Pubdate: Fri, 24 Apr 2015
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)
Copyright: 2015 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Author: Gordon D. McAllister Jr.

In 2013, 31% of all federal criminal cases were drug cases, and 21% of
those cases involved marijuana.

As a retired state court trial judge and member of Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition, I read with some interest a?oRecord Backlog Jams
Courtsa?? (page one, April 7) about cases in federal courts. These
delays often amount to justice denied for litigants who dona?Tt get
the relief they seek in a timely manner.

The article doesna?Tt mention the elephant in the courtroom: the
explosion of drug cases in both federal and state court and their
effect on our criminal system. Rather than debate the issue of how and
where to put more courtrooms, it is time to have a serious and adult
discussion about drug use and the criminal justice system. Statistics
from the U.S. Sentencing Commission for 2013 reveal that 31% of all
federal criminal cases were drug cases, and 21% of those cases
involved marijuana. This is our a?owar on drugsa?? in action. If in
fact there is a war, it seems to me we are losing. In my 28 years on
the bench, my criminal docket contained a greater percentage of drug
cases than the average federal court docket, and if you factored in
the crimes committed by drug users to help support their habit, the
number was much closer to 50%. The war on drugs has been a decadeslong
failed experiment in treating drug use as criminal behavior. The cost
of this folly to the judicial system goes beyond the court system and
takes valuable man hours from law-enforcement personnel and is the
major cause of jail and prison overcrowding. Treatment of drug use as
a medical and not criminal issue would benefit not only the individual
user, but the court system and society as well.

Gordon D. McAllister Jr.

Queenstown, Md.
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