I hate hard drugs; heroin, cocaine, speed, downers. For 15 years I took all of those drugs in large amounts. Everyone I knew took some of those drugs. For years, I sold some of those drugs, but not for the last 25 years. I’ve smoked pot for 45 years, now less than ever.
I used to live in Berkeley, one block from Telegraph Avenue, in the counterculture’s epicenter. There’s a larger-than-life mural there on Telegraph, portraying when the Berkeley radicals took to the streets in the 60’s, to battle the University and the police and establish People’s Park. I hope the mural’s still there.
That mural prominently featured Anne as she was opening the fire hydrant that sprayed the police and sent off the street demonstrations. That mural image was all that remained of Anne, since a heroin overdose killed her. Anne was just one of about of the roughly 17,000 annual drug overdoses in the US.
I miss Anne. She was an intelligent, vibrant revolutionary and I was a little bit in love with her. And she ended up one of the millions of casualties of the Drug War.
The Drug War. It victimizes our vulnerable youth by sentencing hundreds of thousands of folks into brutal prisons. It forces people like Anne to seek drugs of unknown potency at great expense, at terrible risk.
There are over 300,000 folks currently serving prison sentences for drug crimes. Another 1.3 million are on parole and probation for drug convictions. Police arrest another 1.8 million folks for drugs every year. The largest percentage, almost 30% of total arrests for possession, are for marijuana.
The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spends about $2.4 billion to pay over 5000 agents to bust people for drugs. Every city and county and State has their own cadre, totaling about 5000 police, devoted solely to drug arrests. The total wages of drug cops probably exceeds $1 billion a year.
What happens to the hundreds of thousands of folks sentenced to prison? I served a little time behind bars myself. Many of the youngest and weakest prisoners get raped.
Hundreds of Kossacks backed the Snodgrasses recently over the arrest of their autistic child at school for sale of a trivial amount of pot. The cops still held him for two days. In the wrong County jail, over two days, an autistic kid would be brutalized to a point where suicide seems attractive. There are reasons why suicide is the leading cause of death in prison.
And every one of those prisoners also has the opportunity to learn criminal trades from experienced hoodlums, should they choose. Felony convictions shadow every prisoner upon release, drastically limiting their ability to re-enter and contribute to legal society. So most of those sentenced Drug War prisoners suffer greatly diminished opportunities to fulfill their lives. Some will utilize the criminal skills they learned in prison.
Billions and billions of tax dollars pay for these 10,000 drug agents and the additional thousands of prosecutors, prison guards, and support staff. And many of those millions of released prisoners, whose felony convictions probably preclude them from jobs handling cash, or that require bonding, will return to crime, and that costs society in many ways.
Maybe you are still willing to pay the costs of the Drug War, and lack sympathy for the fools who get sent to prison for their own, very poor judgment. Please also consider the Drug War’s threat to civil government in countries like Mexico.
The Drug Cartels are literally gaining control over a significant amount of the world’s currency. The US Drug Police estimate that $40 billion in cash drug profits gets smuggled out of the US annually. This means they can buy or kill their way into control of any country, including ours, if motivated, and if they haven't already.
Recollect the tragic murder of Martin Luther King some 45 years ago. Shot down by a sniper, who fled Memphis in a red Mustang, and remained at large for months, funding source not clear, while successfully crossing two international borders. Those events alone convinced many that someone assisted King’s assassin, and maybe the King-hating FBI even dragged their feet on the case.
Suppose a team of assassins had gunned down King at an airport. Then airport authorities held a commercial flight for 20 minutes so the assassins could board the flight, still carrying their handguns, and they flew away, sitting on the plane with representatives of the Klan.
And then Jeb Bush hired murderers to kill Al Gore and Harry Reid during the 2000 election campaign. George Bush won election, and after his term, then fled the country with millions, as a fugitive from outstanding arrest warrants, while Jeb went down for murder. General Petraus was then arrested for taking drug bribes. If this happened, would you think there wasn’t much hope left for the survival of a civil, law abiding society?
That’s pretty much what’s happened in Mexico over the last few decades, regarding the airport murder of Roman Catholic Cardinal Ocampo, the killing of presidential candidate Colosio and PRI Majority leader Massieu, the election of Carlos Salinas and his subsequent flight, and the conviction of Salinas’ brother.
You can find similar evidence of how drug cartels have demolished democracy and civil society in Columbia, the cocaine coup in Bolivia, and the involvement of governments from Chile to Haiti to Africa in the drug trade.
There’s no telling how much the cartels have undermined our own government. We do know that hundreds of US drug enforcement personnel have been arrested for taking bribes. Some smugglers state they have successfully crossed the US borders 900 times with loads of drugs. That’s statistically impossible, without widespread bribery.
I tremble for the future of our democracy when the continued drug laws allow the cartels to control so much cash and so much power, and the drug black market kills thousands and drive thousands of others into crime.
As much as I hate the hard drugs, we need to legalize them, or slowly lose control of our own civil society.
The pending federal legislation to legalize small amounts of pot is a good start. Please let your legislators know you support it.