Happy Birthday to the War on Drugs!

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One, two, three…(to the tune of Happy Birthday)…Happy Birthday to…

Screw it.

I actually had a song in mind to commerate this milestone, but my singing would make Simon Cowell writhe in horror. Instead, I’ll opt for an overview of the accomplishments and victories that America’s longest running domestic war has produced.

“In the last 20 years, California made 850,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and half a million arrests in the last 10 years. The people arrested were disproportionately African Americans and Latinos, overwhelmingly young people, especially young men….From 2006 through to 2008, major cities in California arrested and prosecuted Latinos for marijuana possession at double to nearly triple the rate of whites.” (Source: “Arresting Latinos for Marijuana in California” Drug Policy Alliance and the William C. Velasquez Institute, Oct 2010)

“The U.S. federal government spent over $15 billion dollars in 2010 on the War on Drugs, at a rate of about $500 per second.” (Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy)

“State and local governments spent at least another 25 billion dollars (in 2010).” (Source: Jeffrey A. Miron & Kathrine Waldock: “The Budgetary Impact of Drug Prohibition,” 2010.)

“Police arrested an estimated 858,408 persons for cannabis violations in 2009. Of those charged with cannabis violations, approximately 89 percent were charged with possession only. An American is arrested for violating cannabis laws every 30 seconds.”
(Source: Uniform Crime Reports, Federal Bureau of Investigation)

As a user of cannabis (yes I have a medical card) and someone who has extensively studied the history of this current flawed and failed policy, I would like to pose this question to the Drug Warriors of Democratic and Republican ilks. What aspect or characteristic of marijuana/cannabis justifies making it illegal and putting people in jail?

Given the fact that there have been ZERO (0) deaths from overdose on cannabis (a virtual impossibility no matter how hard I have tried) compared to the countless number of overdose deaths from FDA approved/”legal” drugs like Rush Limbaugh’s beloved OxyContin, asprin, Vicodin, et al. and alcohol, it seems pretty stupid that we have turned a health problem like drug abuse, which should be treated by a health professional, in a criminal offense treated by law enforcement. Just like it’s inane to have the local cop, who most likely has no background in health science or addiction medicine, talk about the dangers of drug abuse to our schoolchildren as part of the flawed and ineffective D.A.R.E. program.

What the bipartisan Drug Warriors don’t tell you is that the initial war on marijuana in 1937 was based solely on racial paranoia. A paranoia that was perpetuated and enabled by both political parties (to say that the Drug War was an exclusively Republican creation is a complete falsehood) The lie that was perpetuated by our nation’s 1st Drug Czar, Harry J. Anslinger, was that African American jazz musicians were preying on white women while hopped up on weed. With the blessing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, Anslinger lead the way into getting the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 passed by a Democratic Party majority Congress and signed into law.

Our First Drug Czar, Harry J. Anslinger

For you right wingers and Republicans foaming at the mouth over this fact, you don’t get off that easy either. 40 years ago, Yorba Linda’s favorite son Richard M. Nixon declared his “war on drugs” as a way of diverting the nation’s attention from our involvement in Vietnam and the subsequent illegal bombings in Cambodia. Instead of using the likes of Charlie “Bird” Parker and Dizzy Gillespie as his chosen bogeyman, it was those long haired hippie galoots with poor hygenie and tye dyed t shirts speaking out against the war.

The Drug War: Keeping our streets safe from criminals like this

Without a debate from Congress, the Drug Enforcement Administration was created in 1973.  In 1989, as an overture to Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, the Office of National Drug Control Policy was made into a cabinet level position (aka “Drug Czar”) as part of the Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1988,  a House bill sponored by former Speaker of the House Thomas Foley (D-WA).  The bill passed 346 – 11 in the House and 87-3 in the Senate. In fact it was then Sen. Joe Biden who we can credit for coining the term “drug czar.”

G.I. Joe Biden, a real American Drug Warrior!

Fast forward several years later since the signing of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and the creations of the DEA and ONDCP. Is it any coincidence that a lot of the people that get arrested and imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses (i.e. simple possession) happen to be minorities or people from economically challenged given the original justification for beginning this war? For every high profile drug bust you hear about on the news, the demand for these drugs and the proliferation of these illegal sales and trafficking on our borders, southern and northern (yes, those damn Canadians are doing it too!), continues to increase at the same rate as the body count of victims from drug cartel violence in our inner cities and on our borders.

Casualties of the Drug War. After all, "It's all about security and protecting children"

And yet, there are few voices of either party calling for an end to this immoral War on Drugs. While the politicians continue to justify their stances as “protecting children,” “security,” “public safety” or some smoke and mirrors claptrap rhetoric, the public is beginning to see this war for what it is as the poll numbers favoring legalization and ending the Drug War keep increasing at a steady clip year after year.

I’ve have seen some symbolic overtures from the state chapters of the Republican Liberty Caucus and several local state chapters the Young Democrats favoring legalization, but nothing very committal to ending this fiscal and social quagmire that we are knee deep in since they seem to support candidates that tend to vote for increased funding for the DEA and ONDCP. In fact, there are only three political parties in the state of California that have unanimously committed to ending this Drug War in their platform language since their founding: The Peace and Freedom Party (since 1967), the Libertarian Party (since 1971) and the Green Party (since 1990).  I’m sure Juice friend, former Green Party nominee for US Senate and virtual thorn in the side of our editor Duane Roberts can attest to this.

Sorry to spoil your birthday celebration Drug Warriors. I didn’t mean to piss on the Kool Aid that you continue to drink and shit on the cake that you are eating. Go ahead and continue your birthday celebration. We’ll pretend that there’s nothing to see here like we have for the last 70 years.  We’ll just continue with the assumption that drug use equals abuse and that all drug users should be in jail.

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