Let’s end the War on Drugs

Forty years ago, President Nixon used the unfortunate phrase “War on Drugs,” launching a misguided crusade that has encouraged street violence, eaten away at state budgets and packed our prisons with non-violent offenders. The nation’s punitive approach to drugs has turned us into a penal colony. We lock up more of our citizens per capita than brutal dictators like Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro.

There’s an old saying about seeing the opportunity in a crisis. Perhaps the multiple crises caused by the Great Recession — which has bled state and local treasuries and swelled the federal deficit — will prompt lawmakers to end this futile era of prohibition, which has been costly far beyond the money spent.

Much of the social cost has been borne by black men, who use illegal drugs at rates about equal to whites but are nearly 12 times as likely to be imprisoned for drug convictions as adult white men, according to a Human Rights Watch report released last year. That’s because lazy tactics encourage local police officers to focus on penny-ante street dealers to  plump up their arrest records.

That practice can have tragic consequences, as it did in 2006, when Atlanta police fraudulently targeted the home of an innocent elderly woman, Kathryn Johnston, and shot her dead. More often, those tactics yield less dramatic but equally tragic results: Prison has disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of non-violent black men, ripping them from their families and neighborhoods, rendering them unemployable and, therefore, un-marriageable. Currently, more than 10 percent of all black males ages 25 to 39 are in prison or jail.

(Any offender, black, white or brown, who murders, rapes or maims deserves to stay under lock-and-key. But the streets are not made safer when we put non-violent offenders in prison for selling or possessing small quantities of illegal drugs.)

If you prefer a cool-headed focus on finances, though, that, too, shows wasted resources. Counting local, state and federal spending, the nation fights this losing war at an annual cost of more than $40 billion. Attorney General Eric Holder implicitly acknowledged those costs when he announced recently that the feds, with “limited resources,” would no longer punish users of medical marijuana, as long as they follow state laws.

That was a perfectly sensible move, though a modest one. Holder followed up with highly publicized raids in several U.S. cities, including Greater Atlanta, on a Mexican drug cartel. The message? The Obama administration may not call it a war, but they will employ the same tactics to halt the savagery of drug thugs.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has no choice but to target violent cartels. However, the violence associated with the drug trade is fueled by the illegality of the product, just as it was during Prohibition.  Al Capone wreaked havoc in Chicago, all the while making millions (way back then) from the sale of illegal alcohol. When the 18th Amendment was repealed, the violence dropped off precipitously. If customers can buy their intoxicant legally, gangsters have little reason to get in the business.

Most lawmakers are too cautious to advocate de-criminalizing all narcotics, and that’s probably just as well. Methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine are highly addictive substances that should be regarded with due caution. But there is every reason for local and federal law enforcement authorities to target only big-time dealers, measured not by ounces or bags but monetary value. Anybody caught with less than a thousand dollars worth of coke is not even a court jester, much less a drug kingpin.

California, meanwhile — so often the cutting edge — is considering legalizing marijuana outright and taxing its sale. If  the state succeeds — if it can find a  new revenue stream from legal marijuana sales without obvious collateral damage — other states will certainly want to do the same. This era of prohibition could end one state at a time.

82 comments Add your comment

F. Sinkwich

October 30th, 2009
6:37 pm

My libertarian side pretty much agrees with you, Cynthia (agreeing with you is a rarity).

Somebody smokin’ a doobie somewhere minding their own business is of no concern to me, nor should it be to anyone else.

The truly addictive stuff is a concern. People can down a beer or two or three (go Dawgs tomorrow – I’ll be guilty) without becoming a crime wave. As I understand it, EVERYONE who does that hard stuff becomes a junky.

But if we legalize that wacky tobacky, can we legalize casino gambling too?

Chester Felds

October 30th, 2009
6:43 pm

I couldn’t have said it better. Why are people downing a couple of beers when they are ignoring the “hard stuff?” Personally, I don’t do the hard stuff and not sure what all that is, but whatever Cyhi says, I agree with. She is divine.

Wow, she rhymes wacky tobacky but doesn’t use a hyphen to couple them into a single word. Is this avangarde or what? We should legal legalize Indian casino gambling in this state and allow citizens to join tribes. How!

jconservative

October 30th, 2009
6:44 pm

I agree that the “War on Drugs” has been an abysmal failure. We have had our butts kicked up on side of the country and down the other side.

I would be willing to give legalization a try and, if that is California, lets watch with an open mind & see what happens. But I am tired of spending $30,000. a year to keep a junkie in jail.

Chester Felds

October 30th, 2009
6:49 pm

Maybe if they weren’t selling small amounts, they wouldn’t have to worry about being busted. But, Cyth, you know best. We must crack down on these oppressive, overbearing (insert bad word here) bad people who run these prisons and free these people who don’t deserve to be behind bars for selling a little pot.

It’s hard to find little pots anymore. They’re all medium or larger size and made in China. Show me a little pot made of cast iron and I’ll take it. It’ll last forever and the trip will be worth it. Non of that teflon coated stuff for me.

Now that the recession is officially over, about 15 minutes ago, we should open factories devoted to pot. Small pots, medium pots and larger pots so that Americans can properly cook their dinner. We cannot allow this pot gap to continue! Cyth has brought this to the nation’s attention and now it’s our duty to do our part and buy these pots.

Cathy

October 30th, 2009
6:57 pm

In society today adults have to make millions of important decisions, a lot of which can have a drastic effect on their lives, even death. We are responsible for our choices, and we suffer and prosper from our choices, it’s what makes each individual who they ultimately become. This is called freedom of choice, ownership of ones self. We are legally allowed to make these choices everyday, including many that can be instantly fatal such as riding recreational dirt bikes for the thrill of it, even though it could cost us our lives, its our choice to make.

By trying to force people into not consuming a natural plant we are effectively causing more harm than if we were to let each adult make their own choices and except the consequences for those choices. The harm prohibition has brought to not just our own country, but the vast majority of the world is on a remarkably large scale, and threatens our national security. By choosing to prohibit this substance, we have chosen to ignore it and to let it be controlled by the black market. This in turn has enriched criminal enterprises to the point they have the financial power to compete with their own governments on a military bases as seen in Mexico. This is a national security threat. Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and the majority of citizens know this, this in turn creates disrespect for law enforcement thereby furthering the deterioration of our community as a whole. It is inhumane to lock a person in a cage and take away their belongings they worked for when they did nothing to harm any other individual or society. Current marijuana laws are a civil rights nightmare waiting to happen, and only makes marijuana readily available to anyone of any age. The laws are obviously bad, expensive and unyielding in accomplishments. We spend billions each year to try and stop marijuana consumption, and yet the DEA admits they would be surprised if they are even getting 1% of the drugs being transported. That’s a bad investment, and the majorities do not agree with it, and there is no justification for making marijuana illegal in the first place.

Prohibition is bad for our kids as they have complete access to it as long as its being controlled by the black market, what we need is control and regulation to minimize the exposure of drugs to young children. As long as it is illegal or decriminalized there will be a black market selling it at a marked up value because of risk, and all the harm will continue.

By legalizing marijuana we are effectively controlling its distribution, and can much better regulate its use by age limits.

Simply put, it’s a real no brainer and it will eventually happen, so if it’s not working now, and has the potential to be better why would we stay put?

Let’s not continue to turn regular tax paying citizens into tax burdens for the rest of us,
there comes a time when you have to realize a bad investment is a bad investment.

Please help us do the right thing, listen to the people of California who have bravely stood up for a positive change in our society, drugs may not bee good for us, but prohibition has proven far worse.

F. Sinkwich

October 30th, 2009
6:58 pm

I think our early settlers here in Georgia were extremely short-sighted back in the day. They ran all those Injuns out of the state when they could have established a few reservations instead.

Just think, we’d have some casinos in Ellijay or Helen or wherever they hung out at the time. Furthermore, think about the sports book & bar on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon during football season. What FUN!

F. Sinkwich

October 30th, 2009
7:03 pm

Wow, Cathy, nice job on the post but the bong made you a little wordy. I pretty much agree though.

iownme

October 30th, 2009
7:08 pm

the government says don’t ingest a certain plant or we will lock you away
the masses arose and claimed their own bodies and made it clear
my body is mine alone, no government created by the people for the people will ever take that away!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chester Felds

October 30th, 2009
7:14 pm

Do a google search of obama, Japanese and verb. See what you get. You won’t get pot.

Chester Felds

October 30th, 2009
7:15 pm

Fewer people are replying to our cindi’s pieces. She has to live too and gets paid by the word and number of comments. Could it be that people are fed up and not reading her rants, raves and posts anymore? Naw, must be too many people who can’t speak poorly written English.

F. Sinkwich

October 30th, 2009
7:21 pm

Chester, dude, whatever criticisms can be directed at Cynthia, poor writing is not one of them. I wish I had her gift.

Just sayin: Watching her and Laura Ingraham on the ABC Sunday morning show last week was, well, enlightening….

Tom Middleton

October 30th, 2009
7:33 pm

Cynthia,
The best way to overcome the scourge of drugs, as we should all know by now, is through change. How much more fun it is to actually become what one can only dream about in a drug stupor.

But this requires real-life goal-setting, discipline, problem-solving, and tenacity – all the things President Obama has talked about throughout his political career, but many have yet to understand.

He’s actually done these things – is a master of these things – so one would wonder why more folks, especially our young, aren’t watching him more as a role model, accepting his challenge, and getting with it.

If “you” want to change your chemistry permanently, change your life, yes? If you want to feel better, become better, right? The doors are open for everyone these days (or soon will be), and nothing else really works!

F. Sinkwich

October 30th, 2009
7:44 pm

Tom, if I’ve seen worse drivel in my life, I sure don’t remember it.

We were talking about dope here, not LSD. Lay off those tabs, dude.

You’re welcome.

Woodrow

October 30th, 2009
7:47 pm

Wow. Rarely do I agree with Cynthia. Today, she nailed it. I disagree with a few of her facts/opinions contained in the column, but she really got the meat of it down. Keep the billions of dollars we spend on the drug war. We could get better results with spending half of that money on prevention. Hell, we could even (gasp) let the taxpayer keep some of their own money!

Tom Middleton

October 30th, 2009
7:56 pm

F. Sinkwich

Love your intoxicants, so you, F? Hang in there. I hope you live long enough to finally understand it one day.

Tom Middleton

October 30th, 2009
9:03 pm

Where did ya go, F? Did you OD and pass out? See what I mean?

godless heathen

October 30th, 2009
9:09 pm

Good post Ms. Tucker. Very popular these days. How do we get some action on this? We need courageous leaders in political office. Never mind.

Just a thought

October 30th, 2009
9:19 pm

Let’s legalize drugs. . . Let’s give illegals amnesty and citizenship. . . Let’s close the gap in our education system by lower the standards. . . Let’s give minorities, including gays, equality by degrading all whites and calling them all racists when they say, do or look any way that is perceived as OFFENSIVE. . . Let’s force everybody into a single payor health care program

F. Sinkwich

October 30th, 2009
9:32 pm

Methinks the crazies have invaded your blog, Cynthia….

I have a dream

October 30th, 2009
9:46 pm

This is a war that will not and cannot be won by the US definition of “War”. Your local policeman, lawyer, judge, senator, etc. have all been tarnished by drug money and organized crime.

One only need look at the border states of US and Mexico to see a microcosmic view of what would happen if a true “War” was declared on drug dealers. Violent death and crimes by the drug cartels would explode. No one has the marbles to go up against them.

Just remember, the so called “War” on drugs is no different than the so called “War” on terrorist. No one has the backbone to really declare a true war on them. It’s all rhetoric trash!

Tom Middleton

October 30th, 2009
9:49 pm

F. Sinkwich

There’s such a thing as being too high, F. Read it tomorrow after you’ve sobered up, and maybe it’ll all make since.

F. Sinkwich

October 30th, 2009
10:09 pm

“since” ???

Maybe you mean “sense.”

Put down the bottle while you type, Tom. Try to be cogent.

Just trying to help.

Thanks.

Tom Middleton

October 30th, 2009
10:22 pm

F. Sinkwich

Just checking your eyesight to see if you could still read. Good, dude, but your logic (or rather lack of it) says you shouldn’t be driving. What are you on tonight, shoe polish? Get yourself to rehab ASAP and start learning how to change. And thank you, F….lol.

mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, Barack the LIAR Obama

October 30th, 2009
11:04 pm

Cynthia are these new Libertarian leanings? Or change you can belive in?

Speaking of, who’s bringing change to Washington, The White House is NOT for sale (well, maybe for rent), Transparency, NO lobbyist on the White House staff, and all bills on line so the public can read them and on, and on, and on……let me say it again, mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm Barack the LIAR Obama

TnGelding

October 31st, 2009
1:29 am

F. Sinkwich

October 30th, 2009
6:37 pm

“But if we legalize that wacky tobacky, can we legalize casino gambling too?”

Yes, we can!

TnGelding

October 31st, 2009
1:35 am

mmmm, mmmm, mmmm, Barack the LIAR Obama

October 30th, 2009
11:04 pm

“Speaking of, who’s bringing change to Washington, The White House is NOT for sale (well, maybe for rent), Transparency, NO lobbyist on the White House staff, and all bills on line so the public can read them and on, and on, and on……let me say it again, mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm Barack the LIAR Obama.”

Liar, liar, pants on fire!!! Good grief! Grow up!

Lying and narcissism are prerequisites for running for the job for goodness sakes. The best liar usually wins. But be patient, some of those “lies” might materialize.

That said, I’m getting a little impatient myself. But probably for different reasons than you.

TnGelding

October 31st, 2009
1:37 am

Yes, let’s end the war on drugs, and all the other “wars”, as well. We simply can’t afford to continue throwing money down a rat hole with little or nothing to show for it.

Joel Edge

October 31st, 2009
6:25 am

Sure why not. Intelligent people will make correct choices when it come to decisions that affect our lives. Then we can maybe get rid of some these helmet laws, seatbelt laws, anti-smoking laws, and various nanny laws that you liberals love so well. Unemployment will drop like a rock (when you’re stoned out of your mind, who can remember to look for a job or pick up an unemployment check) and jobs in rehab related positions should skyrocket. The marriage rate for blacks should go up. Who doesn’t want to marry a doped up guy, and he could be violent also, bonus.

ck hall

October 31st, 2009
7:35 am

Ho Hum! Why Always a racial angle in almost every editorial that you write? It sure gets old!

jt

October 31st, 2009
8:00 am

Ending the war on drugs is similar to decreasing the size and corrupt influence of our federal government.

They are both pipe dreams.

Centralized authority will only yield to expediency.

TJ

October 31st, 2009
8:34 am

I guess decriminalizing drug use could work as far as lowering the number of black males in our prisons but I have a different approach that would end drug use and overcrowded prisons,
Announce that the government will pay all cost of drug rehab for a period of one year for anyone who asks.
After the one year, anyone convicted of growing, producing, transporting, selling, possessing or using any illegal drug regardless of the quantity will be imprisoned for 10 years without the possibility of parole.
If one is convicted a second time after serving their 10 years they shall be put to death.
I’m fairly sure that somewhere around year 11 the prisons would have plenty of free space and our streets would be free from drugs.
If you are going to have a war, fight to win, not surrender as you would have us do.

Scott

October 31st, 2009
9:12 am

Cynthia,
Why do you inject race into EVERYTHING? The person that always brings race into an issue is almost always the racist. You are worse than Sharpton. If the prisons were filled with white people, you would probably encourage a bigger war on drugs. Bill Cosby has it right. Take accountability for your actions and stop blaming the system.

mhs4

October 31st, 2009
9:20 am

If you legalize drugs then help needs to be excluded from whatever medical welfare plan the dimwits come up with. To do something you know is not good for you and then expect others to pay for it is totally dumb, but I am sure Cynthia, Nancy, Harry, and Barack will be for it. Yes, and that includes smoking tobacco!

Patrick

October 31st, 2009
9:41 am

The only people who comment on editorials are people that are incapable of forming their own opinions. This person’s entire job is to be “controversial” so you people will read her column and argue and fight. This so called “journalist” doesn’t care if you agree or disagree. She only cares that you read her column so she can keep her job. You people are really a very sad group.
And to clarify, I am commenting on the pathetic losers that comment on editorials, not the editorial itself. There is a difference.

Ayn Rand Was Right

October 31st, 2009
9:47 am

Can Cyndi Lu ever write something that actually makes sense without fouling it playing her favorite race card? I agree, the war on drugs is stupid…where I disagree, is on her take that the war on drugs is racist. The majority of people in jail are there because they are stupid, not because they possessed a “small amount” of pot. CL…fight the right fight and get rid of stupid laws. If you dropped your race card for a few weeks, you may find the world is not the horrible place you make it out to be.

clyde

October 31st, 2009
10:19 am

Rendering them unemployable,unmarriageable,also unmanageable and useless.Let’s get rid of them.They’re always going to be a drag on society.By the way,Ms. Tucker,this is a choice they made.Bad choices come with bad consequences,but the consequences are apparently not bad enough to be a deterrent,are they?Let’s change that factor.Let’s make the consequences so bad that 90% of young black men won’t think about using drugs along with an equal number of other ethnic groups.That will leave 10% of them where we’ll use execution as a final deterrent.These measures will cure the drug problem in the U.S,I’ll guarantee that.

For a time,Ms.Tucker,there will be a blood bath,some of your neighbors,and hopefully two of mine will disappear.Then we can take the money we are using,trying to rehabilitate some cretin that cannot be rehabilitated,and assist those that are trying.We need to start backing winners and eliminate the losers.

Joan

October 31st, 2009
10:52 am

Let’s bring our troops home and put them on the city streets with their automatic weapons. And put them on the borders to stop the hordes of people transporting. And put them in the airports. We can win this war. We can’t win in the Mideast.

Joan

October 31st, 2009
10:53 am

By the way Patrick–you are a snob within a snob. So don’t comment and stay away from these sites if they offend your delicate sensibilities.

Mutts R Stupid

October 31st, 2009
11:49 am

But, but, but if we end the war on drugs, the street price of drugs will drop drastically, leading to DEFLATION in illegal drugs. How will Black men make money then? Oh, yeah, there is always pimping. Merry Christmas, HO HO HO

Mutts R Stupid

October 31st, 2009
11:56 am

Black Druggies overcrowding prisons? The simple solution is to form Penal Brigades as the Germans did on the Eastern Front in 1942. They emptied their prisons of murders, rapists, and other violent types, and sent them to the VERY front of the lines in Russia, where they were forced to fight till they were dead, dead, dead. FYI, the fictional history of one such penal squad is depicted in the novel “Make War in Madness” by Walker E. Blake, aka W.E.B Griffin.

Mutts R Stupid

October 31st, 2009
12:33 pm

Have any of you noticed how poorly the ajc is now covering local and regional news? They have laid off many reporters and the quality of the paper has suffered. Meanwhile, they are paying to keep this over priced opinion writer on the staff, working in Washington DC of all places. How many real reporters were let go by the Urinal to keep opinion girl on the staff? IMHO, Cindy’s opinion and five dollars together are worth exactly one cup of Starbucks coffee, to go.

Sunshine and Thunder

October 31st, 2009
12:34 pm

Cynthia,

Well don’t stop there. Let’s legalize prostitution and gambling too. Are you with me on that?

Mutts R Stupid

October 31st, 2009
12:38 pm

“Al Capone wreaked havoc in Chicago, all the while making millions” – Yo Cindy Lou, how many millions did Joe Kennedy make, way back then from illegal whiskey?

Scott Eady

October 31st, 2009
4:17 pm

Blacks use equal to whites?

Not based on their percentage of population.

CT, why dont you go live in Southwest Atlanta to see how you like it

All the way

October 31st, 2009
4:29 pm

Obama is too busy with a war on his critics to care about a war on terror or a war on drugs.

Peaches

October 31st, 2009
4:31 pm

Did you notice the article about Atlanta METRO ranking 23rd in crime and the poor reporter didn’t seem to know the difference in the city of Atlanta and the metro. It’s a shame that reporting has sunk so low.

Bazooka Joe

October 31st, 2009
5:49 pm

Make recreational drugs legal for a start.

Of course that will never happen.

Make drugs legal and tax the purchase to generate revenue.

That will never happen either.

Take all the perps with drug convictions, revoke their citizenship and send them to some island paradise (The Bahamas) like we did with some of the Gitmo guys. There they can start their own culture.

Send them to Gitmo for a while and get them and their influence out of America.

Confiscate and destroy all their material and immaterial belongings before their eyes, then send them to Gitmo.

Even if they are in jail, they are still peddling, pushing, maintaining. They need to be removed form society completely. 100%.

I could wrap this up in short order.

Herodomus

October 31st, 2009
8:08 pm

Legalize Drugs? Don’t you mean legalize marijuana? It would be a big mistake to legalize heroin, cocaine, meth, PC. Let’s get real. Hard drugs kill.

Elrey Jones

October 31st, 2009
9:31 pm

Cynthia Tucker is a racist african woman. She is racist to the bone and part of the Old South racist african crowd. Her and her kind have been exposed for the shysters they are. Stop black on non-black crime and don’t waste your time reading from a racist ranting african lady who is hateful at best and just a plain old evil woman at worst.

Sam

October 31st, 2009
9:50 pm

Now if you agree with Ms. Tucker just think what other silly things you will do if drugs are legal.