THE WAR ON DRUGS - A VIEW FROM THE FRONT

 

I have been on the front lines of the so-called "war on drugs" for over twenty years, and when I have time to pause, some questions occur to me: Why are we so obsessed with whether someone we don't know gets high? Who appointed us to be everybody's "Father Knows Best"? Why do we create an artificially inflated market price for drugs that in turn causes most of the theft and violent criminal behavior that terrorizes our communities? The answer to each question is, in large part, a bureaucratic self-interest that I like to think of as "turf".

The Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles has 19 floors. The majority of those floors each house eight courtrooms. Each courtroom has a judge, bailiff, clerk and court reporter permanently assigned. Among others, the District Attorney, Public Defender, Alternate Public Defender, Indigent Criminal Defense Appointments Panel, as well as the Probation Department daily send hordes of people to each courtroom. This swarm is also backed up with enormous numbers of supervisors, administrators, clerical and support staff individually servicing every organization. All of these people are being paid by the government in one fashion or another. Then, of course, there is the complex and overlapping web of State and Federal law enforcement agencies that have provided the raw defendant product for what in reality is a large sausage-making machine. The local police, the DEA, the FBI all have enormous narcotics units and "task forces" that provide an extravagant amount of employment for various forms of drug soldiers of all persuasions. Then there is the correctional system with thousands upon thousands of employees. All of these agencies represent a fiefdom to some bureaucrat. All of these modern feudal lords and hundreds of thousands of their minions stand to lose in a big way if our collective attitude toward the issue of drug use changes in any significant manner. What is truly amazing is how these bureaucrats have convinced you, the voting public, to squander vast sums on this lost cause while education and health care go begging. The moral posturing of these public servants is generally self-serving. They can hardly be honest and take a position that will result in them losing their highly-paid jobs, can they?

In the Criminal Courts Building, Division 30 of the Los Angeles Municipal Court is the central felony arraignment court for the City of Los Angeles. If you sat and watched what goes on for a few days you would see how your tax dollars are being spent. At least 65% of the cases arraigned there are outright Health & Safety Code violations for the possession, sales, or transportation of some controlled substance. An examination of these cases will reveal that our armada of drug enforcement generally seems only capable of capturing pip-squeaks. Illegal aliens that sell a single rock of cocaine to an undercover officer backed by more than ten other officers are the rule of the day. Thousands of actual paid law enforcement dollars go to seizing $5 worth of drugs. Then we send this illegal for a long and costly prison stay. Deported upon release, he slips back and resumes his trade after shooting the person who took his place. A significant amount of the remaining cases are, in reality, drug cases as well. Burglary, Robbery and drive-by shootings can in large part be deemed drug related. Addicts steal to pay outrageous drug prices. Gangs are in the business of selling drugs and settle territorial disputes with violence, just as they did during the 1930's. We faced the same problems then. Didn't we notice how the drive-by shootings stopped in Chicago when we repealed prohibition? The real problem today is, that in not having learned from history, we are now repeating it on a significantly grander scale.

If the law against possession of heroin was repealed, would you immediately go out and get a fix? Is the law the only thing that is keeping you and your loved ones off crack? Alcohol is legal, are you laying in the gutter on skid row? If your answer is no, why do you care if some weak-willed stranger overdoses? Why is it your business anyway?

GIVE THEM THE DOPE! We could sell these folks what they crave at one tenth the current street price. We could charge sales tax. We could make billions of dollars that could be used for better purposes than financing the self-perpetuating consumer of our scant public resources the drug war has become. We would remove the reason street gangs exist. For those that want it, we could set up rehabilitation centers at a fraction of the cost we now spend on the criminal justice system. Don't make the mistake of perceiving this problem in terms of a "war". This has been foisted on you to think in terms of "winning" and "losing". Nobody wants to lose and a sense of false pride prevents us from looking at the problem rationally.


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