Above us, Only Sky

Politics, Philosophy, Science, and Everything Else.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Reality and American Drug Law

I've done some more reading in my Reefer Madness book. It's discussing the horrific kinds of sentences many Americans get for simple drug (pot) crimes. These are non-violent first time offenders, getting sentences that stray into the double digits. Even more grotesque is the fact that many violent offenders get leaner sentences, even murderers. With the overcrowding of the prison system, and the mandatory sentences without parole commen among drug offenders, violent offenders are getting early realse just to make room.

-If the criminal justice system is about justice, shouldn't people who kill other people get more punishment than people who provide illegal narcotics to willing customers?
-If it is about retribution, shouldn't those who cause pain and death directly be more harshly treated than those who, again, are at worst collaborating with their 'victims'?
-If we're trying to reduce harm, shouldn't it be taken into consideration that a savvy drug dealer knows he's better off killing a witness because the reduced chance of getting caught is worth the marginal increase in punishment?
-It's it's about building a better and safer society for our kids, shouldn't we worry about all those kids whose temporary fling with pot is costing them decades of prison time and the scars of it on their whole lives?

What possible justification can there be for this treatment of drug offenses? It boggles my mind. Possibly- and only possibly, I could see the justification for something like herion, because it is so deeply addictive and contributes to the spread of disease.
Take the whole cost of Marijuana use on every part of society- lost productivity, misspent tuition, and whatever deaths you could attribute to it, say from high driving and lung cancer. Compare that total cost with the cost of the War on Mary Jane- all those policing costs, all the costs of running prisons, all the years of lost productivity from locking up so many people, the effect on the economy of creating a under-class of ex-cons who're barely employable- can you honestly imagine that the cost of drug use is anuthing close to the cost of the war to prevent it? It's like paying a lawyer 1000$ to avoid a 100$ speeding ticket- and losing the case.
The fiscal part of the conservative wing in the US needs to get it's head out of the social-conservatives ass. They say Iraq might turn into another vietnam, but that ignors the fact that they already have a debacle of the same proportions on their own soil, and it's called the War on Drugs.


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