Know the Facts - Change the Law

Know the Facts - Change the Law
Life - Liberty - Pursuit of Happiness

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Is the War being waged on Americans effective for controlling drugs?

The short history of prohibition laws is that America has had some sort of prohibition law since the "noble experiment" of alcohol prohibition (1920 - 1933). Prior to that, three states had alcohol laws in 1906 and over the next ten years twenty more states passed some sort of alcohol prohibition law. There were no ganja laws until the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act. There is an excellent historical discussion of the progression of prohibition laws previously published in the Virginia Law Review now available at THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT AND THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE: AN INQUIRY INTO THE LEGAL HISTORY OF AMERICAN MARIJUANA PROHIBITION

There are studies that examine the parallels and divergences between alcohol temperance and ganja suppression. For our discussion, we are only interested in one major difference: there was significant, open public debate about temperance. Ganja prohibition was slipped in with no public debate. In fact, the day the first ganja law was introduced, congressional records show that no one knew what it was about and it passed with no discussion; all of the scientific and medical communities that opposed ganja control laws were simply ignored.

Today, ganja prohibition exists with no permitted public discussion. Yellow journalists are forced by manipulation by the law enforcement community to suppress the truth that ganja decriminalization is supported by every major medical and psychiatric organization but one, which group has not presented any opinion about decriminalizing ganja. In fact, most people oppose the present prohibition scheme that treats all users as dysfunctional. The prohibitionists get quite rabid in attempting to dominate every conversation about law reform with their lies and misdirections.

Another set of facts about prohibition law that the cops hope that people never discuss is whether the law is having the effect it is purported to seek to address. Just as significant, are all of the goals rational and based in scientific fact? Integral to any discussion of law is how will enforcement be financed, and are the goals fiscally attainable? Let's examine some of the stated goals of prohibition and the costs in socioeconomic terms.

A significant fear that prohibitionists promote is that decriminalizing ganja will lead to wider use. In fact, in countries and states where ganja laws have been relaxed, the rates of use have actually gone down. (read the blog about Yellow Journalists which has a discussion of a Harvard website that provides statistics on this).

Not only is more widespread use an unfounded fear, but even the most draconian laws and enforcement have had not effect. The fact is, anyone who wants ganja can get it. According to DEA and FBI statistics, a little over half of adults have tried ganja at one time or another and between a quarter and a third of adults use ganja on a regular basis. In Delaware, that equates to some 250,000 regular ganja consumers. Prohibitionists hate these numbers. It comes from government statistics, so if they want to argue the point they will need to provide better stats to support their contentions.

A subset of this fear of spreading use is that decriminalizing ganja will lead to more youth getting involved with ganja. I refer again to the study on the Harvard website I mention in another blog, which provides government statistics that show that decriminalizing, removing the rebel status of ganja, results in declining use in youth. Because prohibition results in a profitable black market, which has none of the legal incentives to restrict sales to youth that legal businesses have, prohibition actually results in more exposure of youth to access to ganja.

The wrong message is continued government benign neglect that empowers a massive and corrupt black market leaving children to the amoral tender mercies of addict dealers, gangsters and other social predators who all thrive in the illegal economy. The right message is showing that we care with strong government institutions watching closely enough over well regulated merchants who 'just say no' when children come in to buy, whether it be tobacco, alcohol or ganja.

Another subset fear that prohibitionists promote is that decriminalization will result in more addicts. But, according to The National Institutes on Drug Abuse Genetics Working Group "drug abuse and dependence comprise a complex set of genetic disorders..." Addiction is a biological malady that impacts 25% or more of our population no matter how many police and prisons we have.

Under the current prohibition policies, if a goal is to keep children from becoming addicts the law has been dramatically ineffective. The real result has been that the black market gives those with the worst incentive, drug dealers and their addicted users. Illicit ganja sales amount to a highly inflated eighty billion dollar hit on the pockets of consumers every year, and even the limited enforcement of ganja laws costs another seventy billion dollars a year. A better way to address the harm of addiction would be to regulate, tax and license the criminal anarchy out of the distribution of drugs as completely and effectively as regulations today protect consumers from predatory practices in other commerce.

Most revealing about this claim about ganja is that the fear itself has no foundation in science and medicine. As former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders points out, which I address in another blog, the American College of Physicians has provided scientific proof that ganja use is not a predictor of either addiction or trying other drugs. There are no facts to support that fear, they point out.

These aspects of increased use, addiction and stepping stone theories are only a part of the rationals on which prohibition is provably a complete failure in achieving its goals.

I just got the following message from a former police officer.

For Immediate Release April 22, 2008 Medford, MA- A burst of gang violence in Chicago between April 18 and April 21 left at least 37 people shot, 2 stabbed, and 9 dead. Thirteen of the victims have been identified as Chicago Public Schools students. The 36 separate incidents of violence included gang shootings, drive-by shootings, and shots fired at police with an AK-47. In response to the weekend’s surge of violence, Chicago police will disperse gun, tactical, and gang teams, as well as SWAT officers in battle gear. As summer approaches, police anticipate that gang activity will continue to increase. The gang violence of the 1920’s is the same 80 years later: it is driven by a prohibition that increases crime, violence, disease and death. The land of Al Capone should read the history books: just as alcohol prohibition in the 1920’s caused Chicago to erupt in gang violence in Capone’s era, drug prohibition is the root of gang warfare in Chicago in 2008. The black market drug trade fuels the violence, and as long as prohibition continues, the resulting violence will only increase. For More Information Contact: Mike Smithson LEAP Operations Director

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