Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Decriminalization of Drugs: Support from Unlikely Sources

The decriminalization of drugs has garnered new advocates from a source that can best be described as unlikely--the political right wing. On Dec. 16, 2010, Reverend Pat Robertson spoke out against jailing people for the use and possession of "a few ounces of pot." Robertson decried the unnecessary costs to people's lives and the financial burden to taxpayers.

Jan. 8, 2011 found another right-wing-er, Newt Gingrich, potential presidential candidate for the Republican party in 2012, speak out against the high costs of imprisoning people for drugs. Gingrich and Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship co-wrote an editorial for the Washington Post speaking in favor of criminal justice and prison reform. As had Robertson, Gingrich and Nolan noted not only the financial costs of imprisoning people for drugs, but also the cost in human lives.

On Jan. 10, 2011 Georgia's newly-elected Republican governor, Nathan Deal, spoke out about the "unsustainable financial and civic burden" that jailing drug users placed on that state.

While I maintain that any law that criminalizes an activity that a person does to themselves, including drug use, is constitutionally wrong, I also realize that it matters not what the rationale is if we can successfully decriminalize drug use. The end result will be the same; it doesn't matter so much why we do it, but that we do it.

The United States' 40 year war on drugs is no closer to being won today than it was before hundreds of billions of dollars was thrown at the problem in an effort to control it. That money could be spent more prudently and to the advantage of citizens rather than incarcerating non-violent drug offenders.

There will be those along the way who oppose the decriminalization of drugs, not the least of which will be the private prison industry. Prison is big business. Twenty percent or more of those in prison in most states are there for drug-related offenses. Decriminalizing drugs will take a large portion of funds away from prisons.

Children of one or more parents who have been incarcerated are 75 percent more likely than other children to one day be incarcerated themselves. Decriminalizing drug use will prevent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of children from that sad statistic.

On January 27, 2011 President Barack Obama, in response to a question about legalizing drugs, answered that it was a topic worthy of debate. For the complete story, including the YouTube video featuring the president and his comments, go here.

It is time to end the war on drugs--it's just common sense.

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