Pubdate: Sat, 07 Jul 2007
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2007 The Sun-Times Co.
Author: Tony Newman


Al Gore III's mug shot appeared in newspapers across the country
Thursday thanks to his arrest Wednesday on charges of possession of
marijuana and prescription pills.

An Orange County sheriff's deputy pulled him over for driving his
Toyota Prius at 100 mph. Police said the car smelled of marijuana and
said a search found marijuana and prescription pills of Vicodin,
Valium, Xanax and Adderall.

Here are five observations after Gore's arrest:

1. Don't speed if you're holding weed.

If your car reeks of marijuana and you're holding a bunch of different
prescription pills, you probably don't want to be driving 100 mph.

2. Don't get in the car if you are drunk or high!

Don't drink and drive! Don't drive if you are impaired! I don't know
if Gore was high when he was pulled over. He was not charged with
driving under the influence.

But it should be clear to all that there is never an excuse to drive
while high. Not only are you putting your own life at risk, you are
risking the lives of innocent people.

3. Drug use doesn't discriminate, but our drug policies

Al Gore III, Noelle Bush and Patrick Kennedy remind us that drug use
does not discriminate. Unfortunately, our drug policies do. Just one
of numerous examples is in New York. Ninety-three percent of the
people incarcerated under New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws
are black or Latino, which is grossly disproportionate to their share
of the population or involvement in illegal drug use and sales. Too
often, treatment is reserved for the privileged, jail for the poor.

4. Everyone facing a drug problem deserves treatment.

Gore III may not have a drug problem, but if he does, then, like all
people struggling with addiction, he should be offered treatment. If
he does not have a drug problem, he should not be forced into
treatment. There are too many people filling up much-needed treatment
slots because they were only given two options: treatment or jail time
and a permanent record. If someone is busted with marijuana or another
drug but they are not hurting anyone else, then they should not
automatically be considered to have a drug problem. Leaving them alone
may be better than forcing them into treatment and is clearly better
than locking them up in a cage at taxpayer expense.

5. Thanks to Proposition 36, Californians are offered treatment
instead of jail.

Gore III and all people who are busted in California on simple,
nonviolent drug offenses should thank California's voters. Thanks to
the voter-approved Proposition 36, passed in 2000, all first- and
second-time nonviolent drug offenders -- rich and poor, black and
white --receive treatment instead of jail. Thanks to this law, tens of
thousands of Californians have received treatment, put their lives
back together, and saved the state more than a billion dollars by not
wasting $30,000 a year to lock someone up.

Almost every family in America has to deal with drug addiction or the
consequences of the war on drugs. Millions of people have a loved one
behind bars on drug charges. Many millions more have struggled
themselves or have a loved one who has dealt with addiction to illegal
or legal drugs. Hopefully, one day, we will offer all families
compassion and treatment, not a jail cell and judgment when dealing
with the problem of drugs.


Tony Newman is the communications director at the Drug Policy
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