Friday, May 22, 2015

Starting to win the war on drugs


     It was always crazy that you could buy a gallon of vodka at any grocery store, while a joint would land you in a jail.
     But “crazy” is one of the more apt adjectives describing America’s War on Drugs, a multi-decade, multi-billion dollar effort that in the end . . . assuming this is, please God, the beginning of the end . . . produced what? Plentiful, ever cheaper street narcotics and a prison system jammed with drug offenders.
     More than half of the inmates in the federal prison system are there for drug offenses. As are nearly a quarter of those in state prisons.
     True, most are there for hard drugs, which is an actual social problem. About 12 percent of prisoners in the state and federal systems are there for selling marijuana. That’s still more than 100,000 people, all for involvement with a drug that has killed … well, nobody ever.
     On Thursday, the Illinois Senate took another baby step toward sanity by decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. Sure, pot isn’t healthy, and not a very productive use of your time. But if mind-numbing time wastes were crimes, then a whole lot of folks would be in Stateville on an Xbox rap.
     It’s uncertain whether Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign the bill, though as a guy already lashing out at the unions and at Chicago, he might decide to go with the flow, for once, and approve of a popular measure. Americans are tired of this war.
     Anyone concerned about a nation in gridlock — and any patriotic American should fear that more than the Russians and ISIS put together — has to cheer this development, as nearly half the states, including Illinois, have legalized marijuana in some form. Even people who never smoke pot — i.e. me — have to welcome the reduced waste of police and judicial resources, the money saved, the eventual tax bonanza gained, should we follow Colorado, Oregon and Washington State and allow recreational uses.
     There are two ways to view this. It could be seen as a victory for drug culture, for those who want a bit of impairment to help their lives slide by. Or it could be seen as a victory for good government, for allowing American citizens their supposed liberty to do as they please, to indulge in a recreation that harms no one. Maybe we’re at along last starting to win the war, but not in the way we had planned. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.


Photo atop blog: Venice Beach, California, 2009

44 comments:

  1. Advocate of the Anti-ChristMay 22, 2015 at 2:24 AM

    Neil, you should at least try it.
    We need to legalize other drugs too, as what is mostly wrong is the effects of their illegality.
    My own drug of choice is LSD.

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  2. Right on Neil. It all seems so obvious, doesn't it? Now we can focus on ending the war on Christianity.

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    1. You mean the one in your head? That's up to you.

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  3. Whoa Neil, I was being sarcastic. Of course there is NO war on Christianity. Could anything be more ridiculous?

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    1. Of course Barry was being sarcastic, NS. After all, didn't he say he was Jewish?

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  4. The only thing that bothers me about legalizing marijuana is the way it's being done -- treating the law as a matter of convenience. If the Supreme Court finds gay marriage bans unconstitutional, how would we feel if Alabama passes laws to the contrary and then refuses to perform ceremonies? We'd want the feds to send the troops in to enforce it if necessary. But if the states next to Colorado and Washington want the federal law enforced in Colorado, in-part because they're helpless against smuggling, we say "no, forget the federal law - don't you dare enforce it." (Before you dig deep into the analogy, I'd ask that you just ask yourself if there are ANY liberal federal laws you like of a comparable nature that you wouldn't want local governments to overturn). We've seen two presidents - one from each party - use their "discretionary" power in unprecedented ways to simply ignore laws they don't like. I'd like to see legal pot - I may be a hypocrite and buy some next time I'm in Colorado - but I'm not comfortable just ignoring the federal law, especially when the majority still seem to want -some- degree of criminalization.

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  5. I'm glad that NS hasn't tried that.( Hopefully no other illegal drug either) I 'm about his age and wouldn't think of it. It still affects the brain somehow, especially certain varieties. I'm not saying liquor is great either but don't tell me a small glass of wine at dinner now and then is just as bad.

    Anon -not -anon, I'm shocked to find out you might be into that. You should know better. Unless you were speaking in hyperbole.

    Have you ever once agreed with NS?

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    1. However, as a prank, a pal and I did smoke oregano once in high school. The color of leaf fooled some people. All we had to do was buy papers and raid Mamma's cabinet. She wondered how she went through the spice jar so fast. True story.

      And there were no side effects either but I craved spaghetti sauce after.

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    2. Yes I've agreed with NS - a couple of times I even posted some links supporting points he was making. And I'm not sure I'm really disagreeing with him in that post: I don't think he was really commenting on the federalism aspect of pot law reform, and my concerns could be solved if they merely changed the law to let states, at least for now, set their own policies - not legalize pot nationwide.

      But I won't disappoint you: I do disagree with one thing in his post: I *don't* think gridlock is a bigger threat than ISIS. First, I don't think gridlock is a bad thing per-se. If Marco Rubio is elected president with an all-GOP Congress, I wonder if NS might think gridlock is a good thing. Elections have meaning: the country in 2014 effectively said "we want policies that NS doesn't" (leaving aside how gerrymandering skews the voice of the country...) - would NS want to get rid of gridlock if it meant enacting that agenda and not President Obama's? Maybe, but I wouldn't presume it from the quick comment in the column. Gridlock during the George W. Bush administration would have prevented the regressive changes to our tax code, the "starve the beast" deficits that handcuff social spending today even if there was no current gridlock, and most importantly might have kept the Supreme Court from being the polarized and currently radical conservative instrument (and I don't use the term "radical" lightly) it is today. Gridlock might -- might -- allow for a best-of-both-worlds compromise on immigration reform rather than the screw-the-poor/increase-border-death/waste-half-a-trillion-dollars worst-of-both-worlds Gang of Eight bill. I'm not saying gridlock is necessarily a good thing either but it does require a broad consensus before making major policy moves and I can find bigger things to fear, including a Middle East where we have to kowtow to an Iranian hegemony as a counterweight to ISIS.

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    3. I agree with you about ISIS. But boots on the ground, as the Repubs propose, will just make their recruitment grow for terrorism. It's a never ending drain pit.

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  6. I hope, Neil , that you don't think it's shocking to find wine in a gro store as well.

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  7. Personally, I preferred the days of "reefer madness," when it meant something to be rebellious. I got a tattoo when I was 18, but I wouldn't have bothered had I known that every other teenager in Barrington would be doing the same in the 2000s.

    John

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    1. Wow, Barrington-you must be rich.

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  8. Reefer Madness, that's a movie from the 1930's. You're a bit older than I thought, Tate.

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  9. Anonymous: "but don't tell me a small glass of wine at dinner now and then is just as bad." From what I've seen and read, that small glass of wine isn't "just as bad", it's significantly worse. Just sayin'. But I have to agree that "you should try it" is not, and in of itself, a well reasoned statement. You should try if you want to, but I don't know that there's any great need! I smoked a few times in college, and once in graduate school, and I decided that, for me, it's horrible – despite my MS and the fact that some sufferers of MS find it therapeutical. But those who are still totally against it, are wrong :-). Not "wrong" because "wow, man, they're missing out!" "Wrong" because, well, not everyone has to try everything that you think is great! For instance, I have no intention of trying bungee jumping or off-road motorcycling; it's not because there's anything wrong with them! It's because I don't want to. But I don't think either of those should be illegal, just because someone feels that is dangerous. That's not my USA!

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    1. Just curious, why do you think a small glass of wine at dinner now and again is significantly worse than marijuana? Moderate alcohol intake has been shown to have health benefits. Now, if you actually mean is that, overall, alcohol does more damage than marijuana, I would agree with that.

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    2. It's my USA. Marsha. I'm the one born on the 4th of July.

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  10. comparing pot to bungee jumping, misses the point, nor is wine moderation, worse, it's gourmet with meal enhancement

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  11. "Decriminalization" is annoying bullshit. What good is "decriminalizing" marijuana if it's still illegal to grow or sell the stuff?

    So Kansas doesn't like Colorado's pot laws? I bet if you did a side-by-side comparison on the quality of life between CO and KS, CO would come out on top.

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  12. good point, Scribe

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  13. NS-Would love to hear your thoughts (or anyone else's here)on the not so holy, hypocritical Duggars. It just surfaced, that the oldest son had molested his sisters but his parents never turned him in or got him normal counseling. The parents should be arrested. The family pal who helped him was arrested for child porn later. TLC needs to dump their crap shows. THis Duggar son belonged to an ultra conserve, Family organization that wouldn't even allow women in leadership roles. He resigned of course.

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  14. Until you try marijuana as "meal enhancement", you wouldn't really be able to judge it on that count, though, right? ; )

    Nothing wrong with "a small glass of wine at dinner now and then", but there's nothing that's been proven wrong with a small toke before dinner now and then, either. In fact, our Italian friend, your smoking oregano was probably as harmful as smoking marijuana could conceivably be, as the worst health detriment from pot is probably from the "smoking" aspect. Whatever the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, the downsides of the over-consumption of alcohol have been tangible and vast, the downsides of marijuana use are mostly fevered speculation by those who fear its use.

    How many pharmaceuticals have been approved that cause known side effects far worse than any that have been demonstrated with pot? How many people have been killed by taking even too much o-t-c Tylenol, perhaps with alcohol, for crying out loud? What rational argument is there, really, for holding marijuana to a far stricter standard?

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    1. Ah, but "rational argument" hardly ever wins the day.

      John

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    2. Jakash, perhaps you are a pot head. Oregano has nothing in it that could affect the brain. (thc) or whatever it's called. And don't be sarcastic about gourmet items. It's not funny. Now mangia questo.

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    3. Trivia for the day: The Donovan song "mellow yellow" was about a hoax in the 60's that many people fell for: that banana peels had a substance called bananadine" that when smoked produced a pot-like high. Related: See the Autobiography of Malcolm X (prison section)

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  15. Neil,

    Just curious. Is there some reason you've been writing these "national" articles for the S-T of late (currency, airbags, e.g.), in addition to your columns and blog posts? Perhaps that's proprietary information -- in which case, fine. Good to see you in whatever section, regardless.

    Also, we saw this on "Chicago Tonight" the other night and I thought maybe you'd be curious to check out how they handled the Thornton Quarry story, if you haven't seen it, since you enjoyed going there so much.

    http://video.wttw.com/video/2365493240/

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    1. No secret here: my bosses are asking me to.

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  16. No one was talking about overconsumption of alchohol, Jack.

    va fa cullo

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  17. Tu sei como uno cazze.

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    1. Rude and crude discourse in Italian is still rude and crude. Let's try to keep it civil, shall we?

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  18. How do you know it's rude and crude? It's not that rude or crude, Ms. prim and proper WASP.

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    1. Post it in English, then, and you can let the participants and the moderator judge.

      For the record, I'm a WASC.

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    2. My multilingual friend,

      As for oregano, I was talking about effects on the lungs of smoking ANYTHING, not the effects on the brain. But alcohol DOES affect the brain. Trying to argue that alcohol should be legal and marijuana illegal, because of the dangerous effects on the brain, is a losing proposition. Trying to argue about the benefits of alcohol without acknowledging the dangers and ill effects of its widespread over-consumption in this country is disingenuous. Plus, nobody was talking about the over-consumption of marijuana, either...

      Your suggestion about my use of marijuana is off-target, as well. One doesn't have to be a pothead to believe that pot should be legal. FWIW, I'm a MUCH bigger fan of oregano than pot!

      By all means, feel free to curse me or ridicule me in Italian all you like. I don't care. And it's certainly an effective tactic for you to employ, since I have no idea what you're saying, and therefore cannot respond! ; )

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    3. well we only did it once, so the lungs are okay

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  19. okay, wasc, but that still sounds snobbish, even if you don't have a connection to the Mayflower

    you can go google it if you want a translation and lighten up

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    1. I don't know what it is for Coey to request that one's posts be in English on this site (logical would be my guess), but "snobbish" ain't it! Just for funzies, I put "Tu sei como uno cazze" into the first internet translator I saw. I got: "You're como one cazze". OUCH!! ; )

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    2. como is like , you are like, etc.

      just teasing

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  20. I like Jakash, anyhow. He's cool.

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  21. translator sites don't pick up slang

    this is better

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_profanity

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  22. Where's Jesse and Al now?

    http://news.yahoo.com/suspect-killings-wealthy-dc-family-arrested-091519265.html

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  23. I'm almost a nut=job Libertarian when it comes to drugs. Even though I no longer partake, I still say leaglize and regulate it all!
    Criminalization has done nothing to stop the use of drugs. If people want something, people will find a way to get it. The costs of incarceration, violence, battling criminal organizations with the money spent for our "war on drugs" would all be better spent on treatment for those who want to get off of their chemical rollercoaster. Just give Heroin addicts a script, have them tested to be sure they're not selling - as is being done with the legal opiates like Vicodin and Oxycontin.
    Cocaine, the Devil's drug if there ever was one, should be regulated and sold just as amphetamines are. It is a war that will never be won, and unless society grows up and realizes that Humans are gonna do what Humans have always done, alter their brain chemistry for enjoyment, we will continue this insanity of thinking we can control drug use through punishment.
    Legalize, Tax, Regulate.
    Tobacco and Alcohol were ok because of their place in our economic history.
    Cocaine and Opiates have been part of other cultures for even longer.
    People will not become Dope Heads simply because drugs are made legal.
    Not everyone who takes a drink will become an alcoholic, although I certainly am. But I would not want to make alcohol illegal due to my own weakness (or disease, if you prefer).
    Pot is almost as easily obtainable as Jack Daniels, and I know lots of people who use it like some of us use coffee, or a cocktail at the end of a rough day. And although I don't smoke marijuana, I see no reason to deny people the right to use it based on some hypocritical generational moral standard that says alcohol is fine but marijuana isn't.

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  24. Neil, do you ever worry that your bosses or colleagues might see some of this?

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