Pubdate: Thu, 08 Aug 2002
Source: Tribune Review (PA)
Copyright: 2002 Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Dimitri Vassilaros
Bookmark: (Ohio Campaign for New Drug Policies)


Is rehabilitation better than jail for a nonviolent drug user? A 
neighboring state may let its citizens decide in a few months. 
Pennsylvanians also should have the right to choose, even though the best 
option is legalization.

Why some souls want or feel the need to consume legal or illegal drugs is 
unfathomable. They should be pitied - not punished.

The Ohio Campaign for New Drug Policies supports a ballot proposal that 
removes the option of prison time and imposes treatment for first- and 
second-time offenders who have not been convicted of more serious crimes. 
Upon completion of a treatment program of 12 or 18 months, the offender can 
have the conviction removed from court records. The state is reviewing the 
validity of the petition signatures. Supporters and opponents believe it 
will be on the November ballot.

That's not soon enough, but it will have to do.

Why should our prisons be overflowing with nonviolent adults whose only 
crime was possessing, delivering or using an illegal substance? Even if a 
marijuana cigarette is harmful, the only one harmed is the user. It's no 
different than smoking any other cigarette. The smoker harms only himself.

Is it any different for any other drug? No matter what substance is 
ingested, the nonviolent user is not harming others. Do we arrest beer 
drinkers because consuming alcohol could affect the liver and mind? If the 
drinker does not bother others, society leaves him alone.

Can you imagine how overburdened our courts and prisons would be if we 
arrested nonviolent adults who drank the liquid drug we call alcohol? Yet 
that is just what we are doing when someone is arrested for having other drugs.

The underlying premise in this utterly hopeless and insane war on drugs - 
which really is a war on our own people - is that the nanny state knows best.

Many conservatives rightly believe the government should not be fussing 
over us. Free citizens should be left alone. Yet most of those 
conservatives, with the best of intentions, love the nanny state when it 
comes to controlling what substances other free citizens choose to consume. 
Then, almost no penalty is too severe.

If some fool in Pennsylvania possesses 2 grams of cocaine - about the size 
of two sweetener packets - and either delivers them to someone or just 
attempts to, the state mandatory penalty is one year in prison.

The first sentence in the rant du jour is a false choice. It implies you 
have just two options. That would be like asking if you wanted three scoops 
of vanilla or chocolate on your banana split, when in fact you could get 
strawberry or 28 other flavors.

Rehab certainly is better than prison for nonviolent users. And rehab is 
much less expensive. But why should taxpayers even pay for that? If someone 
has a drug problem, there are thousands of self-help groups and charitable 
organizations that freely offer hope and help.

If someone drinks too much or is hooked on painkillers, but harms no one 
else, his recovery is none of your business. It should be no different for 
other controlled substances.

Since the longest journey begins with the first step, let's hope the 
neighbors to our left approve the ballot proposal. And then maybe 
Pennsylvania will follow.

Even if it did, the nanny state would continue punishing citizens who make 
poor choices, but at least the punishment would fit the crime. And then 
maybe someday, there will be no punishment because it will not be a crime.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager