Pubdate: Fri, 02 Mar 2007
Source: Montana Kaimin (U of MT Edu)
Copyright: 2007 Montana Kaimin
Author: Mike Gerrity
Bookmark: (Students for Sensible Drug Policy)


As a former felony public defender in Oregon and a prosecutor in 
Washington State and American Samoa, Jim Doherty says he has done his 
part sending people to jail for illegal drug infractions.

"I did my job. I've helped lock people up. I've helped prosecute 
people," Doherty said.

But in a public speech delivered to a crowd in UC room 331 at the 
University of Montana Thursday night, Doherty says he is through with 
America's War on Drugs and "being a pawn in the game."

"Our drug war really is a colossal failure,"  Doherty said. "We've 
filled up our prisons. We've ruined families. We've ruined careers. 
And we haven't really accomplished anything," Doherty said.

Speaking on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Doherty is 
one of thousands of former law enforcement officials who are now 
speaking out against prohibition of illegal drugs in America, saying 
that current drug policies do more harm than good.

One area of concern Doherty pointed out was the de-socializing aspect 
of imprisonment for drug-related offenses, which he says makes it 
harder for people to find jobs, get college loans and otherwise 
re-integrate into society.

"Jails do nothing but de-socialize people. They come out and they've 
been stigmatized for life,"  Doherty said.

Doherty spent most of his speech advocating a system of medicinal 
regulation in which addicts can be supplied with the drugs they need 
from clinics in order to prevent them from resorting to robbery and 
prostitution to pay for them.

He also said that medicinal regulation would reduce the risk of 
overdosing and decrease the risk of HIV infection by providing clean 
needles for them to inject with.

"If people are using drugs and using needles, you can at least give 
them a clean needle. That's the minimum compassion,"  Doherty said.

A similar experiment was conducted two years ago in Vancouver where 
heroin was offered to recovering addicts at taxpayers' expense under 
the North American Opiate Medication Initiative.

Doherty admitted, however, that some regulations have to be in place 
to prevent drugs from coming into the hands of minors in a similar 
fashion that is applied to alcohol and tobacco. He also said that 
more dangerous drugs should be regarded with tighter restrictions than others.

"You don't deal with beer the same as you do with liquor. Marijuana 
should not be treated the same as heroine and methamphetamine,"  Doherty said.

The speech, which was sponsored by Students for Sensible Drug Policy, 
Students for Peace and Justice and Citizens for Responsible Crime 
Policy, is timely as Initiative 2 is now being considered for 
rewording by County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg and county commissioners.

"I think the elected officials should respect the public and let it 
go into effect and not try to taint it,"  Doherty said.

Initiative 2, which passed in Missoula County in November, made 
marijuana possession the lowest priority of enforcement for Missoula 
County law enforcement officials.

Angela Goodhope, who is the organizer and outreach director for 
Citizens for Responsible Crime Policy, says Doherty's appearance is 
essential to continuing the conversation regarding drug policy in 
Montana and the nation.

"He's got a lot of truth. The war on drugs is very costly and it's a 
failure," Goodhope said.
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