The tide is turning.
Ending the War on Drugs -- The Moment is Now
With three-quarters of the drug offenders clogging our state prisons there for nonviolent offenses, the time has come to wage a full-scale war on the war on drugs. Then, once slums become pacified, what will happen to land values there? They’ll soar, and invite gentrification, unless we use geonomics so everybody can benefit from higher location values. This 2009 article is from the Huffington Post, May 14.
by Arianna HuffingtonThe tide is clearly turning. Inspired by the massive budget crises facing many states, and the increase in drug violence both at home and abroad -- leaders on all points across the political spectrum appear more willing to rethink our ruinous drug policies.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for "an open debate" and careful study of proposals to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has also urged renewing the debate, saying that he isn't convinced taxing and regulating drugs is the answer but "why not discuss it?" Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, pointing to evidence that Mexican drug cartels draw 60 to 80 percent of their revenue from pot, suggested legalization might be an effective tool to combat Mexican drug traffickers and American gangs.
And, in a major shift in the global drug policy debate, a Latin American commission, headed by the former presidents Fernando Cardoso of Brazil, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, and Cesar Gavaria of Colombia issued a devastating report condemning America's 40-year war on drugs.
"Prohibitionist policies based on eradication, interdiction and criminalization of consumption simply haven't worked," the former presidents wrote in a joint op-ed. "The revision of US-inspired drug policies is urgent in light of the rising levels of violence and corruption associated with narcotics. The alarming power of the drug cartels is leading to a criminalization of politics and a politicization of crime."
They called for "a paradigm shift in drug policies" that begins with "changing the status of addicts from drug buyers in the illegal market to patients cared for by the public health system."
And in Congress, Sen. Jim Webb has introduced legislation, with co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, to create a blue-ribbon commission to examine criminal justice and drug policies and how they have led to our nation's jam-packed jails -- now filled with tens of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders.
"With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world," Webb wrote in a recent Parade cover story, "there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something different -- and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter."
I understand that drugs continue to be a political hot potato, fueled by what the Latin American presidents described as "prejudices and fears that sometimes bear little relation to reality." And I can easily picture some on President Obama's team advising him to keep the issue on the backburner lest it turn into his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
But the cost of the drug war -- both human and financial -- is far too high to allow politics to dictate the administration's actions. Indeed, with all the budget cutting going on, how can anyone justify spending tens of billions of dollars a year on an unwinnable war against our own people?
Change won't be easy. The prison-industrial complex has a deeply vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Which is why we need to keep the pressure on the president and his team to follow through on their drug policy promises.
Real reform of our nation's drugs policies won't happen without someone in the administration making it a top priority.
The jury is still out on Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. His law enforcement background could make him the drug war equivalent of Tim Geithner -- too enmeshed in the system he is tasked with overhauling.
Attorney General Holder shows more promise. But he'll have to avoid the let's-have-a-working-group-review-decisions-that-have-already-been-decided approach.
I'm sending Eric Holder a few copies of This Is Your Country On Drugs, a book out next month on the history of drug use and drug policy in America by our HuffPost Congressional correspondent Ryan Grim. In it, he argues that the goal of US policy should not be to eliminate drugs, but to prevent and treat the addiction and other problems that come with them: "As currently understood and implemented, drug policy attempts to isolate a phenomenon that can't be taken in isolation. Economic policy is drug policy. Healthcare policy is drug policy. Foreign policy, too, is drug policy. When approached in isolation, drug policy almost always leads to unfortunate and unintended consequences."
With three-quarters of the drug offenders clogging our state prisons there for nonviolent offenses -- and a disproportionate number of those young men of color -- the time has come to wage a full-scale war on the war on drugs.
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