Rockford: a columnist for the RR Star is up in arms after a 38-year old man was sentenced to ten years in jail for his role in a plant that would have turned a disused factory into a large marijuana growing operation. To some, this may seem pretty much par for the course, but the columnist points out that the sentence is morally problematic for a number of reasons.
What was a potentially a productive life in ruins
To begin with, the man will be 48 years old when he finally gets out of jail – that’s not a good age to be looking for a job – and employers will think twice about offering a man with ten years of jail time serving as his only recent “work experience”.
Secondly, the columnist point out that if the man had been able to get and hold down a decent job, he wouldn’t have been willing to take the risk of becoming involved in a massive marijuana growing operation. And it’s not as though there aren’t infrastructure projects that need to be attended to – except that congress didn’t pass the jobs bill that would have made thousands of decently-paid jobs available.
When one considers the fact that marijuana is already legal in certain states, a ten-year sentence isn’t a punishment that fits the crime says columnist Kim MacCloskey.
Presidential advisor says government knew it was lying
To understand why the whole War on Drugs is based on lies, one need only ask Nixon-administration advisor John Ehrlichmann. At the time political tensions between the state and the hippie movement were running high. Black people and their Civil Rights movement were also causing political headaches for the Nixon government.
Ehrlichmann sys the administration knew it couldn’t make it illegal to be anti-war, and it certainly wouldn’t have been possible to make being black illegal. But there was a way to discredit and vilify both movements. By declaring the “War on Drugs” and targeting marijuana and heroin users, both groups could get a lot of bad publicity. Police would be able to target and break up gatherings, and raid activists’ homes. According to Ehrlichmann, that’s what the War on Drugs was really about. As for the drugs themselves, he says government knew it was lying.
The War goes on
In the “land of the free”, there are more prisoners in jails than even China with its large population and limited personal rights and freedoms. 25% of the prisoners currently incarcerated around the world are in US jails, and many of these prisoners are there because of the War on Drugs. A BBC report says that the US’s incarceration rate per capita is seven times higher than China’s.
Apart from the fact that it costs money to keep so many people in jail for non-violent crimes, the amount of productivity that is being lost to the economy also needs to be added to that cost. And that’s without taking the human cost into account.
MacCloskey wonders what will happen to the recently sentenced man’s family. It’s all very well telling him he should have considered that before doing anything so risky, but what do you tell his wife and kids? They are also victims, and they are completely innocent of wrongdoing – yet survival may prove to be an uphill battle.
More people are addicts than ever before in US history
Despite 40 years of “fighting” drugs, all the US has to show for it is a trillion dollar waste of money that has left the US supporting thousands of prisoners. Meanwhile, hefty jail sentences aren’t deterring drug lords, and people who suffer from the illness of addiction are treated like criminals. Add to that the indisputable fact that there are more opioid addicts in the USA today than there ever have been before, and it would be difficult not to see the War on Drugs as the epic failure it is.
Is there a solution?
MacCloskey says we need only look beyond the US’s borders to see solutions in action. Outright drug legalization is working in several countries, undermining the black market and allowing addicts to get medical help. Even decriminalization, an ambiguous state of affairs in which drug use is recognized as being “against the rules” but isn’t prosecuted, seems to work better than the US War on Drugs.
Meanwhile, countries that are following the US stance on drugs are reporting much the same problems as we have. MacCloskey recommends that the US should look into the ways other countries have dealt with drugs and be ready to learn from their example. Doing anything else, he says, is just “ignorant”.