Why our drug laws have failed and what we can do about it

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book review 

There can be little question that the most serious legal/social problem in this country is the catastrophic “war on drugs.”  This institutionalized insanity has, over several decades, eroded our civil liberties to a far greater extent than did 9/11, cost incalculable billions of dollars, destroyed the lives of countless thousands and created an obscenely profitable and insanely violent criminal class that has speared terror and destabilization through several other nations, most notably Mexico and Colombia. Further, the war has  corrupted the U.S. justice system and turned many police officers–whole departments in some locales–into vicious oppressors of the very people they are supposed to be “serving and protecting.”

Recent online video of a dash-cam video of a Utica, N.Y., police officer apparently planting drugs in the vehicle of a stopped motorist and then “discovering” the stash is an example of the sort of thing other police officers have been known to do. Several New York City Police Department officers, including a detective, were recently convicted of doing the same thing. Some have said this is a quite common practice in order to fill quotas. All this despite the fact that a majority of citizens think marijuana should be legalized. The NYPD has logged more than 50,400 arrests for possession of small amounts in the past year alone. The consequences of each of these arrests are serious and far-reaching.

The war on drugs has led to blatantly racist justice and penal systems, destroyed the economic potential of somewhere between 25  and 50 percent of minority youth, and bred contempt for law enforcement and civil institutions…and yet as a country we are still doing it. Did America learn nothing from the era of Prohibition?

Perhaps the most valuable and important book on this subject is Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It, by Judge James P. Gray, retired judge of the Superior Court, Orange County, Calif., and former Los Angeles prosecutor. So often the “expert” testimony called upon when drug laws are debated is that of police and corrections officials. As Judge Gray points out, that is the same as “asking a barber if you need a haircut.” These are the very people whose careers are invested in maintaining draconian drug laws. In fact, common sense would dictate they be prohibited from testifying because of obvious conflicts of interest. This author has seen the consequences of our drug laws at close range and has given us a clearsighted and detailed account of their horrendous cost and utter failure.

Judge Gray’s well-documented and meticulous presentation offers a comprehensive analysis of the consequences of our drug laws, the intelligent alternatives to them, and a valuable set of appendices that includes a synopsis of every major study done on the subject of drug usage all the way back to the massive, and still definitive, seven-volume Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report done by the British Government in India in 1894 (which, by the way, concluded that moderate use of marijuana produced no ill effects–a finding echoed by dozens of other scientific studies down through the years.)

Judge Gray’s book should be required reading for all politicians and law enforcement personnel, as well as preachers, talking heads and media editors. It should be given to every prosecutor and juror involved in a drug case, especially a marijuana case. This is a book of significance not only to those interested specifically in drug laws and usage, but to every person concerned with civil liberties and with the salvation of this nation from its present destructive course.

ISBN 978-1-4399-0799-3, paper, Temple University Press, www.temple.edu/tempress

 

book review 

There can be little question that the most serious legal/social problem in this country is the catastrophic “war on drugs.”  This institutionalized insanity has, over several decades, eroded our civil liberties to a far greater extent than did 9/11, cost incalculable billions of dollars, destroyed the lives of countless thousands and created an obscenely profitable and insanely violent criminal class that has speared terror and destabilization through several other nations, most notably Mexico and Colombia. Further, the war has  corrupted the U.S. justice system and turned many police officers–whole departments in some locales–into vicious oppressors of the very people they are supposed to be “serving and protecting.”