Decriminalization

Part 2 of 12 in the series Snake Oil

Snake oil salesmen would falsely claim that the potions would cure any ailments. – UrbanDictionary.com

“The Boy Scouts of America decided to find out why young people turn to drugs,” writes Dalla K. Ferry, J. Dan Lehmann, and Steve Wetzel:

After a year of careful study they found that young people who become involved with drugs feel a lack of underlying things which other people think they have.

These fundamental things are:

  • Good friends who care about them.
  • Warm and open relations with their parents.
  • Being a part of something larger than oneself.
  • Genuine “highs” in their lives which make artificial “highs” unnecessary.1

Criminologist William J. Chambliss notes in his 1988 book On The Take: From Petty Crooks to Presidents:

Criminal behavior is generated because of the contradictions that inevitably arise in the course of the working out of the particular form of social, political, and economic structures. The types of crime, the amount of crime, and the distribution of crime in a particular historical period and society depend on the nature of the existing contradictions, and the mechanisms institutionalized for handling the conflicts and dilemmas produced by the contradictions.… Making [a] drug illegal and thereby creating crime networks is a very high price to pay for a relatively small benefit.

“When prohibition ended in 1932, the specialists and organizations that had grown up to facilitate the smuggling of alcoholic beverages transferred their talents, contacts, and personnel to the smuggling of drugs,” notes Chambliss:

When, in the thirties, marijuana and cocaine were added to the list of illegal drugs, the business expanded and smuggling became an international enterprise of gigantic proportions.… When Seattle’s crime network was in full swing, on the fifteenth of every month an official of the state House of Representatives flew from Seattle to San Francisco carrying a satchel full of one-hundred dollar bills. This was “laundered money.”… The amount in the satchel varied each month depending on how much Seattle bookmakers, gamblers, and narcotics dealers owed investors in other parts of the United States. It also depended on how much Seattle’s people wanted to either launder through banks into secret accounts or invest in enterprises in other parts of the country.…

Marijuana use is much less harmful than the use of alcohol. Where marijuana use has been essentially legalized,…crime networks have dissipated in importance in the production and supply of this commodity.… Indeed, the elimination of profits from drugs and gambling would reduce the annual take of crime networks in the United States by billions of dollars. Since money is power, it would correspondingly reduce their power.2

“There have been over ten million arrests for marijuana possession since 1970,” reports Derek Snider for BBS News:

While it may be a rare case these days that a person is put in prison for nothing more than smoking a joint, there is fairly solid evidence to conclude that at least 2.4% of total prison inmates are in for marijuana possession. The fact that annually at least 50,000 Americans have had years of their lives taken away for merely possessing marijuana is quite appalling – a plant that at least one third of all Americans have at one time used.… There are well over 720,000 marijuana arrests per year. Of these, the vast majority (88%) are for possession alone.3

“Someone is arrested for a marijuana offense every 42 seconds,” writes the Marijuana Policy Project. “In the U.S., there are more arrests for marijuana possession each year than for all violent crimes combined.” 4

“It costs three to four times as much to house a prisoner as it does to enroll them into a treatment program,” notes Snider. “The RAND Corporation has found that drug treatment is much more effective and far less costly than longer sentences or conventional enforcement.” 5

Chambliss, speaking as the Head of the Criminology Department at Georgetown University in the 1995 documentary The Hemp Revolution, noted that:

We will look back on this era and the response to drugs in this country, and think that was the worse thing that happened in the McCarthy era. It is insanity run amok and there is not a sane voice in the federal government saying anything about it.6

Over the past few decades, there has been a shift in some regions to approach problems such as drug addiction from the perspective of harm reduction. “Harm reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption,” writes Harm Reduction International. “The defining features are the focus on the prevention of harm, rather than the prevention of the drug use itself, and the focus on people who continue to use drugs.… Harm reduction benefits people who use drugs, their families and the community.” 7


Related links

1 Dalla K. Ferry, J. Dan Lehmann, and Steve Wetzel, “Youths Pitch In for a Better America,” in The Yearbook of Agriculture 1971: A Good Life for More People (U. S. Department of Agriculture, 1971), p. 209.

1 William J. Chambliss (Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Sociology Dept. at the Geroge Wash. U., and President of the Am. Society of Criminology (1988)), On the Take: From Petty Crooks to Presidents (Indiana: University Press, 1988), pp. 156, 184, 209, 215.

2 Derek Snider, “ONDCP ‘Joint’ Smokers Don’t go to Prison,” BBS News, 7 February 2003, at bbsnews.net/bw2003-02-07c.html (retrieved: circa February 2003).

3 About MPP, Marijuana Policy Project, at http://www.mpp.org/about/ (retrieved: 23 December 2012).

4 Snider, “ONDCP.”

5 Interview with William J. Chambliss, in The Hemp Revolution, 1996, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA4v_XBEk6A (retrieved: 23 December 2012).

6 What is harm reduction?, Harm Reduction International, at http://www.ihra.net/what-is-harm-reduction (retrieved: 19 March 2013).

See also

Kevin Crosby, “Decriminalization,” SkewsMe.com, at http://www.skewsme.com/decriminalization.html (retrieved: 23 December 2012).

Related videos

“Best Marijuana Argument Ever: Given By Superior Court Judge James P. Gray,” HorseOfPaulRevere – Yesterday Today Tomorrow video at YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKgY5eOlhEc (retrieved: 4 January 2013). (Watch it here)

“Legalization: Yes We Can,” Smoking Is NORML video at YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0mEDE_w1xo (retrieved: 4 January 2013). (Watch it here)

“The Hemp Revolution,” Conspirates video at YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA4v_XBEk6A (retrieved: 23 December 2012). (Watch it here)

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