U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder recently announced that people convicted of certain low-level drug crimes will no longer be given severe mandatory prison sentences.
The nation’s top cop has not gotten soft on crime, he is simply confronting one of the realities of the war on drugs — overflowing prisons.
Criminalizing victimless free choice not only creates crime, it also makes criminals of otherwise decent people. This nonsense has filled the nation’s prisons. Private prisons have now become a $3-billion-a-year industry, growing by 1,600 percent between 1990 and 2010.
The cost to governments of prison operations exceeds $50 billion a year. The cost of apprehending and prosecuting drug law offenders costs tens of billions more dollars annually.
The futile war on drugs is undermining the entire justice system. Each year in the U.S., about 750,000 people are arrested and prosecuted for use and possession of marijuana. While most are put on probation, some go to prison.
Doesn’t our nation have better uses for tax dollars? The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and half those inmates were convicted of drug offenses.
The contrived war on drugs is a sinkhole of waste that will never end drug use, but it does enrich a select group who are determined to continue the war, regardless of the collateral damage. These greed ghouls include both law enforcement and drug cartels, neither of whom wish to see drugs decriminalized, because it would derail their gravy train.
Gov. Jerry Brown has been fighting a federal court order to relieve overcrowded state prisons. The governor has resisted releasing as many as 30,000 inmates.
There is a solution. Brown knows about 25,000 inmates in California’s prisons were convicted of drug offenses. He should also know the war on drugs is not only a chronic failure, but is egregiously unjust. It has corrupted and militarized our law enforcement, made victims of innocent citizens, strained our criminal justice system, and made Mexico and many of our inner cities war zones.
Brown should end California’s participation in the war on drugs. He should release all but the most dangerous inmates convicted of drug offenses, then pardon everyone convicted of non-violent, non-child-related drug offenses. That should keep the state’s prison population down to compliance levels.
What government’s drug warlords have done for so many years is convince Americans that free choice of drug use presents a grave threat. Any facts and science that refutes the government’s contentions about drugs are rejected, even vilified, by government in its campaign to maintain myths about the danger of drugs.
The public’s growing acceptance of marijuana use, particularly for medicinal purposes, has the drug warriors in a reactionary panic. Erstwhile marijuana opponent, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, after meeting with medical experts and medical marijuana patients around the world, recently admitted that “we have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”
The troubling part of Gupta’s admission is his observation that Americans have been “systematically misled ...” Systematically more than implies the authorities responsible for continuing the war on drugs are doing so for ulterior motives. Given all the damage the war on drugs has done to America, those doing the misleading are the real criminals.
In a nation founded on personal freedom, why should anyone be prosecuted and punished for engaging in a victimless personal choice? When there is drug abuse or addiction, it should be a matter between user and family, or user and physician, not user and the police power of government.
Santa Barbara County resident Randy Alcorn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.