If you were asked by someone who popped from outer space into the midst of a clutch of your friends whether it was true that almost half our jail population – which is an astonishing 2.2. million adults, or approximately 1 in every 700 persons in the U.S. of A, with another 4.7 million on probation or parole – are being housed or supervised, that half of our law enforcement activity, half criminal court prosecutions are for possession or use of illegal alcohol, you would immediately say: “that’s absurd. Alcohol is legal in America; has been for decades.”
You would further explain to this befuddled stranger that there’s no trafficking in illegal alcohol in America, no smuggling of hooch in canvas covered trucks, sold in clandestine speakeasies. You would advise them that he or she could go down the street of any town or city in the nation to a strictly regulated local package store and purchase all the legal alcoholic beverages he or she wanted.
You would have to acknowledge that while there is some alcoholism in the nation, those so afflicted receive medical attention, not arrest or prosecution. You might advise the stranger of the historical fact that there had been trafficking and smuggling of illegal alcohol, gang wars, murders, bribery, jailings, a host of criminals raking in car loads of cash from a market for illegal alcohol back in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s as a result of a law called “Prohibition”. But that absurd war on alcohol and all the chaos it created was eliminated overnight, by the stroke of a legislative pen, legalizing alcohol in 1933. You would point out that there has been hardly any prosecution for the possession, use, or sale of illegal alcohol in the United States in the memory of living man.
Well now, bring your attention to the current status of “controlled substances”, drugs, heroin, cocaine, marijuana in America. By the way, there are really two (2) drug problems in the nation. One is trafficking; the other, addiction or use. By far, the most insidious, the most pernicious of those two problems is the trafficking. It is trafficking, and trafficking alone, the manufacture, smuggling, selling of drugs by criminal cartels that promotes murder, bribery, corruption, that absorbs all the law enforcement resources, billions of dollars spent to support a “war on drugs” which is as effective as trying to hold water from cascading from a burst dam. Indeed, the curtailment of drugs is a huge industry now, with a huge lobby to keep the drugs illegal, the interdicting money flowing.
Yet trafficking in drugs could be eliminated entirely with the same stroke of a legislative pen, overnight. Legalization, the sale of drugs, regulated in the same fashion that the sale of alcohol is regulated, would eliminate drug trafficking overnight. The silly war on drugs would be over in an instant.
Would there still be users, addicts? Surely. But they could be treated medically, not punitively, in the calm, quiet of hospitals and clinics.
If all that be true, the stranger might ask, why aren’t drugs legalized?
It’s coming, you could answer. It’s almost here.
Those leaders and legislators of a bygone day, who were shocked, outraged, by the sale and use of drugs, have reached retirement age or have passed the baton of power to a younger group of citizens, those who have attended college, grown up in a society far more familiar with, less offended by, drug presence, usage.
I’ve espoused the legalization of drugs, all drugs – if only some drugs were permitted, some banned, there would still be the pernicious problem of trafficking, criminality – for 30 or 40 years. I drafted legislation for legalization of drugs in the ‘80s, I wrote articles, but it was too soon, too early for those who held the reins of government to repeal the illegality of controlled substances.
But you notice, marijuana is now becoming legal in states, medical marijuana here, recreational marijuana there; and, notice, the world has not collapsed. Also notice the millions of tax dollars into the public coffers rather than stashed in money rooms in foreign realms. The younger folks who shall be in charge of the future, those who have lived in a culture where drugs were available, will see to it that the absurdity of a war on drugs is eliminated as being as foolish as Prohibition. And if marijuana is here, can other drugs be far behind; particularly when peace and medical attention for addicts can replace the chaos, expense, criminality, bribery, corruption and death of trafficking can be eliminated overnight by the stroke of a pen?