit drugs as its major source of funding. In fact, I refer to Drug Prohibition as the Golden Goose of Terrorism. Of course, there will always be some radical and extreme people in the world who want to do harm to the rest of us. But they will be far less dangerous if they lose a principal source of their funding. And the same thing is true with most juvenile gangs. So if we want to heavily reduce the problems of the world of terrorism and juvenile gangs, the best way by far of doing that would be to repeal Drug Prohibition!
Judge Gray makes the claim that legalization of pot will reduce drug profiteering. Legalization will not eliminate drug profits. It will simply shift them out of the pockets of traffickers and into the hands of legitimate businesses. Once this happens then it will be in the economic interest of businesses to promote their products and to package them in attractive ways. The legalizers may claim that the government can regulate this but how well has that worked with alcohol and tobacco? Once drugs are “legal” then drug sellers can hire lawyers and lobbyists and make donations to political campaigns to further their cause. They will pursue their marketing opportunities and will seek to reduce government regulation.
A revealing look at how the profit motive will take over is found in a Reuters story involving Warren Eugene, a pioneer of Internet gambling from Canada. His firm, Amigula/Medical Cannabis Inc., plans to grow and sell the marijuana to people authorized to use it for medical purposes, and to those people not medically authorized. He wants his firm to become an international, publicly listed concern. Initially he will target medical users, but the market could grow if Canada decriminalizes the possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis, just over half an ounce. Canada has up to 400,000 users of medical marijuana. If each user buys C$1,000 (US $765) worth of marijuana a year, annual sales could reach C$40 million. Eugene wants to list his company on stock markets in Denmark, London, Amsterdam, Canada, Australia and Paris. Eugene states: “If marijuana works, I am going to go with opium next.”
Judge Gray makes the claim that pot is easily available and that law enforcement does not work. However, law enforcement serves many purposes in the anti-drug effort.
1. It exacts a high price from those who would profit from the misery and addiction of others, e.g., loss of freedom and seizure of their ill-gotten gains.
2. It keeps potential drug users from using drugs by virtue of the fear of arrest and the embarrassment of being caught.
3. It helps drug users/addicts into treatment through the use of laws and drug courts that offer treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
4. Legal sanctions have helped to deter or delay potential abusers, thereby limiting the growth of the illicit market;
Okay. Enough already!
Mr. Evans, the only thing you have really addressed is drug usage. I have already shown why and how I agree with some of your thoughts, and disagree with others. But I have spent a great deal of time discussing all of the issues, because they are at least as important as usage, and probably more so. Therefore, I will number some points, and request a response from you about them, instead of this broadside only about drug usage. Please respond to these points.
1. In Portugal, where they changed their system to one of a medical and administrative approach, instead of criminal, problem drug usage has gone down. Why, because as Glenn Greenwald expressly stated in his report, the money saved by the criminal justice system has been used for drug treatment. Mr. Evans, please address this issue. Why would it not work here?
2. I also spent a great deal of time discussing the fact that marijuana is stronger now because of our policy of Drug Prohibition. And that is true. And the reason is that the illegal sellers always make more money, for the same criminal justice risks, in selling the stronger stuff. That can be changed by getting the illegal dealers out of the market. Why would that not be true, Mr. Evans?
3. Of course, you persist in calling people who are calling for change “drug legalizers.” Do you not agree that there are many options, as I previously discussed, between the policy of Drug Prohibition, and the legalization of drugs (which I have already explained, I do not favor)? Do you not agree?
4. And do you not agree that the entire countries of Colombia and Mexico, and many others, have been enormously corrupted, and the safety of their people deeply threatened, not by drugs, but by drug money? In fact, it is mostly our drug money.
5. And that is not to mention that virtually every terrorist organization in the world gets its primary source of funding from the sales of illicit drugs. Does that make any difference to you? If it does, please respond.
6. And finally, do you not agree that each drug is different, and presents different problems? What about the medical approach I discussed that is enormously successful in Switzerland for heroin-addicted people?
7. Marijuana is the largest cash crop in California today. That means that someone is using it. And marijuana is easier for young people to obtain than alcohol. That is what they say. What does that tell you? Do you not agree that regulating and controlling the sale of marijuana, like we do with alcohol, only even more rigorously, would not make marijuana less available for our young people than it is today? And finally for the moment,
8. Do you believe that what we are doing today in this critically important area is the best it could be, or could it be improved upon? If so, what changes would you suggest we make?
There are many questions that I have raised that have not been addressed, in addition to the usage of all of these various drugs, but that will do for now.
(CBS) Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a two-part debate CBS News.com is hosting between James P. Gray, a retired Orange County, Calif. judge who nowadays is a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and David Evans, an author and advisor to the Drug Free America Foundation. Part 1 can be found here. We want to hear your opinions as well so make sure to add your perspectives in the comments section below.
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 accounts.
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.