David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]
An international schism is growing over the issues of prohibition and the war on drugs. On the one hand is a U.S. political establishment bent on avoiding a serious dialogue on drug policy at all costs -- those costs being borne by taxpayers and people of all walks of life victimized by the drug war in ways both seen and hidden. This does not apply to every politician, but is the firm consensus of the leadership of both major parties.
On the other is a host of nations talking substantive change, and some of them actually doing something about it. This week's news contains some stunning examples. As the newly-formed Interparliamentary Forum on the Americas prepares to meet, a Colombian congressman has called for discussion of drug legalization to be placed on the agenda. The vast profits of the black market drug trade, says Julio Angel Restrepo, has placed his country in a state of warfare for the past two decades.
Over in the Caribbean, the Jamaican prime minister's own government is launching a commission to study decriminalization of marijuana. Driving the calls for reform are the island's church and businesses leaders. In the Pacific, New Zealand's parliament is also undertaking a comprehensive examination of the decriminalization question. The Guam Supreme Court has taken action, ruling that marijuana use for religious reasons be permitted.
Coming back into the news was a call issued last spring by the International Association of Chiefs of Police -- leaders of a notoriously defensive profession -- for a commission to study problems in the U.S. criminal justice system, including "highly publicized incidents of use of force, racial profiling, corruption, and instances of unethical behavior of police officers and executives."
All this follows a summer in which mainstream political leaders and advocates joined in two "Shadow Conventions" condeming the "failed drug war," among other issues. And all this comes at a time when third parties, while still small, are growing in strength and adding refreshing new perspectives to this and other issues -- like the Libertarians, who want to legalize all drugs, and the Greens, who don't go nearly as far but are calling for significant changes nonetheless.
All these calls for debate and dialogue render the silence of the establishment louder and louder. One major candidate, challenged by a reporter, supports the criminal justice commission -- but still refuses to say whether he, as a youth, used the drugs that as governor he's fought to incarcerate today's youth for using. The other acknowledges his past drug use -- well, some of it, anyway -- but won't support a commission at this time.
A commission called for by the leaders of law enforcement to address problems that threaten the credibility of the system, the integrity of our government and the safety and well being of all Americans. A no-brainer, really.
Why won't they talk about these problems?
An ad run a few years back by the Drug Policy Foundation warned, "[t]he most dangerous drug in America is silence." America's leaders are more addicted to this drug than any junkie is to any drug purchased on the streets of any city. The louder and more frequently come the calls for change, the deeper grows their denial.
At least in public. But never doubt that they are talking about it in private, that they know they have a problem and that they're scared of this new wave in politics, and yes, are scared of this movement and what it is becoming -- are scared of the day when an ideology they've espoused unflinchingly in their public lives is revealed as intellectually bankrupt and morally corrupt.
The day the silence becomes unsustainable.