Pubdate: Tue, 19 Dec 2006
Source: Pensacola News Journal ( FL )
Copyright: 2006 The Pensacola News Journal
Author: Ed Middleswart


The News Journal recently reported that a local judge sentenced a 
20-year-old man to life imprisonment for marketing 
cocaine.  According to the report, no evidence was provided 
indicating the man had harmed anyone or was in any other way a threat 
to society.  The only reported charges regarded the marketing of a 
substance arbitrarily stigmatized and deemed "illegal."

I use the word "arbitrarily" with intent, since there is no evidence 
that cocaine products are more addicting or damaging to individual 
health and social welfare than many socially acceptable drugs.

We have, without justification, singled out cocaine ( and a few other 
substances ) and made it illegal based on emotionally specious 
reasoning, often stemming from racial and class prejudices.  As a 
result a man was sentenced to life in prison for merely selling drugs 
no more harmful than others that we allow people to freely advertise and sell.

Does this not ring of sheer nonsense, or at least a blatant 
miscarriage of justice? It is certainly a denial of a reasonable 
interpretation of the equal protection provisions in the 14th 
Amendment of our Constitution.

I once appeared for jury duty in a local court.  The case involved a 
Latino man who had been found with marijuana in the trunk of his 
car.  The judge asked if anyone had any objections to prosecuting the 
man, and I offered my thoughts that if he had been found with a 
similar quantity of ( far more dangerous ) tobacco, we would not be 
wasting our time hearing the case.  And I added that I thought the 
drug laws were riddled with hypocrisy, arguably unconstitutional, and 
inconsistent with an American sense of justice affording people equal 
and fair protection in the eyes of the law.

Of course I was eliminated from the jury pool.

One can only wonder why this distortion of justice continues to play 
in our courts.  What good does it really serve the community? The man 
the judge sentenced will be incarcerated for 40 to 50 years at a cost 
of $40,000 to $50,000 a year and removed from the labor pool, where 
he could be earning wages and paying taxes.  In addition, he no doubt 
will be denied what he really needs -- drug treatment and rehabilitation.

If we truly wanted to efficiently and effectively reduce drug use, we 
would tax and regulate all drugs in accordance with their actual 
impacts to the health and welfare of the community.

This would quickly put the petty drug dealers and their ilk out of 
business and save billions in enforcement and judicial costs by 
bringing drug abuse under the control and supervision of the 
appropriate health authorities.

And if we spent only a small fraction of the savings educating people 
about the dangers of drug abuse, and conducting research aimed at 
understanding the chemical imbalances that make some people 
vulnerable to addiction, we would not only drastically reduce crime 
and the number of people incarcerated, we would eliminate much of the 
funding that is now siphoned off to support all sorts of socially 
malignant activity, including terrorism.

It has been reported that the chief source of financing for Osama bin 
Laden and his minions has its roots in the poppy fields of Afghanistan.

Didn't someone once suggest that insanity could be thought of as 
repeating the same unsuccessful behavior over and over again, while 
hoping for a change in outcomes?

Ed Middleswart is a resident of Pensacola.
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