States are still, Awash in drugs, Biggest problem’s Not the thugs.
Dissidents used to be burned at the stake for suggesting that the Earth might in fact be round and revolve around the sun, or for uttering other like threats to the natural order of common belief. Well, most of us have accepted those dangerous apostasies by now, though I’m not so sure about Rush Limbaugh.
But these days there are new eternal verities from which one’s dissent will earn him at least political immolation. One of these concerns marijuana. The evidence seems conclusive by now that pot is not a “gateway” drug and is somewhat less personally harmful than alcohol. Does this mean that policies governing it will change? That stores will be licensed for its controlled sale, as they are for hooch? That it will be duly taxed? That the Food and Drug Administration will govern its purity?
Ummm…No. Too many constabulary-related careers are at stake, such as prosecutors, jailers, marshals, cops, clergy and politicians. Imagine their future in a land where marijuana, already America’s largest cash crop, were legally grown on inspected and tested farms, sold in liquor stores at measured strengths, and used freely by fun seekers and by desperate medical patients to control their otherwise intractable pain. While pols and clergy could still rail against “Demon Pot,” their law enforcement allies would be reduced to hunting for real criminals.
Growers and pushers would also be out of business, along with smugglers and thugs. Gun merchants would have to tighten their belts, as would their lawyers. Morticians would take a hit too. The underworld economy would suffer heavy losses, tax revenue from legal sales would zoom, and consumption would likely grow a bit beyond what it is today.
No doubt, you’ve read that some states are finally moving into such decriminalization with commendable baby steps and with steadily diminishing political risk to those who support it. Holland, as usual, leads the world by planning a highly controlled marijuana “plantation,” much as described above. Meanwhile our own new attorney general, Eric Holder, has announced that the Justice Department will no longer pursue medical pot users whose actions are otherwise legal under state law. Duh!
Plainly, other more risky drugs also need attention. Hottest right now are pharmaceuticals, obtainable at your local medicine cabinet. These constitute a terrible problem and good minds are hard at work. Luckily, political vested interests have not yet calcified around them.
Heroin is not that lucky, in this country anyway. But in Switzerland and Canada, governments have set up “infusion rooms.” This is marketing lingo for places where hopeless addicts are invited to come in and shoot up. They are given clean needles, clean heroin, clean rooms, and an absence of fuzz. Anti-drug crusaders are duly appalled at such a scheme and conjure visions of Lucifer smirking at the windows. But if so, he must really love Portugal because that country had decriminalized ALL drugs since 2001. So far, it has worked well.
But what really happens in infusion rooms is stability. No more fear of AIDS, no more fear of overdose, no more fear of arrest, no need to steal to support the habit. In other words, a sort of bizarre daily normality evolves. This often leads to unheard of behavior: job seeking, voluntary withdrawal, and faint attempts at citizenship. All this, of course, is outlawed in the United States.
One salient reason for American harshness on drug users is that if those lowlifes were not actually felons, they might want to vote. Heaven forefend! They might not want to vote for ME. Approximately 1.7 million citizens are in that boat today, barred from the voting booth by their failure to keep an arms length from the drug trade. They’re mostly poor and black. Not much ferment in prosperous white legislatures to make voting citizens out of “them.”
And so our nation suffers from these self-inflicted wounds: jammed prisons, bloated taxes, and rampant crime, all because powerful people make a nice living off the drug war. It’s criminal.
Columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. This column was distributed by MinutemanMedia.org.
By William A. Collins