Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

This Cop Says It’s Time to Legalize All Drugs

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Diane Goldstein in Pacific Standard:

I was a police officer for 20 years, enforcing drug laws in California and thinking I was doing my part for society. But what made me think properly about drug use for the first time was my experience with my older brother, Billy. I had watched him struggle with a lifelong problem with drugs. But I still did not understand what it meant to be Billy until my husband convinced me to open up my heart and our home to save him in 2002.

It was in this intimacy of watching Billy try, during the year he lived with us, to live up to the expectations of society and those he loved that I realized that our society’s portrayal of people with chronic drug problems was both damaging and morally flawed.

By society’s standard, my brother was a criminal. His struggles with addiction taught me many things. He had many years of sobriety, interspersed with the setbacks that addiction specialists know so often come with the condition. But because of an emphasis by the court system on abstinence-only drug programs, and an emphasis on punishment over progress, these normal and accepted setbacks in recovery were exacerbated by harsh penalties. Because of Billy’s felony convictions for drugs, he was unemployable. He lacked health care until we stepped in. Without us, my brother would have been on the streets. Yet despite our help, my brother passed away from an accidental overdose of psychotropic medications and alcohol.

After having my eyes opened to the realities of drug use, I realized we could not arrest our way out of this problem. I joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. Some people are surprised to find police, prosecutors, judges, and others arguing for legalizing drugs, but in many ways we are the best positioned to see the injustices and ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system up close.

We’ve seen how federal grants and civil asset forfeiture laws (whereby police can take your property and use or sell it for their own benefit, even if you’re never charged with a crime) encourage police to go after drug offenders while real criminals roam free. We’ve seen people die of overdose. We’ve seen people go to prison who had no business being there. And we’ve seen that none of this has reduced drug use or addiction. In spite of more than 40 years of the war on drugs—and the trillion dollars we’ve spent—Americans now have access to drugs that are cheaper, more potent, and just as readily available as when the drug war started. Who exactly is prohibition supposed to be helping?

But that doesn’t mean that everything we’ve tried has failed. As we work toward a world in which

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2014 at 4:21 pm

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