25 Ways to Lift the Drug War Curse

Mother Jones has a new issue, much of which addresses the failure of the war on drugs. Among those they interviewed was David Simon, creator of HBO's The Wire. Here's what he had to say (sorry, no link):

"We are the jailingest motherf*ckers on the planet. More than that, the number of violent offenders in federal prisons has gone down to its
lowest level ever in the history of the country -- in the single digits, by the Bureau of Prisons' own statistics. And the political party that
let this get out of control? It was the Democrats.

The drug war has actually destroyed the deterrent in inner cities by teaching whole police departments to chase drug stats when they should be solving crimes. And, of course, because they can't put all those people in prison, it doesn't even work as a draconian policy. Most people are just thrown back onto the street.


A smart politician could cite all these things, and we could stop the madness. But everyone's worried that the little old lady in Terre Haute is going to think you're soft on drugs. I think all the little old ladies in Terre Haute get it. The American people are smarter than politicians give them credit for. If McCain came to a Democratic Congress with reforms, I think he'd be a hero to moderates everywhere, because do you know people who believe in the drug war? I don't know if there's a cop in Baltimore who believes in it except as a means of getting overtime pay. I think everybody knows except the government." -- David Simon, writer/creator, The Wire

Here's another good critique of the war on drugs that Simon wrote for Time. [Hat tip for the articles to Tom Angell of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy.]

The only problem with that argument is that John McCain is going to do absolutely nothing to end the drug war. His positions on crime are worse than Sen. Barack Obama's. On the other hand, Joe Biden's positions are a travesty, so I'm just hoping Obama doesn't name him V.P.

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  • Display: Sort:
    My oldest daughter is a social worker in... (none / 0) (#1)
    by Birmingham Blues on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 08:43:36 AM EST
    rural east Alabama.  Her views on the drug war have changed in the four years she's been on the job, and I was surprised to find that she doesn't support legalization, even for marijuana.  I think she's seen so much damage done by meth that she can't imagine the government tacitly endorsing its use.  Still, when she talks about going into drug houses where guns are drawn, I have to think some kind of reform would reduce those incidents.  How many times do we hear about shootouts over possession of Bud Light or Marlboros?

    Agree (none / 0) (#2)
    by Athena on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 09:19:07 AM EST
    Jeralyn, this remains a huge sleeper issue that explains so much of urban paralysis and misery - and its migration outward.  It appears to me that we would need all states at once to repeal drug laws - or see drug havens established.  Real issues of fed/state coordination.  

    There's no doubt that the ungodly sums spent on the drug war are wasted, when the money could establish treament options for drug addicts - and increase attention to the "safe" addiction of alcoholism, which gets a free pass in a climate obsessed with "real" drugs.

    Or let's criminalize alcohol, and argue for drug parity - just to illustrate the absurdity of it all.

    We need a war on addiction, not on drugs.

    We don't need (none / 0) (#3)
    by txpolitico67 on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 10:31:57 AM EST
    a war on anything.  Alcohol and drug abuse and dependency are HEALTH issues.

    What we need is good intervention and education.  And you know, whatever happened to moderation, too?  Plenty of us have a cocktail or two every now and then.  Just like I know a few friends who "fire it up" once in a while.

    I have never tried marijuana but I don't think that it should be criminalized to the point of packing our prisons to the hilt.  Until society realizes that drug abuse shouldn't be criminalized there is always going to be a stigma attached to it and just perpetuate the cycle.

    I don't know if it would be an apple to orange comparison but look at prostitution and Nevada.  If the escorts are deemed to be healthy and regulated, the spread of STD's would, I bet, have lower rates of transmission and the threat of violence substantially lower.



    NPR had a great clip (none / 0) (#4)
    by zyx on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 10:50:07 AM EST
    on Morning Edition yesterday on how TEXAS had a "Divert Court" to keep first-time offenders completely out of prison.

    TEXAS. My old state, which actually, now that I am in "liberal" Oregon, I find has a number of areas that are more progressive than other places, surprisingly...

    Divert Court

    funny you should ask that! (none / 0) (#5)
    by cpinva on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 01:10:19 PM EST
    How many times do we hear about shootouts over possession of Bud Light or Marlboros?

    check your history, roaring 20's style. after passage of the volstead act, exactly this type of event occured, frequently.

    presently, trafficers in cigarettes, from the low tax southern states, to the ridiculously high tax northern and western states, often go after each other's loads, guns drawn and firing.

    as a matter of public policy, prohibitions seem to rarely work as intended; the "law of unintended consequences" almost immediately takes effect. as a matter of morality, the gov't has no business legislating it, it always fails.