Wednesday, April 12, 2006

peace in our time

This is why I love Arianna:

Let's face it, it's not exactly left-wing to come out against a $40-billion-dollar-a-year War on Drugs that has unfairly targeted people of color, siphoned resources from the war on terror, and pitted the government against its own people.

Nor is it left-wing to want to put an end to a War on Drugs that has turned into a war on America's minority communities. While blacks make up 13 percent of drug users, they account for 35 percent of those arrested for drug possession, 55 percent of those convicted, and 74 percent of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. And the average prison term for black drug offenders is 69% longer [pdf] than for whites.

It's not left-wing. It's not right-wing. It's common sense. And it's why people from all parts of the political spectrum are finally speaking out on the issue.

As I've said before, on how many issues do Jesse Jackson, George Soros, Walter Cronkite, the ACLU, Cato, Bill Buckley, George Shultz and the Heritage Foundation agree?

We saw this left/right realignment played out on the issue of drug treatment vs. incarceration for nonviolent offenders here in California back in 2000 when Prop. 36 passed despite being solidly opposed by the state's Democratic political establishment, including Diane Feinstein and Gray Davis. The measure was supported by Republican Tom Campbell, then a member of the House, who until recently served as Gov. Schwarzenegger's finance director.

Campbell's influence is likely one of the reasons the Governor has thankfully earmarked another $120 million to continue funding of Prop. 36 in his next budget.

The other reason, of course, is that treatment flat-out works -- as a new study from UCLA proves. According to the study, diverting nonviolent first and second time drug offenders from jail into rehab has saved the taxpayers of California $800 million over the last five years.

What could be more conservative than that?

The only ones who don't seem convinced are our political leaders, who continue to hide on the issue -- just as so many of them are hiding on the war in Iraq. And they're doing it for the same reason: they are terrified of being seen as soft on defense, soft on the military, soft on terror, and soft on crime and drugs.

No one else in the blogging class even notices how big a problem the Drug War is for America. How miltiarizing the police force makes us less safe and less free. Punishing private consentual behavior, yes even if it includes heroin use, is against the spirit of liberty. Consider the wasteful interdiction efforts by US forces in Afghanistan: destroying poppy fields destroys both the livelihood of farmers and their goodwill towards American reconstructors. If instead, pharmaceutical companies could legally extract and process morphine-like compounds for medical use and development this could be used to siphon off poppies from illegal manufacture and provide a safe, quality-controlled palliative to the world. The same situation is being tentatively done in Bolivia following their recent election of a former coca farmer. In the US, the DEA schedules substances considering their potential risks and benefits. The scheduling process is arbitrary and not open to any sort of public review and with the wide-ranging power to eliminate whole classes of chemicals from scientific research. Marijuana, is considered so dangerous as to have no medical use, as is MDMA (esctasy) and newer substances you might not have heard of, like 5-MeO-DiPT(known as Foxy). However, two of the hardest drugs have medical uses considered by the DEA to be valid: heroin (heroin is simply the acetylized version of morphine) and cocaine, which is used in the US by dentists and eye surgeons as anaesthesia. Even meth is the derivative of the legal cold medicine pseudoephidrine. I can remember wondering why, working in a Cumberland Farms in 1999, these greasy white-trash guys would come in and buy all of the Sudafed stocked in the tiny OTC section. It seems most of the illegal substances on the 'medically useless' side are just there because they have the potential for recreational use, outisde of any consideration for health or responsible use. I know it is easy to wish you could legislate away all of the behavior of others that you find disgusting, but the problem of substance abuse will be solved by doctors not judges, counselors not counsel for the defense.

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