This week, the Huffington Post is doing a feature called “Shadow Convention” where they address topics that neither the Democratic nor Republican conventions will address. Today they took a look at the War on (Certain American Citizens Using Non-Pharmaceutical, Non-Alcoholic, Tobacco-Free) Drugs and my one non-pot-smoking friend Dr. Kevin Sabet appeared like Punxsatawney Phil on Groundhog Day to see his shadow and declare six more years of Drug War. And like the movie Groundhog Day, the repetition of his fallacious anti-legalization arguments is beginning to sound like the opening to I Got You, Babe by Sonny & Cher. Let’s relive some of the classics:
A balanced and nuanced approach based on evidence, common sense, public health and public safety has been shown to produce results.
The Obama Administration’s drug war budget is still tilted two-to-one in favor of interdiction and incarceration over treatment and rehabilitation, just as it was during the George W. Bush Administration. (Speaking of Groundhog Day, have you noticed how much Bush’s DEA Administrator looks like Obama’s?)
(a) Community-based prevention that focuses not only on preventing drug use among school kids, but also on changing ill-conceived local laws and ordinances that promote underage drinking, smoking and marijuana use (so-called “environmental policies”);
You mean like drug testing 11-year-olds for the school orchestra? Maintaining school policies that punish underage marijuana use worse than underage drinking, thus promoting use of a more harmful substance? Cancelling student aid for college kids who get caught with a joint? And since pot smoking among kids is now more prevalent than tobacco smoking, and tobacco’s highly addictive and available to eighteen-year-olds legally, why didn’t we have to lock up adult cigarette smokers in cages to achieve the drop in lifetime tobacco smoking for youth from the high 70-percents to the low 40-percents?
(b) Early intervention and detection of drug use in health settings - after all, prescription drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in this country, and health professionals need to be better equipped to deal with this epidemic;
What could better help alleviate the prescription drug overdose epidemic than allowing many of those patients to treat their conditions with non-toxic medical marijuana that is incapable of producing an overdose? Surveys show that medical marijuana patients are able to reduce or eliminate most of their prescription med needs and studies show that cannabinoids have a synergistic effect with opioids to better reduce pain with less drugs.
I’m all for helping addicts. My dad was a speed addict and alcoholic whose life was saved by in-patient residential detox and treatment and the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s why I’m furious that the scarce resource of rehab beds is wasted on the 57% of marijuana smokers who are only in rehab because they got caught with marijuana, and that 37% of all marijuana smokers admitted to rehab hadn’t even smoked pot in thirty days.
(d) Recovery-based policies that don’t penalize people for past drug use and instead facilitate full and productive participation in society;
In the state of Florida, if you are caught with three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana, you have committed a felony. You will do five years of time in prison, mandatory, where you will have no participation in society, aside from working at slave wages for American corporations. You lose your right to vote while in prison, on parole, on probation, and for at least five years after completing all of those, at which point you may begin to petition the state for your right to vote, which may or may not ever be restored to you. This situation has helped make it so almost a quarter (23.3%) of Florida’s voting-age African-American population cannot vote.
Along with potential loss of voting rights for life, you will be forced to check the “Have you been convicted of a crime?” checkbox on all job applications and every background or Google search on you will alert potential employers, landlords, universities, and friends and lovers that you are a drug felon. Unsurprisingly, many people in this situation turn to selling drugs or committing crime, leading them back into the private prison profit ledgers.