Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Drug War: VietNam Part II

A prominent Oklahoma attorney told me, recently;
The most dangerous concern about marijuana, is 'getting caught'.
  Perhaps the least reported narrative of the 50 year drug war is the role that liquor and other pharmaceutical distributors have had on the effort to keep their indigenous competition suppressed through the criminal code.
  The idea that the world's highest incarceration rate is fueled by an effort to help liquor maintain it's market share, is too devastating for many Americans to find peace with. 
  It was easy to sell the notion of criminalizing 'the damn hippy drugs' in a decade when the generation gap was a massive culture war. Parents and older generations wanted to rid society of the long haired young men with unkept beards, tie-dyed apparel, and generally 'make them kids get jobs and speak normal again'... Groovy!
   But we've wholly lost our collective appreciation for natural remedies, holistic solutions, and ability to address a problem without a patented product from the drug store; or a proper tax-stamped purchase from the bottle shop. 

  Perhaps it's time to borrow an out-of-context phrase from Gov. David Walters... to "declare victory and get out of Vietnam". I'm a teetotaler and advocate for mental health care. I believe in dealing with serious mental health challenges with the wisest assistance and scholarship, rather than panicked self-medicating in secrecy. But I believe in empowerment of people... to to give them access and authority to help themselves.
​   We don't let people really care for themselves. We tell them that they are too stupid and will always be so. That unless they get the proper university diplomas and board certifications; that they will never be allowed to have the best tools for selfcare. 
  Yes, the liquor industry now is more powerful than ever before. Alcohol problems cost our society in tragic manifestations we can't even fully describe. The black markets of the mafia which control illegal substances have robbed society of an equitable tax base and created a vigilante industry which settles the score for evils done which cannot be even reported to legitimate law enforcement.  In short, we created a mafia which is bigger than the liquor prohibition era.
  Rarely do the real kingpins even get identified, much less captured and prosecuted. But daily we see scores of common folks suffer the vicarious vendetta of frustrated cops whose careers are based on the drug war's continuance.
   Here's a short excerpt from a fine essay the failed drug war.

Among the war's many tragic consequences and by far the worst is the criminalization of a vast, ever increasing percentage of our population, destroying families and individuals by the millions. We are now the world's leading jailer - even communist China - who we criticize for its slave labor camps - imprisons at a lesser rate. We make mockery of the once cherished phrase - Land of the Free.

When people are arrested on felony drug charges, they are usually dragged from their homes or places of business and booked into filthy, dangerously overcrowded county jails pending bonding proceedings. Physical and sexual assault is commonplace. The arrested person generally will forfeit his job or career, long before any conviction or acquittal of charges. These people are instantly transformed from taxpayer to tax burden. Statistics bear this out; of over 50% of men employed before a prison term, less than twenty percent hold steady jobs thereafter. Studies indicate profound mental and attitudinal changes take place within an individual after five years of incarceration: depressive neurosis, hostility, anomie and withdrawal are the result. Prison levels ego.

Marriages are the first casualty of arrest and conviction - prison itself being statutory grounds for divorce in most states. The mental stress of arrest; being forced through the criminal justice system, job loss and subsequent imprisonment is often followed by the added trauma of divorce and loss of parental rights. The American criminal justice system has no regard at all for the family structure of the accused, and that cost might be a necessary evil in protecting citizens from violent crime, but drug prohibition accounts for over 50% of the 1.6 million people currently imprisoned. It is important to note that in addition to this figure, there are approximately 2.5 million drug offenders on parole or supervised release. This does not enumerate the further millions that have exited the system, having finished probation.

The destruction is massive and with a rippling effect on the family, there are between one and two million "orphans" of the drug war. This is the politic of prohibition. There are now criminal records on 50 million Americans.

"Many criminologists have begun to ponder the unthinkable: that the criminal justice system itself, rather than guarding the peace, contributes to social instability in America."

The Real War on Crime: The Report of the National Criminal Justice Commission, HarperPerennial, 1996.
  There are two fundamental objectives which are tied to the drug war, which need to be not only kept, but enhanced.
  1. Keep our public safety objectives. Mostly this is tied to traffic and workplace standards. We cannot tolerate a casual indifference to intoxicated people who victimize indiscriminately by operating big things which can hurt others.
  2. Protect kids from exploitation. Kids are designed by nature to be the responsibility of their parents. As such, parents have a moral authority to insist that all of society respect their role in deciding what their children are going to be subjected to.
 Some would go further and argue that these two objectives can be fully protected by using civil courts to grant relief, award damages, and even punitive redress for harms done. But dead people can't file claims. So we need to keep a public policy which has a criminal law component. Hence, a drug war which is scaled back. A drug war which does a better job of the two objectives, without branding 8% of our Oklahoma population as felons, for essentially victim less crimes.

from Sooner Politics.org - Editorial http://www.soonerpolitics.org/editorial/the-drug-war-vietnam-part-ii

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