If you read headlines today proclaiming Chris Christie Calls War On Drugs ‘A Failure’, please do not be fooled into thinking this cruel bastard actually wants to end the drug war. He, like prohibitionists on both sides of the political aisle, still agree with the goal of the Drug War – that the government should, by force, prevent citizens from using drugs that lack the bar codes of major corporate campaign contributors.
In case you’ve missed it, drug warriors have become quite aware of the polls showing Americans are sick of the Drug War. They see the polls showing majority support for marijuana legalization and super-majority. They see two, possibly three states voting to legalize marijuana this November. They are terrified the American people might start putting an end to the endless war that provides jobs for prison guards and extra-constitutional powers for police, easy “tough on crime” speechifying for politicians, and suppresses competition to energy, pharmaceutical, timber, and food megacorps.
So their mantra now has changed to what I call “The Kinder, Gentler Drug War.” Let Gov. Christie explain:
“The war on drugs, while well-intentioned, has been a failure,” Christie said Monday during a speech at The Brookings Institution. “We’re warehousing addicted people everyday in state prisons in New Jersey, giving them no treatment.”
Christie stressed the merits of legislation recently passed by New Jersey state lawmakers that institutes a year of mandatory treatment for first-time, nonviolent drug offenders instead of jail time. The mandatory treatment program, slated to be put in place in at least three counties during its first year, will eventually expand statewide over the next five years.
“It costs us $49,000 a year to warehouse a prisoner in New Jersey state prisons last year,” Christie said. “A full year of inpatient drug treatment costs 24,000 a year.”
When they say “the war on drugs is a failure”, they just mean it is too expensive and too unpopular to achieve their goals of stopping everyone from using drugs that don’t benefit corporate America, that’s all. While it is laudable to offer drug treatment to addicts, people aren’t thrown in jail for being drug addicts; people are thrown in jail for using certain drugs. What Christie is offering here is a nicer cage for the user of un-bar-coded drugs.
If you’re caught passing a joint to a friend in New Jersey at a Springsteen concert, you’re a felon looking at 1.5 years of prison time and a $25,000 fine. But instead, Gov. Christie wants to force you into a year of rehab you don’t need, with random pee tests to keep tabs on you. This way, pee testers get jobs, rehabs fill beds, and New Jersey state troopers still get to shake down citizens for a little bit of weed and seize their assets, but the general public thinks we’re doing the “Christian thing” and providing a way out for the doomed addicts. And for the second-timers or the first-timers who fail a pee test, it’s back to prison, often for longer sentences than if they would have chosen the cage over the rehab in the first place, so we get to keep the jobs for the cops and prison guards, too!
Notice that nobody ever proposes mandatory rehab for alcoholics. Sure, if you get multiple DUIs or get in bar fights or beat your wife while drunk, a judge may sentence a drinker to rehab or AA or something… but that comes in response to an actual crime, like driving impaired or assault and battery. But if we find a guy in a bar who has passed out on his stool from too many shots of whiskey, no cop is going to arrest him and no court is going to force him to choose between rehab or prison for simply being drunk. We’ll call him a cab and send him home.
I am a huge proponent of drug treatment; my alcoholic and speed-addicted father would be dead without it. But he was not sentenced there, in fact, the times he did get in trouble with the law and was forced into AA it didn’t work at all. Only when he had reached his “rock bottom” and was ready for treatment did his entry into treatment have an effect. The same will happen with these “Kinder Gentler Drug War” mandated treatment laws – you’ll spend $24,000 on a pot smoker who will dutifully pass all your pee tests for a year, by cheating or abstaining (since we’re not physically “addicted”, this is easy), and the day they are free from that rehab, they will join their friends in puffing huge bowls of weed in celebration and they’ll try to be more careful and not get caught next time.
If there still remains any doubt that the cruel Chris Christie has no intentions on ending the insanity of caging people for using drugs without bar codes, look no further than the case of John Ray Wilson. He’s a multiple sclerosis patient who was caught growing 17 plants to provide his medicine for severe spasticisty. He was tried and convicted, not allowed to mention his medical use at trial, and is currently serving five years in prison.
In the time between his arrest and prison, New Jersey’s legislature passed a medical marijuana law that Wilson would easily qualify for. He’d still be in trouble for growing the plants; New Jersey’s medical marijuana law doesn’t allow home growing, but he’d have an affirmative defense for his medical use.
But instead of protecting the next John Ray Wilson from arrest, Gov. Christie has done everything in his power to block the implementation of the medical marijuana law passed in January of 2010, and still to this day, patients are being arrested in New Jersey. And when asked directly whether he’d consider clemency for John Ray Wilson, Gov. Christie said he would not, claiming, “The amount he was growing was well beyond the amount of pot you would need for medicinal use for yourself. His diagnosis has been brought into question as to whether he really has MS or not.” Wilson’s condition has deteriorated dramatically without medical marijuana and he may just die in prison.
What Gov. Christie and the rest of the “Kinder Gentler Drug Warriors” can’t comprehend is that most people who use drugs do so like most people who use alcohol: occasionally, responsibly, have a good time, and then go back to being productive members of society. That a few people become addicts to drugs is no more reason to ban drugs than the greater chance that a few more people become addicts to alcohol or tobacco is reason to ban them. The problem with the Drug War isn’t the tactics we’ve used to fight it; it’s that we declared war on free citizens and the law of supply and demand in the first place.