Monday, July 20, 2009

Forget Walter Cronkite. Gene Elliott has declared that The War needs to end.

The war on drugs has lost the support of Gene Elliott.
Gene Elliott is a retired food wholesaler. He's one of the best-read people I know, and one of the most interesting. Every now and then Mr. Elliot sits down and types up some hot sports opinions and blasts them out to everyone in his email address book. I ALWAYS read them.

Here's an excerpt from the latest one:

If you want to be concerned about our country, try this. Recently, in a two day golf tournament in Wichita Falls, I spent two rounds on a golf cart with a man, recently retired, who was warden of a maximum security prison operated by the State of Texas....

I asked him what percent of prisoners are there because of drugs. He said about 65% if those are counted who are there because of crimes committed to support drug use. When I asked his opinion of a solution, he did not hesitate one bit. He said take the profit out of drugs for illegal drug dealers. Make them available through the drug store at normal commercial prices. That would let the air out of the balloon for drug dealers who are supplying drugs that, not only support enormous profits for criminal drug processing, transportation and sales, the price to users includes cost of corruption of law enforcement and other public officials.

I've never heard it said better. (In case you're wondering, I can't imagine Gene and Flo Elliott sitting down in the den with some weed and Zigzag papers and rolling up a fat one. They're not that kind of people. Well, Flo isn't.)

Slight change of subject....According to The Aggie, there was never a time when she couldn't buy marijuana at her high school. Why? Because, despite the penalties, there was a huge profit in doing illegal bidness there. What would happend to those profits if marijuana could be bought and sold to non-minors like any other form of farm produce? Do you think the Mexican border might suddenly be more livable?

When everyday users are caught and convicted, they go into prison as non-violent offenders. Many of them come out as extremely violent offenders, and spend the rest of their lives as fodder for the parole officer/counselor/probation industry. (I hire a lot of those guys, and I'm convinced that the probation industry has perverse incentives for keeping people in the system for as long as possible.)

Here's Senator Jim Webb, speaking on the senate floor:

Let's start with a premise that I don't think a lot of Americans are aware of. We have 5% of the world's population; we have 25% of the world's known prison population....
There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice. . . .
The elephant in the bedroom in many discussions on the criminal justice system is the sharp increase in drug incarceration over the past three decades. In 1980, we had 41,000 drug offenders in prison; today we have more than 500,000, an increase of 1,200%.

A 1,200% increase since 1980??? How is this possible?
It's possible because it's a great excuse for government spending. It really is that simple.

When alcohol was prohibited during the 1920's, we saw an incredible upswing in alcohol related violence. Fortunately, people could still remember that things weren't that bad prior to 1920, and Prohibition was eventually repealed. Bootlegging violence dropped off.

Unfortunately, very few people can remember when marijuana was legal in the U.S.
Will the ridiculous prohibition of, say, marijuana go away now that scads of police officers, prison guards, parole officers, and testing facilities have their jobs on the line?
Who knows.

Speaking of wars, much has been written and broadcast in the last couple of days about the passing of Walter Cronkite. Cronkite was famous for....well, he only did one thing that really mattered.
Cronkite was the newsreader who declared that the Vietnam War was over. And he did it long before the fat lady sang. For some harsh and pointed criticism of that action, you can go here or here.

I can't say that Vietnam was 100% right or wrong, much like I can't say that our current Middle Eastern adventure is totally right or wrong. But I can unequivocally say that our War On Drugs is being fought for a lot of very bad reasons.

When LBJ heard about Cronkite's statement, he supposedly said "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America."

Well, the War On Drugs has now lost the support of Gene Elliott.

Sanity beckons.


Dr Ralph said...

I think you're showing your whack-job side to suggest current drug laws are in place to have an excuse for more government spending on prisons.

A lot of the initial anti-marijuana laws were fueled by anti-black/anti-hispanic sentiment. BTW - here's an interesting article delivered by a USC Law Professor in 1995 on our current marijuana laws.

Otherwise I more or less agree with your take on the ridiculousness of the situation.

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

Dr. Ralph,
So why then keep marijana illegal? It's much less harmful (on your lungs) than tobacco, less addictive than oxycontin, is more effective in treating the side effects of chemotherapy than compazine. So far, 0 deadly accidental overdose of marijuana has occurred with EVERYONE IN AMERICA. However, 11,687 deaths have been attributed to FDA approved drugs in which medical marijuana is a viable substitute.

SOOO - and I know you don't argue those points - but the FDA, DEA, ATF, We use the CIA in the War on Drugs, the FBI, city, state police, prison workers, prison contracting companies (great campaign contributors, those guys!), DHS (Customs and Border Security employs 52,000 alone).

Dr. Ralph, there are - and no kidding here - into the millions of government teat sucklers who depend on the illegality of marahuana. It's a very potent lobby.

So, we've got the facts. When various countries legalize drugs (or medicinalize them), crime goes down, involuntary jail attendance goes down - and (gasp) drug USE goes down. Weird, but that statistic shows up all the time. So, why keep it illegal? This group is more powerful than the AFL/CIO and UAW combined. Why not? It has more employees.

Dr Ralph said...

TLG -- you misunderstand: I completely agree that legalization makes all sorts of sense. Think of the tax revenue!

I think if you polled them, a large percentage of law enforcement officers would agree that, at the very least, de-criminalization makes sense.

The moral-ism of conservative right-wing religious bullshit is the chief reason we still see these laws; brought to you by the same folks who want to keep "sodomy" laws on the books to be used against homosexuals.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

I don't think they were put in place for that reason, but I think the prison lobby (and there is one) is a huge contributing factor in those laws remaining in place.

BTW, I asked Gene ahead of time if I could rant on his email.

ΛΕΟΝΙΔΑΣ said...

I have one question for all those who are in favor of drug prohibition: As an adult, who is to decide what substance is to be introduced into one's own body? Every idiot knows of the dangers of "substance" abuse. With prohibition, the economics keep the prices artificially high and invite associated violence as well as protecting the rice bowls (job security) of the "corruption" interests. As for "taxing" drugs, that is the only valid argument for continued prohibition. Screw the government tax collectors!

The other Allen

kerrcarto said...

Well, I would have to say you know my feelings on this subject.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Leonidas/Allen/Person Who spells his name properly,

I believe YOU would be responsible for what substance you smoke, snort, shoot up, ingest, inhale, dip, or chew.


Yeah. Thinking of you boys when I wrote it.

Everyone else, this is Leonidas and Kerrcarto. Gentlemen, please make yourselves at home. There are snacks on the side table, and there's ice in the fridge.

Hammer said...

The war on drugs is a front for the militarization of the police and the eventual criminalization of all types of behavior.

Once everyone is a criminal they are much easier to control.