Pubdate: Thu, 13 Sep 2007
Source: Brattleboro Reformer (VT)
Contact:  2007 Brattleboro Publishing Co.
Author: John Wilmerding


Editor of the Reformer:

Most Vermonters have always opposed the Bush regime's illegal Iraq 
war, seeing through the false rationales for it, and understanding 
that it is ultimately a power-grab for control of Middle Eastern 
petroleum -- supposedly the most valuable military-strategic prize in 
the history of the world.

However, we in our state, and we in our country, are still not taking 
a close enough look at another fantastically expensive war -- more 
costly in the number of human lives affected than the Iraq boondoggle.

This, of course, is the never-ending drug war, the so-called "war on 
drugs" that began with the outlawing of marijuana in the early part 
of the 20th century, and increased greatly with the inception of the 
Rockefeller drug laws in New York state, the crack cocaine scare of 
the early 1980s, federal "mandatory minimum" sentences, and "three 
strikes, you're out" laws.

At the Web site, one can view a clock, which estimates 
the ongoing and increasing cost of these terrible laws to the 
American people. The cost in dollars is staggering -- the feds will 
spend about $20 billion on enforcement this year, and the states even 
more ... nearly $30 billion. Here in Vermont, we have a 
brand-spanking-new prison right up the road in Springfield, and they 
are talking about building yet another one, as the prison population 
mushrooms so much that we are paying through the nose to house 
prisoners out of state, far from their loved ones.

And all this for a problem that is essentially not a crime problem, 
but a public health challenge ... because that's what addiction 
essentially is ... a medical problem.

Do you like paying for helicopter flights so that local police can 
spot backyard plots of marijuana, and peoples' lives can be ruined by 
these unjust laws? Where is the common sense in this? In the early 
years of our Republic, hemp (cannabis) -- one of the most versatile 
crops that can be grown -- was not only a legal crop, it was 
officially sanctioned -- the government encouraged people to grow it. 
Today, it is re-emerging into our domestic agricultural scene, 
generating many millions of dollars in commerce and forcing the 
public to think once again about why so many laws exist that have no 
logical or rational reason for being.

I personally have nothing to do with intoxicants, legal or illegal, 
but a handful of my friends still indulge. One of them was arrested 
right here in Brattleboro for marijuana possession recently, 
apparently "fingered" by a neighbor with whom they were having a bit 
of a disagreement. Nice and easy, isn't it, to turn in your 
neighbors, even your family members, and have the state help you win 
a nice little battle in your latest tiff? And all at the cost of the taxpayer.

I wish to plead with you, the public everywhere, to stay away from 
intoxicants, especially including alcohol and tobacco, which generate 
far more medical and accidental harm than the illegal ones. As long 
as people will drink or get high and get behind the wheel of a car, 
there is a reason for some laws against the use of substances -- I 
myself was disabled from a career as a performing musician in 1978 by 
a drunk driver. "Being all you can be" means not destroying your 
brain cells with substances.

However, my dear friends and neighbors, it is long past time to 
legalize and regulate the use of other controlled substances. 
Marijuana (cannabis) does very little harm, and has real medical 
uses. Our society is consuming itself and its economic output with a 
futile drug war that will have no end, but which like the Iraq fiasco 
also creates huge vested interests -- people who profit from it. We 
don't need all the "private contractor" companies (who now outnumber 
our troops in Iraq) to do our government's work, and we don't need 
the huge criminal injustice, prison-industrial complex to imprison, 
stigmatize, and even enslave huge segments of our population at home.

End the drug war now.

John Wilmerding

Brattleboro, Sept. 7
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