Pubdate: Sat, 21 Jan 2012
Source: Oneida Daily Dispatch (NY)
Copyright: 2012 Oneida Daily Dispatch - a Journal Register Property
Author: William A. Collins


Prison owners Make a lot, By putting kids In jail for pot.

America recently commemorated the 40th year of its "War on Drugs." 
Celebrations were muted because of the war's dismal failure. How many 
candles are appropriate for shooting yourself in the foot? 
Congratulatory cards from sister nations were sparse, since many are 
urging us to abandon what was a stupid idea in the first place. Gee 
thanks, Richard Nixon.

It's even stupider now. The FBI reports 750,000 annual arrests for 
marijuana possession. How inane is that? Now we have cleverly imposed 
on each of those malefactors a criminal record, thus making it harder 
for them to ever get a job. Who was the genius who thought that one 
up? Maybe it was those tireless leaders who seek to keep African 
Americans and Latinos "in their place." Because of racial profiling 
by police, that place is often jail.

And it's not as though we're getting bad advice from abroad. Europe 
may be flunking Economics 101, but it's smarter about drugs. In 
Portugal, where just about all recreational drugs are legal, crime is 
down and so is use. Treatment, though, is hot, as it is elsewhere on 
the continent.

A growing number of Latin American leaders now support drug 
legalization too, especially in the United States. They are sick and 
tired of the crime and violence their nations suffer from smugglers 
who use their territory as conduits to the North. At the recent 
hemispheric leaders summit - the one where members of our Indiscreet 
Service embarrassed the Obama administration - Washington blew these 
leaders off.

Lucky for President Barack Obama, foreigners can't vote in U. S. 
elections. Richard Branson, the British airline tycoon, recently 
spearheaded a worldwide poll that found that 91 percent of the public 
would prefer treatment to arrests for minor drug offenses. His margin 
of error may be a bit high, but you get the idea.

And America already holds the advantage of painful past experience. 
We went through this exercise once before, with Prohibition. The fear 
of alcohol clouded our minds so much that we actually passed a 
constitutional amendment prohibiting it. What a mess that was to undo 
once we suffered the crime wave that liquor illegality unleashed.

This time around there is blessedly no amendment, but something even 
worse: money. The "war" has germinated a whole new industry - the 
prison-industrial complex. It hires lobbyists galore and makes 
formidable campaign contributions. It's no accident that our nation 
sports the world's largest prison population.

Not only do these needlessly incarcerated inmates generate huge 
profits for prison investors, they support police unions, guard 
unions, prosecutors, lawyers, marshals, drivers, and whole remote 
communities. Liquor and pharmaceutical companies also contribute 
handsomely to make sure all those competing narcotic products remain illegal.

Much of the industry's success in keeping the Drug War going, aside 
from campaign contributions, comes from playing on the fears of 
parents. One richly publicized tale of drug overdose can spark a 
regional panic. Hysteria is the prison owner's friend. We like to 
think of ourselves as a nation where cooler heads prevail, but alas, 
with drugs even our president leads us into lunacy.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom