Those of you who read regularly know just how wrongheaded I think the "war" on drugs is. Today, a little newsflash from Alternet on one particularly pernicious front in that war--the battle over cannabis:
"In a November 2002 letter to the nation's prosecutors, the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) didn't bother beating around the proverbial bush. "No drug matches the threat posed by marijuana," began the letter from Scott Burns, deputy director for state and local affairs.
The truth of the matter, as reiterated throughout that letter in terse language, was that marijuana was an addictive and dangerous drug linked to violent behavior on the part of users. To make matters worse, a subtle but powerful threat was identified as exacerbating the problem: well-financed and deceptive campaigns to normalize and ultimately legalize the use of marijuana.
Prosecutors were instructed to keep in mind the crucial importance of their role in fighting this threat of normalization in going after traffickers and dealers, and to tell the truth about marijuana to their communities: "The truth is that marijuana legalization would be a nightmare in America."
And did the dutiful little prosecutors head the call? Oh you bet. Here are some of the results:
--There are roughly 30,000 prisoners doing time for marijuana-related charges.
--the U.S. drug control budget grew from $65 million in 1969 to nearly $19.2 billion in 2003, and we are now spending nearly 300 times more on drug control than just 35 years ago.
--marijuana-related arrests added up to nearly half of 1.5 million drug-related arrests annually and marijuana arrests actually increased by 113 percent between 1990 and 2002, while overall arrests in the nation decreased by 3 percent.
--Of the marijuana arrests in 2002, nearly 9 in 10 were for possession, not dealing or trafficking.
--In fact, traffickers and dealers were actually getting shorter prison terms than those sentenced on possession charges: People sentenced for trafficking received a median of 9 months in prison, while those sentenced for possession received a median of 16 months in prison.
--The annual cost of marijuana criminalization? $5.1 billion in 2000.
--Replacing the current criminalization model with one of taxation and regulation (not unlike that used for alcohol), he projected, would produce combined savings and tax revenues of $10-14 billion per year.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.