Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Part 2 of Point-Counterpoint Medical Marijuana
Should Pot Be Legal?
Part 2 Of Point-Counterpoint Between Judge James Gray and Drug Free
America Foundation's David Evans
November 9, 2009
(CBS) Editor's Note: This is the second installment of a two-part
debate CBS News.com is hosting between James P. Gray, a retired Orange
County, Calif. judge who nowadays is a speaker for Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition, and David Evans, an author and advisor to the Drug
Free America Foundation. Part 1 can be found here. We want to hear your
opinions as well so make sure to add your perspectives in the comments
You asked what I would do the change things. I advocate for drug
treatment courts. Drug treatment courts are an example of the balanced
approach to fighting drug abuse and addiction. Drug courts seek to
intervene and break the cycle of alcohol and drug addiction, crime, and
child abuse. The drug court process begins when an offender is referred
to a special court with support staff. Drug court participants undergo
intensive substance abuse treatment, case management, drug testing,
supervision and monitoring with immediate sanctions and incentives. The
drug courts utilize judges, prosecutors, defense counsels, drug
treatment specialists, probation officers, law enforcement and
correctional personnel, educational and vocational experts, community
leaders and others whose goal is to help addicts recover from their
addiction and stay recovered. The courts may also provide ancillary
services such as mental health treatment, family therapy, job skills
training and anger management. Drug courts planning involves criminal
justice, child protective services, treatment, law enforcement, and
educational and community anti-drug and alcohol organizations.
Drug courts work. Research shows that more than 50 percent of offenders
convicted of drug possession will return to criminal behavior within a
few years. In contrast, those who complete a drug court have lower rates
of recidivism that range from 2 to 20 percent. The drug court is
successful because it forces the addict to stay with the program. The
addict cannot simply quit treatment when he or she feels like it.
The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime has this to say about drug
The UN 1988 Drugs Convention, UNGASS Guiding Principles on Demand
Reduction and related Action Plan specifically target drug-abusing
offenders and call on governments to take effective multidisciplinary
remedial initiatives. Drug Courts can be a very effective element in an
overall package of responses.
UNODC's Legal Advisory Program works closely with professionals,
practitioners and organizations in an informal Drug Court network.
Here we have agreement! But on that subject, I am proud to say that I
probably established the first drug court in our country back in 1984,
when I put in a drug court for alcohol-related offenses. We screened the
offenders in order to determine who was addicted to alcohol. Then we put
them into a program that required total abstinence from alcohol, to the
degree that, as I told them, if they even eat rumcake and I found out
about it, I would put them in jail.
Our success rate was about 65 percent for 9 months, which was as long as
I was able to keep statistics. But as I am sure you will agree, even
though they work, drug courts take a high amount of judicial and staff
time. In other words, they are expensive. So I believe we should spend
those resources on those people who are causing harm to others because
of their drug usage. And we will never run out of those people. And the
people like Robert Downey, Jr. (whose situation you still have not
addressed) who are not causing harm to others, should not be brought
into the criminal justice system at all.
So we finally have a point of agreement, as long as those scarce and
expensive resources are only used for those whose actions bring harm to
other people. For those others, who fail our drug morality test, they
should not be taking up those resources, and actually should not be in
the criminal justice at all.
And what about the other questions? In the legal profession, we
understand that if a question is asked to another, and there is no
answer forthcoming, the law treats this as an admission by silence. So
without a response, all of us will infer that there is no answer, and
that therefore you agree.
As previously stated the cost of keeping drugs illegal far out weighs
the cost of legalization. Drug use is not "personal." Drug users may
commit murder, or child or spouse or elder abuse, or rape, property
damage, assault and other violent crimes under the influence of drugs.
This includes marijuana as the studies previously sent to you confirm.
The criminal justice system protects the victims of drug users and can
be used to get the drug users into treatment. The victims include:
Children of drug users - Many children have drug using parents and are
abused or neglected by those parents. Drug use is not a victimless
Parents - The parents who have addicted children or who have lost
children to drugs need our support. We can help them to take legal
action against those who gave the drugs to their children.
Grandparents - Many parents are addicted to drugs and as a result their
children are being raised by their children's grandparents. In
addition, many grandparents have addicted grandchildren.
Victims of domestic violence - Spouse abuse and abuse of relatives are
caused by drug abuse.
Students - Students are often victimized by violent drug users in their
schools. In addition, the ability of the school to provide an orderly
learning environment is impaired by drug users.
Drugged driving victims - Many people are injured or killed by drugged
Crime victims - People who have been assaulted and/or been robbed by
drug users or otherwise harmed by them deserve protection.
Patients victimized by so called "medical" marijuana - Ill people who
choose to use marijuana instead of legitimate medicines may become
sicker due to marijuana use.
Elder abuse - Many elders are abused by drug users.
Sexual victims - Drug use leads to sexual promiscuity and spread of AIDS
and other blood borne infections. These victims need support and
We are not making progress in this discussion.
Mr. Evans continues only to focus upon the issue that makes him
comfortable, which is, of course, drug usage. And he is certainly
correct, drug usage brings harm often to the user, as well as to others.
But what he steadfastly and intentionally ignores are other ways to
address those problems. He says drug use is not "personal" because
others are harmed.
Well, the vast majority of drug use actually is personal, and no harm in
any form comes to anyone else. For example, the federal government's
statistics show that about 12 million people now in our country are
using marijuana on a regular basis. (And those stats only reflect the
people who voluntarily respond to a survey taker who is standing at
their doorstep. So you can imagine how many others are not so willing to
"self--report their marijuana usage.) Obviously the vast, vast majority
of them are not violating the law, except by the purchase and use
itself. But you continually provide us with a shopping list of crimes
that do occur in which people are subject to murder, child or spouse or
elder abuse, or rape, property damage, assault, etc. by others who have
a drug problem, and I continue to agree with you. And nothing I say is
intended to minimize that problem. But I also continue to say that the
answer is to arrest and prosecute those perpetrators in court. Hold
people accountable for their actions, because, just like with alcohol,
the drugs do not have to be illegal to hold people accountable for what
The criminal justice system is good at that. And if the perpetrators
have drug problems (and the definition of a drug problem in many ways is
that people commit crimes while under the influence of drugs), use the
court system to punish them appropriately, and also to coerce them into
treatment. Drug Courts, which Mr. Evans says he supports, are truly
effective in that regard. But they are quite expensive, so they should
be reserved for those people who are committing crimes, and not people
like Robert Downey, Jr. who are harming only themselves. If the
perpetrators are successful in that treatment, everybody wins. If the
perpetrators are not successful in that treatment, remove them from
society by putting them behind bars, because they will continue to be a
threat to our safety. (By the way, it really is ironic that judges like
me tried for years to establish drug courts, and were opposed by people
like Mr. Evans because we were "coddling criminals," etc. But now, as we
have seen, Drug Courts are the only change that Mr. Evans feels should
be made from our present [failed and hopeless] approach.)
But if he and others like him simply refuse to acknowledge, much less
discuss, the harms expressly caused by our present system, there becomes
a diminishing return of carrying on the conversation. So in one last
effort, Mr. Evans, do you agree that drug money also presents problems
for our society and the world? Yes or No.
For example, do you agree that juvenile gangs in our country get an
appreciable amount of funding from the sales of illicit drugs? Yes or
Do you agree that juvenile gangs in our country do not get any amount of
funding from selling alcohol? Yes or No. Do you agree that terrorist
organizations all around the world get an appreciable amount of funding
from the sales of illicit drugs? Yes of No.
If you do agree, do you feel that any changes should be made in our
nation's policy to address any of those problems? Yes or No. If so, what
do you recommend?
Do you agree that the United States, the Land of the Free, leads the
world in the incarceration of our people? Yes or No. We have 5 percent
of the world's population, and about 25 percent of its prisoners. Does
that make you happy, or do you think something should be done about it?
And finally for the moment, will you please tell us your thoughts about
the actions taken in Switzerland, with the full support of the Swiss
government, to prescribe heroin to heroin-addicted people. What do your
footnotes say about these people's experience of seriously reduced
crime, reduced drug selling and usage, 50 percent increased employment,
and eventually increased requests for drug treatment? They have found
that their children understand that being addicted to heroin is not a
good thing, and they have seen that this is not the road they want to
travel. How do you think our children would come to a different
If you simply ignore these entire areas of the equation, I must simply
say, without meaning to be unduly combative, that it is senseless to
continue a discussion with you.
Judge Gray in essence claims that the US experiment with alcohol
prohibition proves that problems result when a government attempts to
make a popular substance illegal. The legalizers claim that there were
increases in organized criminal organizations who sold alcohol
illegally. The legalizers claim that it is better to legalize, tax and
regulate drugs than to make them illegal.
A look at the history of Prohibition shows that this argument is deeply
flawed for two reasons:
1. The circumstances surrounding Prohibition are so different than those
of today that it is not helpful in analyzing present-day policy;
2. Prohibition was successful and did not create all the negative
consequences that the legalizers claim it did.
David Teasley, an analyst with the Congressional Research Service of the
US Library of Congress, did an in-depth analysis entitled, "Drug
legalization and the Lessons of Prohibition. " Teasley concluded that:
A comprehensive analogy between Prohibition and the modern drug problem
is problematic in at least two major ways. First between the two eras
there are significant differences that tend to undermine the
pro-legalization analogy. Second, many arguments of the pro-legalizers
are weakened by their reliance upon a widely held set of popular beliefs
about Prohibition rather than upon recent historical evidence. Such
attempts to create this analogy based upon these popular beliefs about
Prohibition serve only to confuse the debate over legalization of
What differences exist between the time of Prohibition and now?
(1) During prohibition the government sought to restrict the consumption
of alcohol although lacking the consensus of the nation. Even during
Prohibition most people had experience with and accepted alcohol. That
is not the same today for illicit drugs. Prohibition went against the
national consensus whereas the current drug policies do not.
(2) Prohibition laws were different than illicit drugs laws today.
During Prohibition it was only illegal to sell alcohol and not to drink
it. Today, it is both illegal to sell and to possess and use illicit
drugs. Today's laws can be used to target the users while those of
Prohibition could not.
(3) During Prohibition several U.S. states did not support the federal
laws and this caused tension between the state and federal governments
and hampered effective prosecutions. Today, the states have signed the
Uniform Controlled Substances Act, and a state/federal consensus exists
not present during Prohibition.
(4) Criminal penalties for illicit drug use are more severe today than
in the 1920's so there is a more potent deterrent effect.
(5) During Prohibition the US was "dry" while the international
community was "wet" and thus the US was at odds with the international
community (much alcohol was imported from Canada). However, today the
international community is resolute when it comes to drug policy as
witnessed by three U.N. conventions on the use of illegal drugs.
(6) During Prohibition the structure of the government agencies designed
to carry out the Prohibition laws was unstable, narrow and filled with
political appointees. Today the U.S. national drug strategy involves
over a dozen federal agencies coordinated by the Office of National Drug
Control Policy. The government bodies that enforce our drug policies are
much larger, with better resources, and are much more professional than
their Prohibition counterparts.
We cannot analogize the history of Prohibition with today's drug
policies because there is not that much in common. Prohibition was on
balance a successful policy for the following reasons:
1. There is no doubt that prohibition curbed alcohol abuse as its use
declined by 30 to 50 percent. Deaths from cirrhosis of the liver fell
from 29.5 per 100,000 in 1911 to 10.7 in 1929. Admissions to mental
hospitals for alcohol psychosis fell from 10.1 per 100,000 in 1919 to
4.7 in 1928. Suicide rates decreased 50 percent and the incidence of
alcohol-related arrests also declined 50 percent.
(2) Prohibition did not cause an increase in the overall crime rate but
there was an increase in the homicide rate. However, the increase in
homicides occurred mainly in the African-American community, and
African-Americans at that time were not the people responsible for
trafficking in alcohol.
We cannot legitimately compare Prohibition with our current efforts to
control drugs because there are too many differences in the laws, the
political establishment, the moral consensus, and the international
Judge Gray argues in essence that the "war" on drugs has failed. The
major consumer of illegal drugs in the World is the US. The facts in the
US provide for much optimism. The US has applied demand reduction, law
enforcement, education and treatment to its drug problem. What are the
results? There was a 33 percent reduction of the number of new heroin
users from 156,000 in 1976 to 104,000 in 1999. Drug control has reduced
casual use, chronic use and addiction, and prevented others from
starting to use drugs. Drug use in the US is down by more than a third
since the late 1970s. This means that 9.5 million fewer people use
illegal drugs and cocaine use has been reduced by an astounding 70%
resulting in 4.1 million fewer people using cocaine.
The recent evidence is clear that the U.S. approach works. Data released
in 2008 from the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Study
(MTF), the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) System to Retrieve
Information from Drug Evidence (STRIDE), and workplace drug tests
performed by Quest Diagnostics showed that illicit drug use among young
people continued to decline from 2001, with a 25 percent reduction in
overall youth drug use over the last seven years. This means there are
approximately 900,000 fewer young people using drugs today, compared to
2001. Additional declines in past-month youth use of specific drugs over
the seven year period include:
• 25% reduction in marijuana use;
• 50% reduction in methamphetamine use;
• 50% reduction in Ecstasy use; and
• 33% reduction in steroid use.
The 2008 data show significant changes in the street-level price and
purity of cocaine (key indicators of stress in the drug market) which
suggests the supply of the drug on American streets is dropping.
Positive drug tests for cocaine use among adults, as indicated by
results of workplace drug tests nationwide, fell 38 percent from June
2006 through June 2008. Among young people, there was a 15 percent
reduction in past-year use of cocaine from 2007-2008.
However, the 2008 data from the MTF Study shows a softening of youth
anti-drug attitudes and beliefs (widely believed to be precursors of
behavior) related to perceptions of harmfulness of marijuana and social
disapproval of marijuana use. These counter trends occurred after
drastic cuts to the US's largest youth drug education and prevention
initiative, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Over the last
nine years, Congress has slashed resources to this vital program by 68
percent, from $185 million in 1999 to $60 million in 2008.
In his posting, Mr. Evans said that "the advocates of legalization claim
that if drugs were legal, crime and violence would decrease because it
is the illegal nature of drug trafficking that fuels crime and violence,
instead of the violent and irrational behavior that drugs themselves
induce. The flaw in this argument is that most violent drug related
crime is committed because people are under the influence of drugs. The
use of drugs changes behavior and causes criminal activity because
people will do things they wouldn't do if they were rational and free of
the drug's influence."
Okay, let's wait a minute!! This is what "drug warriors" frequently do
(See, I can label people on the other side too.), they lump all drugs
together and then make generalizations. I agree that sometimes people
use methamphetamines or PCP and then do things they otherwise would be
restrained from doing. Of course, the same thing is true for alcohol.
But I simply reject that argument with regard to many other drugs,
especially the most widely used illicit drug by far, which is marijuana.
No one uses marijuana and then goes out to hold up a liquor store or a
bank, or if that happens, it is truly rare. And heroin is much the same
thing. People do not take heroin and then commit crimes because all the
heroin really does is calm them down. Instead, it is the absence of
heroin that makes people commit many crimes in order to get the money to
buy more. Switzerland now has a program in which medical doctors
prescribe heroin to addicted people (Have you noticed that I don't say
addicts, junkies or hypes? Because these people are human beings, and
have many of the same desires, needs and failings that all of the rest
of us do. Of course, that does not at all stop me from holding them
accountable for their actions!!), which they can obtain at inexpensive
prices at a pharmacy. Those people mostly are now taking care of
themselves and their families, many are now employed and paying their
taxes, and living mostly normal lives. Without a doubt, we should employ
a similar program in every town and city of our country where is a need.
So don't let anyone put all drugs in one box and then make those
Furthermore, most people who use illicit drugs, including cocaine,
methamphetamines and heroin, actually only use it on the weekends in
party situations, and the only crimes they commit are the purchase and
usage of the drugs themselves. The prime example is that gifted actor
Robert Downey, Jr. (He seems to be doing quite well now, but he will
always be highly subject to relapse. Accordingly he is called a
recovering drug-addicted person, not recovered.) But what he actually
has is a medical condition. And it makes as much sense to me to put
Robert Downey, Jr. into jail for his heroin addiction as it would have
to put Betty Ford in jail for her alcohol addiction! What they have is a
So THE answer in this area is to HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR
ACTIONS, BUT NOT FOR WHAT THEY PUT INTO THEIR BODIES!! Furthermore, I am
a Libertarian, and I deeply believe that the government has as much
right to control what I put into my body, as an adult, as it does to
control what I put into my mind. That is literally none of their
business. But if Robert Downey, Jr., Betty Ford, or you or I drive a
motor vehicle impaired by marijuana, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, or any
other mind-altering and sometimes addicting substances, bring them to
judges like me! We will hold them accountable, just like we do now for
alcohol-related offenses. But these drugs do not have to be illegal in
order to hold people accountable for their actions!
The criminal justice system is quite good at holding people accountable
for what they do, but not good at all in controlling what they put into
their bodies. So therefore, it must stoop to lower measures in an
attempt to do so. These involve things like using snitches, undercover
officers, wiretaps, paid informants, and other a-typical police activity
like that. And all of this is highly expensive, frequently unreliable,
and can be quite dangerous for the police, as well as everyone else. So
look at it this way, the tougher we get on prosecuting drug crime,
literally the softer we get on the prosecution of everything else. For
example, and I quote this in my book Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed, we
were only half as successful in 1990 in our prosecutions of homicides as
we were in 1980. Why? Because the Reagan Administration once again
cranked up the investigation and prosecution of low-level drug crime.
We only have so many criminal justice resources, so why not use them for
those cases in which people are causing harm to others. If someone
burglarizes your house, and happens to be drug-addicted, judges like me
can force them into treatment. But let the otherwise law-abiding people
who use drugs alone, or try to help them (if they actually need help,
because many of them do not) through honest and truthful drug education,
and the availability of drug treatment on demand.
Okay, I'm going on and on again. But once people spend some time on this
critically important issue, they will see that there are much better
ways in trying to reduce the harms that will occur because of the
presence of these sometimes dangerous and addicting drugs in our
communities. Many other countries in Western Europe know this, even
though they are no more drug abuse tolerant than we are, and they are
getting much, much better results than we are. In the meantime, the
United States has only 5 percent of the world's population, but about 25
percent of its people in custody. And at least in this area, the chant
of "We're Number One!" does not make me proud!
Judge Gray makes the claim that our resources spent on drug offenders
would be better spent elsewhere. The legalization theory holds once
legalization is implemented that governments will save billions annually
in drug enforcement and related court and prison expenses. In theory,
these funds could then be redirected to drug abuse treatment programs.
However, the increased billions in health/social expenditures related to
the expanded level of drug use following from legalization would be more
than the amounts saved from the law enforcement/ criminal justice
In addition to the concrete losses that are symbolized by those billions
of dollars, we must also consider the destruction of lives, and the lost
opportunities for self fulfillment and lost dreams and the spiritual
losses of lost relationships, lost love and lost hope.
Costs to the Taxpayer - The drug legalization advocates claim that the
funds allegedly saved from giving up on the drug problem can be better
spent on education and social problems. However, compared to the amount
of funding that is spent on other national priorities, drug control
spending is minimal. In 2002, in the US, the amount of money spent by
the federal government on drug control was less than $19 billion. These
funds did not go to enforcement policy only. They were used for
treatment, education and prevention, as well as enforcement. The US Drug
Enforcement Administration was only given roughly $1.6 billion, an
amount the US Defense Department runs through about every day-and-a-half
or two days. In the fiscal year of 2002, the total federal drug budget
was $11.5 billion. In contrast, the US spent about $650 billion on the
nation's educational system. Our effort to provide education is a
long-term social concern, with new problems that arise with each
generation. This is similar to drug abuse and addiction and yet no one
suggests that we give up on education. Isn't keeping young people
off drugs and out of addiction just as important?
The increased health/social costs related to expanded levels of drug use
would be more than the amounts saved from the law enforcement/ criminal
justice costs. A study on US justice costs showed that relative to other
government expenditures, criminal justice system expense is small, less
than 3 percent of the budget when contrasted to national
defense/internation al relations uses of over 18 percent, education 13
percent, and interest on the debt, almost 11 percent.
By far the most compelling economic argument against the legalization of
drugs is the social costs associated with such a policy.
Social costs - Using the US as an example, the social costs of drug use
make it clear that the costs of controlling drugs are well worth it.
Legalization will increase drug use and drug-related costs. A detailed
look at the cost of drug abuse in the US was done by the US Office of
National Drug Control Policy. They looked overall costs, health care
costs, productivity losses, costs of other effects and crime related
Overall Costs of Drug Use - Total costs of drug use were $180.9 billion
in 2002, increasing 5.34 percent annually since 1992. These costs are
health care costs, productivity losses, and other costs. Costs in 1992
were $107.6 billion. The largest proportion of costs is from lost
potential productivity, followed by non-health other costs and
Health Care Costs - Health-related costs were projected to total $16
billion in 2002. Substance abuse-related health care costs are projected
to have risen 4.1 percent annually between 1992 and 2002.
Productivity Losses - By far the largest component of cost is from loss
of productivity, at $128.6 billion. In contrast to the other costs of
drug abuse (which involve direct expenditures for goods and services),
this value reflects a loss of potential resources.
Cost of the Other Effects - The final major component of costs came to
$36.4 billion in 2002. These primarily concern costs associated with the
criminal justice system and crime victim costs, but also include a
modest level of expenses for administration of the social welfare
system. Between 1992 and 2002, the costs for the other effects of drug
abuse rose at a 6.5 percent annual rate.
Crime-related costs - When these costs are aggregated a more complete
picture is gained of the role of drug-related crime in the total
economic impact. It is estimated that $107.8 billion, or almost 60
percent of total costs are related to crime.
Comparison to health problems - This study and prior estimates indicate
that drug abuse is one of the most costly health problems in the United
States. The estimates have followed guidelines developed by the U.S.
Public Health Service for cost of illness studies. These guidelines have
been applied in earlier studies of drug abuse in the U.S. (e.g., for
1992, 1985, 1980, and 1977), and to cost of illness studies for
virtually all of the major health problems. Accordingly, these estimates
can be compared meaningfully to estimates for e.g.. cancer, stroke,
heart disease, diabetes, alcohol abuse and mental illness. The National
Institute of Health collects and reports on cost estimates for the major
health problems in the nation. Based on estimates from the 1990s
employing generally comparable methodologies, drug abuse ($124.9 billion
in 1995) is comparable to heart disease ($183.1 billion in 1999), cancer
($96.1 billion in 1990), diabetes ($98.2 billion in 1997),
Alzheimer's disease ($100 billion in 1997), stroke ($43.3 billion in
1998), smoking ($138 billion in 1995), obesity ($99.2 billion in 1995),
alcohol abuse ($184.6 billion in 1998) and mental illness ($160.8
billion in l992).
Damage to families - The issues regarding drug abuse and families are
summarized in position papers prepared by UNDCP and the World Health
Organization (WHO). [FN5] Studies show that illicit drug abuse has a
strong correlation with the disintegration of the family. [FN6]
Drug-effected babies - Hundreds of thousands of babies in the US have
the possibility of health damage due to their mothers' drug abuse.
Estimates of drug-exposed babies range from 1 to 2 per cent of live
births (40,000 to 75,000) to 11 percent of live births (375,000). [FN7]
Cocaine use by mothers may increase risk of maternal complications,
including abruptio placentai, pregnancy loss, and preterm labor and risk
for fetal/neonatal problems including intrauterine growth retardation,
reduced head circumference, prematurity, and increased perinatal
mortality and developmental and behavioral problems.
Drug related deaths - There are four sources generally accepted for
reliable data about drug-related deaths in the U.S. The numbers are
under reported, but no one has found a way to systematically collect and
report the numbers from year to year. The best data we can get shows
drug-related deaths to number from about 16,000 to 20,000 per year in
We are still exclusively on drug usage, and no answers have been
forthcoming about any of the other critically important issues. But
nonetheless, here are further thoughts on the issues of drug usage.
Question, Mr. Evans, if cocaine, heroin, marijuana or any others of
these presently illicit drugs were available in any form of regulated
distribution, would you use them? Probably not, and the overwhelming
majority of other people would not either. (And if they would, they are
probably using them already.) So saying that large numbers of people
would use them where they are not already is virtually insulting, fear
mongering, and silly.
In addition, I believe that marijuana usage certainly has its dangers.
No question in my mind. But I stand firmly on the belief that easily the
most harmful thing about marijuana is jail. It is generally believed
that the last four presidents of the United States at one time or
another used marijuana. Would it have helped them to have been arrested
and jailed? And what about others like a fairly good Olympic athlete
named Michael Phelps? People, including young people, can overcome drug
usage with honest education and treatment, where necessary. But what
they cannot overcome is a criminal conviction.
One more question: A few years ago, Florida Governor Jeb Bush spoke
publicly about his family's anguish that his two daughters were found to
have a (I think it was a) prescription drug problem or addiction. And
what he said was that his family needed privacy and understanding, and
his daughters needed treatment. I completely agree, and I felt for all
of them. So if WE have a problem (namely, us middle and upper class
Caucasians), we need privacy and treatment. But if THEY have a problem
(namely, the lower classes and people of color), they need jail! That is
what is happening all over our great country. Doesn't that fact bother
you? If so, what do you propose we you do about it?
Obviously you are unreachable with regard to the usage issues. But there
are other equally important issues. What are your thoughts about these?
I await your answers.
You make a lot of claims but do not document them. What are the sources
for your claims? You are very weak on documentation. What would you say
to a lawyer who came to your court so ill-prepared?
As for your claim that the drug war is racist may I ask you a question:
why is it that the people who advocate for drug legalization are mostly
white upper class liberals like yourself? There are some African
Americans who do but the two most prominent I know of graduated from
Yale (not exactly lower class). Legalization is an idea of the elites.
I was a Public Defender in Newark New Jersey for two years and I lived
there including in the inner city. People there see the devastation of
drugs and they do not want more drugs. I spent the next 15 years setting
up drug and alcohol treatment programs in New Jersey's prisons and
I have been a criminal defense attorney for nearly 40 years. I have
never known anyone to go to prison for small amounts of pot. Please read
my previous email about who is really in prison for marijuana.
To say that the most dangerous thing about marijuana is jail would not
go over well with parents whose child is addicted to marijuana and whose
marijuana use was a gateway to other drugs.
Marijuana is the number one drug that kids are in treatment for.
Scientific literature shows that use of marijuana is a major risk factor
in the development of addiction and drug use among our schoolchildren.
One study showed that of nearly 182,000 children in treatment, 48
percent were admitted for abuse or addiction to marijuana, while only
19.3 percent for alcohol and 2.9 percent for cocaine, 2.4 percent for
methamphetamine and 2.3 percent for heroin. Our drug treatment
facilities are full of young people dealing with marijuana related
substance abuse problems.
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, marijuana accounts for tens
of thousands of marijuana related complaints at emergency rooms
throughout the United States each year. Over 99,000 are young people.
The data is grim. According to the DAWN the admissions to emergency
rooms for marijuana are:
• 6-11 years old 380
• 12-17 years old 39,035
• 18-20 years old 27,742
• 21-24 years old 32,154
This is a total of 99,311.
I am not at all unprepared. This is not a debate in which he who has the
most points wins. This is a discussion about human lives, as well as
crime and misery. And the questions I raise deserve answers.
And you have given few.
Today our children are being recruited to sell illicit drugs. Why?
Because of the money. I have been in Juvenile Court and have seen the
result of this failed and hopeless system first hand. Do you not agree
that children today, both in and outside of juvenile gangs, are selling
all of these illicit drugs, and then using them along the way because of
this exposure? And don't you agree that none of them are selling alcohol
or cigarettes? What kind of references do I need to cite to establish
The facts are that the policy you are attempting to defend is directly
putting our children in harm's way. Please address these issues that
count above all others. Drug money is corrupting not only our adults,
but also our children. (Much less, the children in Mexico, Colombia,
Afghanistan, and everywhere else around the world.) Why do well meaning
people like you not even discuss, much acknowledge, that fact?
Your statement that drug policy reform is predominantly advocated by
"white upper class liberals, like (my)self" is amazing. First of all, I
am no one's liberal. And neither is Milton Friedman or George Shultz,
both of whom endorsed my book (which I wrote not for money, but to
encourage an open, honest and truthful discussion of the entire issue --
and it is working).
But maybe you have not noticed that one of the first proponents of this
discussion was Kurt Schmoke, the courageous and gifted former mayor of
Baltimore, who happens to be black. And there are a multitude of other
people of color who favor a change away from the failed and hopeless
policy of Drug Prohibition as well, such as Jessie Jackson, the Rev.
Chip Murray of the First AME Church of South Central Los Angeles, and
And what difference does any of this really make as to who favors the
discussion? What matters is the issues, not the race or gender of the
In fact, I, as a conservative judge in a conservative county, held a
press conference way back in April of 1992 and stated my conclusions
that there must be a better way. This was at some risk to my
professional career. But since I literally hate what these drugs and
this drug money are doing so much, I put my career at risk to discuss
this matter. I saw it then, and I see it now, as a matter of patriotism.
In fact, the most patriotic thing I can do for the country that I deeply
love is to assist it in changing away from this harmful policy. Harmful?
That is not strong enough. This is the most failed policy in the history
of our country since slavery!
So yes, there is a devastation because of this entire matter. But our
country is really facing two substantial problems. One, which is still
the only issue you keep focusing upon, is drug problems, and I don't
mean by anything I say to diminish those problems. But the other is drug
money problems -- the problems that you continue to ignore. And I stand
without fear of viable contradiction in saying that the drug money
problems are far and away more serious than the drug problems
themselves. Then once we resolve the drug money problems, which we
clearly can do by changing our approach, all of us can focus even more
heavily upon the drug problems. And many of those can be addressed by
honest drug education, and by serious drug treatment.
In fact, on that issue are you aware that the RAND Corporation issued a
study way back in June of 1994 that said that taxpayers get seven times
more value for their dollar with drug treatment than they do for
incarceration? Seven times more bang for the buck! So why are we
continuing to try to incarcerate our way out of this problem?
And you say that we don't put people in prison for marijuana use? Flat
out not true! Today we in California alone have literally thousands of
people in prison for doing nothing more than smoking marijuana. Who are
they? Those people who were in prison for some kind of offense, and then
released on parole -- always with the condition that they use no form of
illicit drug. Then for whatever reason they smoke marijuana, and then
either fail their drug test, or fail to show up for it, and instant
statistic, they are back in prison. I certainly agree that their doing
this was irresponsible. But nevertheless, many of them had put their
lives back in order, had jobs, and were supporting themselves and their
families. And now all of that was lost, and taxpayers are spending about
$30,000 per year to keep them behind bars, and their families are back
on welfare. And for what? They once again failed our drug morality test.
Really a stupid situation.
Since you continue to ignore the most aggravated of the problems, it is
hard to continue a conversation. But maybe we both can continue to try.
You have implied that I do not care about children, that I am a racist,
that I am unpatriotic and now you imply that I am not decent. Oh my!!!
Earlier this year the United Nations had a vote to continue or not our
current anti-drug polices. They vote was to continue them. All of your
arguments were raised and they were not persuasive with the U.N. The
International Narcotics Control Board that interprets the U.N. anti-drug
conventions issued a position on legalization of drugs that first states
the argument of the legalizers and then provides a response. The INCB
position was obtained from their annual reports on their Web site.
http://www.cbsnews. com/stories/ 2009/11/08/ national/ main5579163. shtml