Editorial: Evidence Disparities in the Drug War

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David Borden
A legislative battle currently underway in Idaho illustrates an "evidence disparity" at work in US drug policy. The state's legislature, conservative but starting to favor different approaches to substance abuse, recently approved $16.8 million of funding for treatment programs, but Gov. Butch Otter vetoed it. Not that Otter opposes such programs in principle -- he says Idaho should have them -- but he wants to "ensure that taxpayer dollars are used carefully, responsibly and to the best possible advantage" in that context, according to reporting by the Boise paper New West.

I don't know enough about the details of Idaho's drug treatment programs to say whether they're well-designed or not. Odds are they are needed. But I wish such care would be put into the criminal justice side of drug policy. Is arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating drug law violators in large number a "careful" or advantageous use of tax monies? (Hint: Look at the availability of drugs and their prices, which have plummeted over these last most serious decades of the drug war. That means the answer is "NO.") Otter could at least claim consistency if he were also calling for an end to the drug war's imprisonment program, or even just scaling it back. But if he's doing so I've not heard that.

In this week, as in most other weeks I remember, the actions of governments all over exhibit this evidence disparity:

  • In Mexico, dramatic evidence in the form of nationwide, gruesome violence shows that prohibition is dangerous and that enforcing it is futile. But Mexico continues to fight the drug war and suffer that cost.
  • In California, the feds have garnered five year sentences against a couple who provided marijuana to patients, despite evidence that marijuana is helpful to patients.
  • Alaska politicians are trying hard to overturn the state's constitutional protection of private marijuana possession, despite a lack of evidence demonstrating that marijuana is any threat.
  • In states around the country, moves are afoot to ban the hallucinogenic plant salvia divinorum, despite a lack of evidence for danger or widespread use. One legislator wants to "help" salvia users by giving them five-year prison terms! Where's the evidence supporting that?

I support having policies that are based on evidence. But let's put all of the evidence, and all of the policies, on an equal footing. The drug warriors who are putting people in prison should bear the burden of proof for their policies, a burden under which their philosophy will undoubtedly collapse. Because it is the truth that is disparate -- the case for legalization is overwhelming -- and if measured evenly, that truth will indict the drug war beyond any and all reasonable doubts. Prohibition is indefensible, and the drug war is a failure and travesty. So let's really talk about the evidence, and do it right. The day on which happens will be ours.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Man killed in drug raid was shot twice
By Thomasi McDonald , Staff Writer
RALEIGH -
..........County ABC agents and members of the Wake Sheriff Department's Special Response Team were looking for a marijuana-growing operation when they raided Thornton's home at 5401 Alpine Drive. Officers found more than 40 marijuana plants in the home. ......
Thornton previously was convicted in Texas of growing marijuana but fled the state in 2005 before he could be sent to federal prison. A lawyer who once represented him said he was a cancer patient who grew marijuana for medicinal purposes...........

Follow the money

Showtime recently showed a fantastic documentary on the failed drug war and the money involved. There are numerous legalization groups both on and offline. The public is overwhelmingly tired of the failed drug war. All of these are fact in our nation at the current time but in a country where the government, lobbyists, and legislators make money off of persecuting those who use there is no clear answer to stop the madness. How do you convince people that making money by causing the suffering of people? I myself am currently on the wonderful TASK program that doesn't discourage anything but trust and comfort with the legal system and enorcers. Thanks to this "war" we have created a hatred for law enforcement, emposed ridiculous penalties and fines on otherwise law abiding citizens, and made ourselves a joke to the international community. I too believe that one day we will suceed but unfortunately the end seems nowhere in sight. Thank you for continuing to bring the truths to the forefront in spite of the overwhelming greed that prompts the problem in the first place.

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