Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Drug Post

The war is lost.

No, I'm not quoting Harry Reid. I'm talking about a war we've been losing for decades, almost as long as we've been losing the war on poverty (a related topic I'll have to tackle when the president does something stupid there).

This time, thought, Obama's going in the right direction in the war on drugs by appointing A. Thomas McLellan as deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In short, he appointed someone more focused on treating addiction than just throwing money (a Washington specialty) and cops at the problem.

I had been getting this post in my head for a while now, especially after an online "town meeting" which got the "legalize it" crowd out in droves with the questions (I think someone promised them bags of Doritos for questions). But it's also because my worldview and my years of watching the drug war unfold have convinced me we're doing this the wrong way. So let me throw out the plan:

(First, let me clarify that I don not advocate drug use and definitely not abuse. Regular intoxication ,whether legal or otherwise, destroys the mind, body and soul. It is with that in mind that I came up with the following.)

1. Decriminalization - I draw the line at full legalization (except maybe marijuana). Addictive drugs are not something that should be a legitimate business. But decriminalization takes much of the crime out of drug transactions. It protects the addict in the sense they can seek out a cop without fear of being arrested for the drugs. And then the cops (who are already busy enough) don't have to spend time shaking people down and arresting them for damaging themselves with drugs. And we save by not having to imprison non-violent drug users.

2. Increase penalties for crimes under the influence - Drug addiction alone directly damages the person doing it. My libertarian leanings extend to people choosing to abuse themselves after you've given them the warnings. However, when you use drugs (or even drink) and break the law, it increases the damage to society. Thus you should be punished more. And don't even get me started on drug abuse and children. I start hoping for an OD just so the younglings don't have to deal with your shit.

3. Coerced rehab - I got this particular part of the plan from Bill O'Reilly, but that's just because it made sense. If all we do is imprison the drug addict, they're going to go back to it when they get out, and probably have someone sneak some shit in while incarcerated. So a condition to avoiding the increased penalties above is forced rehab. It's intense, it's time served there instead of the general population, and its goal is to empower the addict to not go back to drugs. And it works for simple things like public intoxication (more of an outpatient treatment deal).

4. Cruel and unusual punishment for dealing to kids - Very simply, if it's safe to sell to adults, but ridiculous sentences for dealing to kids, why would any drug pusher risk it? This won't stop kids getting addicted. But it will give us a better chance of keeping the kids away from the drugs longer.

5. Border security - Once we do have control over the borders, make the penalties for bringing drugs into the country harsh. As in shooting smugglers for resisting. As in blowing planes out of the sky and boats out of the water. And why not a little waterboarding before we toss them back (kidding, you torture-obsessed bastards)? This is something that can be done if the borders are secure, and would at least keep drug money in the USA alone (which makes it taxable if we get the FairTax in there (as though I could go a post without the link)).

The fact is, as long as someone has the information and they choose a self-destructive behavior, it is incumbent upon a society to not pass moral judgement as long as the person keeps it to themselves. This also happens to apply to prostitution, so after we fix the national drug policy, then bring on the whores!

Of course, I'm to cheap to pay....


Satyavati devi dasi said...

All I have to say on this is that forcing people to go to rehab will never result in rehab.

Even people who WANT to rehab themselves and go through the programs enthusiastically and willingly can't always stay clean.

Even people who WANT to stay clean and DO stay clean for long periods of time can't always stay clean forever.

Don't I know this shit?

I'm not arguing your premise or trying to say don't do this, do that, but I am telling you, and you know I speak not from my nether regions on this topic, forcing people through rehabilitation programs is not going to make them instantly drug and drink free.

Plus, it conjures up too many creepy Clockwork Orange associations.

Patrick M said...

I see where I failed to clarify. The extensions of their sentences for other crimes can be reduced or eliminated by getting drug-free. In other words, there is a benefit.

And I know that, even then, not everybody will be rehabbed. It's a matter of continuing to work the percentages. If we rehab half (eventually), it would be more than worth it.

And anything would be better than the current futile mess we call the war on drugs.

rockync said...

Patrick - I am in favor of drug policy reform. Of course, I have a more liberal view.
You said,"I draw the line at full legalization (except maybe marijuana). Addictive drugs are not something that should be a legitimate business."
And I ask why not? Alcohol and nictotine via tobacco are both addictive and legal.
I think both these drugs bear out that we CAN legalize and enforce limits. The stigma of legalizing say heroin lives only in people's minds. There really is no reason not to legalize and many reasons to do it.
For one, you won't have to spend all that money on border security and Mexico can take its streets back. Once you legalize, you take all the profit out of it and drastically reduce the associated dangers.
Why should any one of us be able to dictate to the other what they can do with their own bodies.
The "war on drugs" has been a farce since its inception. Mostly it has provided for more levels of corruption and violence. It has clogged up the judicial and penal system so that violent offenders get a free pass while some pitiful junkie takes up cell space.
If we legalize there would be no need for you and Saty to argue the merits/demerits of coerced rehab which is a pretty useless concept since, as Saty already pointed out, the recidivism rate for those in voluntary programs is high enough. We would still need to make these type programs available and ensure that anyone could get access regardless of income or lack thereof.
We really need to move past these baby step approaches and take a giant, brave step forward, because, as anyone who has been around any of the twelve step programs know, "half measures avail us nothing."

TRUTH 101 said...

I like it. It appeals to the best parts of my liberal side. Making drugs a legitimate industry. Creating jobs. Punishing scumbags that prey on children. And gives us something else we can tax.

Patrick M. for Drug Czar!

Arthurstone said...

Well it would be a pity to wave goodbye to The War on Drugs after all these years. It's been such a bang-up success.

Har. Har.

Drug addiction/alcoholism are medical problems not law enforcement problems and the sooner we face up to that the sooner we can begin to actually address the issue. Indeed chemical dependency is a primary disease requiring total abstinence and those individual suffering benefit from the earliest possible intervention. Drug treatment programs do work and many, many do recover.

Patrick M said...

Rocky: Actually, even with full legalization (which we can disagree on (decriminalization is a compromise)), there would still be a need for the coerced rehab. The coerced rehab comes into play whenever someone is convicted of another crime and intoxication (including alcohol) is an aggravating factor. If the addict is faces with either beefed up jail time or a chance at recovery, we'll reach some. And we may get the same person through a few times.

So decriminalization or legalization has to be coupled with programs that address addicts that are also criminals, because then they've taken a personal choice and violated other people's freedom in the process.

101: And gives us something else we can tax. Only if we get the FairTax passed (or the Washington asshats decide to sin tax the shit out of it, driving it underground).

TRUTH 101 said...

There will always be greaseballs regardless of what tax system we use.

My concerns are getting more people paying into social security and having more shops to organize once we get the Employee Free Choice Act passed. Look at what gambling did for Nevada and the Service Employees Union.

Im Here To Say It said...

Harry Reid said the war in Iraq is "lost,"
Maybe he's on drugs.

Patrick M said...

101: I'd disagree with you on the FOCA, but I don't want to get into that today.

As for social security, you may not get it. I'm betting I won't get it. Those who are younger than me (35) will need drugs to cope if they think they're going to get it.

TRUTH 101 said...

I don't think the EFCA as written will fly anyway. I'm 46. Who knows what social security will morph into.

Didn't mean to get off track here. Sorry.

Name: Soapboxgod said...

Harry Reid also said taxes were voluntary.

Clearly this is further evidence that the war on drugs has yet to be won.

Patrick M said...

101: Meandering is fine. Hell, I pulled the wrong acronym out of my ass.

I really only have a problem with zero relation posts.

Toad734 said...

If drugs were legal we wouldn't need to spend so much money on border security. WE also wouldn't have to spend so much on law enforcement and incarciration and could use that money for the forced rehabilitation.

Of course, there are many in your party who wouldn't look kindly to paying for junkies to go to a nice rehab facility as opposed to prisons.

My brother is a heroin addict and the system is broken. Unless you have hollywood money, a good rehab simply isn't affordable, especially for someone who has to steal and rob to buy his drugs in the first place.

Once people start doing hard drugs as an addict does, they need so much more help than just their addiction. Once you start doing heroin for instance your mental age stays the same as the day you started. My brother is 29 and is essentially a 16 year old. I have more confidence that an average 16 year old, if thrown out on the street to survive on his own, would have a better chance at dealing with and succeeding in life than my brother. The amount of effort needed to fix these problems are monumental and will not be fixed by throwing someone in jail.

Society as a whole would be far better off directing their efforts at prevention and rehabilitation than just cleaning up the messes afterwards.

No one sees the hidden cost of drug addiction or even the cost of criminalized drugs in our society. Since i have lived through it, I will share some of those costs with you:

Approx. 15,000 in lawyers and court costs when my parents acutally hired a lawyer for him, now its all public defenders.

$20,000 is the hospital costs of my brothers first overdose; there have been about 4 now and he has no insurance

He has been arrested 5-6 times.

Has been brought into a hospital for overdoeses or to have his stomach pumped or because they thought he was crazy and was walking around with no pants at least 6 times that I know about.

Has 2 Felonies one for Check Fraud one for possession.

Has had some charges dropped since he has turned 18

Has spent time in at least 10 rehab/halfway house facilities.

Never had a job for more than 18 months

Has never been clean for more than 18 months

1 year he had 7 different w2s

Has one restraining order against him

Has totaled 3 cars and wrecked 2 more

Has spent a few weeks in jail. Usually for only 1-2 days at a time but once for 2 weeks.

Has robbed at least one person at knife point.

Steals money from anyone he can

Has stolen from almost everyone he knows including expensive jewelry and guns.

Routinely pawns everything he owns.

After attacking a new female cop, she quit her job

He has stolen from many of his employers

Has stolen pills/drugs out of the houses of almost everyone he knows.

The court costs, the time police spend on him, the hospital bills, the public defenders/lawyers, the wrecked cars, the stolen money, the check and CC fraud, this all costs society money!

Lets not forget the amount of law enforcement required for border security because of people like him.

Trust me, it is cheaper to send him to rehab and have the tax payers flip the bill!

Patrick M said...

Toad: It's stories like your brother's that really convinced me to change on this topic from the old-line war on drugs mentality.

dmarks said...

Interesting discussion.

Toad734 said...


He has now been arrested 2 more times and has been in lock up for 2 days and before a judge 3 times and been back to the emergency room once....Since my last post.

Patrick M said...

4 days?!?!?!

Damn, he's been busy.

*shaking head in disbelief*

Toad734 said...

One more court appearance today, another trial in 30 days.