Another unintended consequence of the war on drugs?

Here’s an argument for ending, or at least curtailing, the war on drugs that you don’t hear every day. From the Associated Press:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says the quality of federal judges has suffered because there are too many of them. Testifying before a Senate committee Wednesday, Scalia blamed Congress for making federal crimes out of too many routine drug cases. In turn, that created a need for more judges.

“Federal judges ain’t what they used to be,” he said during a rare appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee..

The federal judiciary should be an elite group, said Scalia, who has served on the high court for 25 years. “It’s not as elite as it used to be,” he said.

He was responding to a question about what he sees as the greatest threat to the independence of judges.

The AP story says there are 874 federal judgeships. That means there are three times as many federal judges as there were in 1950 — and twice as many federal judges as there are members of the U.S. House of Representatives. And that doesn’t include judges in the bankruptcy courts.

I’ll leave it to Scalia to pass judgment on the quality of federal judges (although it does stand to reason that tripling the number of judges, during a time when the total population has only doubled, would lead to a lower standard for reaching the bench). But, assuming he’s correct, weakening the federal judiciary — and one must also assume these weaker judges hear more than just drug cases — is a novel rationale for changing our approach to drug criminalization.

Changing the way we deal with nonviolent drug offenses at the state level, you may recall, could be one of the proposals we get from a state commission examining ways to reduce Georgia’s spending on corrections.

Alternative courts and sentencing aren’t the same thing as decriminalization, and I’m not sure which would have to take place to address Scalia’s concerns about federal judges. But what does it say about attitudes about drug laws when a conservative former prosecutor like Nathan Deal and a conservative justice like Antonin Scalia opine about the problems created by taking the hardest line?

– By Kyle Wingfield

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155 comments Add your comment

Stoner

October 6th, 2011
1:19 pm

First
WHOORAY!, what do i win? some droogs?

@@

October 6th, 2011
1:29 pm

Scalia blamed Congress for making federal crimes out of too many routine drug cases.

THAT oughta endear him to the left-wingers but won’t.

flacker

October 6th, 2011
1:30 pm

Careful, you might be branded ” A bleeding heart Commie” and soft on crime:)))

Aquagirl

October 6th, 2011
1:30 pm

Mandatory minimum sentences can’t be helping either. The prospect of handing out unjust sentences probably doesn’t attract great candidates.

HDB

October 6th, 2011
1:31 pm

If this nation were to be serious about the costs of the drug war, the first ste SHOULD be decriminalization! Greater control would occur because the government could control the flow of drugs into the country…and profit from another revenue stream! Criminal activity would decline…and when needed, the focus on treatment rather than incarceration…..costs would decline…and a generation of young people could be saved!! Look at Amsterdam as a model as to how the decriminalization effort works!

Dumb and Dumber

October 6th, 2011
1:34 pm

And only democrats are to blame for expanding the war on drugs to the level of absurdity. In fact, let’s blame Obama (and Carter and Clinton)! No GOP President would ever add to the hyperbole that is the war on drugs. I’m sure the first act of the next GOP President (Choose One: Romney, Cain, Bachman, Perry, etc) voted in 2012 along with super GOP majorities in the House and Senate will stop the insanity that is the US war on drugs.

Well, for rich white peoples anyway.

Wot a lot o pot I got

October 6th, 2011
1:40 pm

Amen, Kyle. For a change I completely agree with you. I’m going to pull a big one in your honor.

“don’t criminalize it, legalize it”

Jack

October 6th, 2011
1:41 pm

We need more jails, not more judges.

arnold

October 6th, 2011
1:41 pm

Wasn’t it Nixon who declared a war on drugs. He was probably a little high at the time. His drug of choice was alcohol.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

October 6th, 2011
1:43 pm

Legalize drugs. Remove the huge profit motive. End the killing. And end government handouts for anyone who uses mind altering substances.

Fuzzy math

October 6th, 2011
1:44 pm

Harry Reid says a 5% surtax on millionaires will pay for Obama’s jobs bill.

According to IRS figures, there were 233,435 taxpayers reporting incomes of $1 million or more on the 2008 tax returns they filed in 2009. Their combined net taxable gross income was $629 billion. If a 5 percent surcharge were applied to that income, the tax revenue would be $31.45 billion—a far cry from the $447 billion cost of Obama’s jobs bill.

Back to the drawing board, Harry.

JKL2

October 6th, 2011
1:48 pm

Reforming marijuana laws would be a reeally good start. What we need are more sheriff’s like Joe Arpaio in AZ. Make jail a miserable place so that the inmates never want to go back there.

EB

October 6th, 2011
1:52 pm

how’s the corrections industry going to feel about that?

JKL2

October 6th, 2011
1:52 pm

Fuzzy math- the tax revenue would be $31.45 billion—a far cry from the $447 billion cost of Obama’s jobs bill.

Why do you have to be so negative. What’s a little more money? Score a victory against the evil rich and we’ll keep the printing presses rolling until we make the rest. I’d think they could have this thing licked before they get back to work next Tuesday.

Wot a lot o pot I got

October 6th, 2011
1:53 pm

@teensy weensy bar bar – re handouts and mind altering substances: one steven p. jobs, he the job creator extraordinnaire and never one to take any sort of handout, has said that his experiences with LSD were among the 3 most important things he ever did. ’tis true – go look it up. Perhaps you’re a little too straight laced for your own good.

southpaw

October 6th, 2011
1:54 pm

I wish I could remember where I read this idea.

Another possible tactic in the war on drugs–instead of trying to keep drugs away from people, take the drugs to them. Give away crack, meth, etc. to a crowd; let them have as much as they want at no cost. Anybody want to guess how many will OD and stop using drugs permanently?

Wot a lot o pot I got

October 6th, 2011
2:00 pm

Southpaw – only a small % of addicts od; the rest are a blight on our streets and a burden on our already over burdened hospital system, and mostly at taxpayer expense. So, no, that won’t work.

CobbGOPer

October 6th, 2011
2:05 pm

Legalization is the only way. Is no one watching Ken Burns’ new doc “Prohibition?” We tried this before – with booze – and it turned into a nightmare of crime and death. Yet, as we witness the same thing happening for nearly 30 years now with the prohibition on “drugs” – and only getting worse, as the gruesome violence in Mexican border towns can attest – our leaders in general continue to stick their heads in the sand.

Legalize everything – or at the very least legalize marijuana (which is by far the most widely used drug in America, and the drug that provides the vast majority of cartel profits due to sheer volume). What happened when Prohibition ended? The gangsters who had terrorized cities across the country suddenly had no more profit streams, and the same will happen with pot. Why buy from a skeevy dealer when you can get it at the store, or better yet grow your own in the yard next to your tomatoes?

But if we did that, local and state governments wouldn’t get their awesome taxpayer handouts in the form of subsidies for more personnel (to fight drugs) and spiffy para-military equipment (that cops shouldn’t have anyway – at least in the huge numbers they have now). We could save upwards of $20 billion a year in taxpayer funds simply by ending our silly and useless war on drugs.

But it will only end when we as a people stand up and tell our politicians that it’s ok, and that we won’t see them as “soft on crime.”

CobbGOPer

October 6th, 2011
2:07 pm

Clarification: I should say marijuana is the most widely used “illegal” drug in America.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

October 6th, 2011
2:08 pm

I don’t have a problem with folks doing drugs. I do have a problem with the drug-addled receiving taxpayer handouts. Choices have consequences.

Hillbilly D

October 6th, 2011
2:10 pm

The area I live in, meth is the drug of choice, for most. Legal or not, they have to get the money to buy it somewhere. The vast majority of them can’t/don’t hold down a job, so they get the money by stealing. Nearly all crime in my community is traceable to this. Legalizing it wouldn’t change a thing, they’d still have to steal. It’s just easier to catch them for the drug violation than it is for burglary, etc. That’s an unintended consequence that legalization would bring up here, even more stealing.

CobbGOPer

October 6th, 2011
2:11 pm

@Lil’ Barry: Do you also have a problem with our law enforcement agencies getting their huge taxpayer handouts to “fight” drugs, and do it in a spectacularly unsuccessful manner?

1961_Boomer

October 6th, 2011
2:13 pm

Careful, you might be branded ” A bleeding heart Commie” and soft on crime:)))

Exactly. During the whole “Fast and Furious” debacle, it amazes me that even the Obama administration succumbed to support of the War on Drugs. Instead of supporting California’s bid to legalize marijuana, they opposed. Instead of National decriminalization , they sold guns to Mexican cartels that have killed people with those guns. Where is the common sense on this? By now, everyone under the age of 60 knows the lies of “Reefer Madness”, and has smoked pot and drank alcohol. They KNOW the government lies, yet everyone STILL falls in line. Time to admit that the Billions spent on prohibition are a failure, time to expunge records of non-violent drug offenders, time to cut the legs out from under the criminal enterprises funded through drugs.

The Honorable Jack Camp (Retired)

October 6th, 2011
2:22 pm

I always vote Libertarian, and I agree with Kyle about interstate child sex trafficking. Legalize it and tax it!
Now where is my pill crusher?

Aquagirl

October 6th, 2011
2:25 pm

The vast majority of them can’t/don’t hold down a job, so they get the money by stealing.

Then let’s create a cycle where we give them a criminal record, so they’re pretty much unemployable, and then wonder why they don’t rejoin society.

Ever wonder why it’s not winos stealing your stuff? Mad Dog is cheap. They can annoy the hell out of people panhandling for an hour and then spend all day loaded. Plus look at the number of functional alcoholics. Your next door neighbor might be drunk as a skunk every night and still hold down a job instead of breaking into your car for money.

Conservative Christian

October 6th, 2011
2:26 pm

The President is at fault for whatever it is that anyone is saying is wrong with anything today.
That is my only position on anything.
Does that make me seem shallow to you?
Well, I think we know whose fault that is, don’t we? That’s right. The President.
Next question.

Glenn

October 6th, 2011
2:27 pm

@ CobbGOPer

You really shouldn’t let people know you watch public television …..and you want to legalize drugs . East Cobb hippie : ) That really is an interesting argument . I really have only thought about it from a fiscal point of view as far as the amount of inmates in prison that are put on the taxpayer coin . Never about the quality of enforcement or the judicial end getting watered down do to volume …..and I really don’t agree with it . I’m sure it isn’t easy being a judge but to me that is like saying the quality of computer programers has gotten worse due to the amount of smart phones that have flooded the market . Just not really seeing it .

GrammarKing

October 6th, 2011
2:27 pm

Wait – wasn’t “elite” used to cut down President Obama by the right? And now their leading Constitutional Originalist is calling for more elitism? I know – specious argument, but fun nonetheless.

@@

October 6th, 2011
2:31 pm

If their addiction “forces” them to steal or assault, enthanize ‘em. They’re miserable anyway. End their misery.

@@

October 6th, 2011
2:32 pm

Oops! That’s euthanize ‘em.

Hillbilly D

October 6th, 2011
2:35 pm

Aquagirl

They are going to get that criminal record, one way or another, either by a drug charge or by stealing to get the money. People on meth can’t hold down a job, whether they have a record or not. And by the way, most of the winos that I know, steal too, because they can’t hold down a job, either.

Conservative Christian

October 6th, 2011
2:37 pm

@GrammarKing:

Everything is the President’s fault. Your point is invalid.
Elitism means using words we don’t understand to trick us into agreeing on something that is unconstutionately. It doesn’t mean concentrating power among a select few citizens. So you’re obviously wrong.
Justice Scalia is just pointing out what he knows to be true as a member of The New Apostolic Reformation.

carlosgvv

October 6th, 2011
2:37 pm

The population of America is much larger now than in 1950. Throw in 20 million illegal aliens and the number of Federal Judges sounds about right.

Chuck

October 6th, 2011
2:37 pm

Good point Aquagirl about alcohol cheapness preventing crime to buy alcohol. If we legalize all drugs and start regulating them, the prices will fall and quality will rise so that drugs will be safer and inexpensive. Addicts will not need to steal (at least as much or often) to support their habits. If they do steal, arrest them for theft. If they attack someone, assault. If communities want to further prevent drug crime, they can subsidize drugs for addicts for a fraction of the costs they spend arresting and prosecuting drug users.

Conservative Christian

October 6th, 2011
2:38 pm

I agree with @@!
Euthenate ‘em!

carlosgvv

October 6th, 2011
2:40 pm

Barry

If you legalize drugs, more and more people will be driving under the influence and traffic deaths will soar. So, you will not “end the killing”. I’m going to guess that this never occured to you.

@@

October 6th, 2011
2:43 pm

However extensive, drug rehab works only if the addict is willing to make the tough choice of giving up their drug of choice. Too many claim success when they substitute one addiction for another. Mind numbing is their goal. One way or the other, they’ll seek euphoria.

@@

October 6th, 2011
2:44 pm

CC:

Left-wingers are in favor of euthanasia. I’m seeking common ground.

Aquagirl

October 6th, 2011
2:52 pm

People on meth can’t hold down a job, whether they have a record or not.

That’s a stereotype, based on your idea of the people creeping around your neighborhood. It’s not like a bank teller wears a button saying “I do meth on weekends!”

Eventually many illegal drug users do end up being useless thieves, but that’s not necessarily due 100% to the horrible properties of the drug. The very illegality of the drug encourages a drop-out lifestyle.

Like I said, how do you explain our substantial population of functional alcoholics? Alcohol does a real number on people over time too, what’s the difference?

Conservative Christian

October 6th, 2011
2:52 pm

Why are you bringing yuphoria into this?
Where is your data linking drug addiction to consumption of frozen yogurt?
You are way off base and you know that 99% of addiction in America is caused by President Obama.
End of discussion.
Next question.

Hillbilly D

October 6th, 2011
2:54 pm

Aquagirl

I live in a rural area. We all know each other and there are no secrets here.

Confused in Conyers

October 6th, 2011
2:55 pm

Kyle, I just don’t think that’s right. How in the heck are we gonna perpetuate our incarceration system if we legalize the pots.
I wish I had a blood clot for every time you write something that makes sense.

Hillbilly D

October 6th, 2011
2:56 pm

Mind numbing is their goal. One way or the other, they’ll seek euphoria.

That’s the real truth there. The real question is why are some people so miserable that they have to take that route. That’s a problem that only they can solve.

Profit Motive

October 6th, 2011
2:58 pm

Everyone should smoke a little bit every day as it makes the idiots in the world (they’re everywhere) seem a little less threatening a lot more funny.

Right On Randy

October 6th, 2011
2:58 pm

The solution is simple. Impeach the President!
GO Dawgs!!

getalife

October 6th, 2011
3:00 pm

“We are the 99%” they chant.

You woke up the sleeping giant cons.

1961_Boomer

October 6th, 2011
3:01 pm

carlosgvv wrote: If you legalize drugs, more and more people will be driving under the influence and traffic deaths will soar. So, you will not “end the killing”. I’m going to guess that this never occured to you.

Sorry, carlosgvv, but that is some sloppy logic. It is the same logic used by the left to support gun control. People intent on criminal activity … whether obtaining guns or driving drunk/stoned… are going to do so (i.e. are already doing so). People who don’t break those laws now are not likely to start just because of legalization.

Aquagirl

October 6th, 2011
3:04 pm

I live in a rural area. We all know each other and there are no secrets here.

Then you may be in the mindset of what is true in your area = true everywhere else.

Frankly, when I think “meth user” I think of 19 year old college students taking someone else’s Adderall. Same substance. But the majority of those kids will probably go on to be productive adults—if they can find a job in this economy—instead of slinking around your neighborhood.

@@

October 6th, 2011
3:05 pm

Hillbilly:

When unable to cope, take dope.

Children should be taught coping skills at a young age.

Negative consequences for bad behavior are the best teachers.

Hillbilly D

October 6th, 2011
3:08 pm

Then you may be in the mindset of what is true in your area = true everywhere else.

My opening comment on this subject started with “The area I live in”.