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home : opinions : editorials July 22, 2014

8/16/2013 6:01:00 AM
Editorial: Drugs and crime are undeniably entwined
The Daily Courier

A major shift is under way on the federal level involving drugs. The "War on Drugs" that began in the 1980s has not been won; moreover, the government is working to stem to rising numbers of inmates - a reportedly 800 percent increase since 1980 - with about half serving time for drug-related crimes.

Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement earlier this week looks to change federal sentencing policies, targeting long mandatory terms that he said have flooded the nation's prisons with low-level drug offenders and diverted crime-fighting dollars that could be far better spent.

"We will start by fundamentally rethinking the notion of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes," Holder told the American Bar Association in San Francisco.

Anyone who has given even an ounce of attention to crime headlines locally over the years knows that more and more are related to drugs nowadays. We cannot argue that point.

What concerns us is the apparent move away from enforcing laws for what is illegal in this country. Yes, if you do not like the laws or if you want, say, marijuana to be legal, that is another debate. However, drugs are illegal right now.

Also, according to The Associated Press study, the majority of people incarcerated for drug offenses are there for crimes relating to methamphetamine. Somewhere along the line, it is important to differentiate between meth and the other "hard drugs," such as heroin and cocaine, and marijuana, which rarely if ever leads to violent behavior.

And, to give judges greater discretion in sentencing as opposed to mandatory sentencing, as Holder is proposing, will do something else: put more people who were previously labeled "criminals" on the streets.

That does three things.

First, it takes our society down the path toward acceptance of this type of behavior.

Secondly, more flexible - read "lighter" - sentences will put this arguably dangerous element among the masses.

Finally, if they are not going to prison or are receiving shorter sentences, certain agencies that are already overtaxed on resources - namely probation offices - will not be able to stem the rising tide.

We are not saying Holder's ideas are wrong. What is evident, though, is a half-baked notion that has potential consequences or unintended results.

The concept of crime-fighting money being spent better elsewhere may merely be a move from bricks-and-mortar prisons to hiring more people to track the criminals among us.

Perhaps now is a good time to look into purchasing stock in the companies that manufacture electronic ankle monitoring bracelets.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, August 24, 2013
Article comment by: Losing an Audience

@Tom Steele...you are way way way over your head...you expound on about every subject like you are an authority...Your authenticity is questionable at the least.

Stop with your arrogance...and know it all attitude. You lose your audience with the bolderdash!

@Tom VonDick...Ditto. See above. All you old hippie wanna bes are so boring. Smoke it, toke it, eat it... how sad. You guys missed the boat entirely. You are now on a sinking ship.

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013
Article comment by: @Who Really Cares

So you got through life with out any crutches, tough guy wow!

So you think it is ok to put people in a cage because they use a plant grown from seed planted in mother earth?

I'm tired of people like you. And I would guess I'm about the same age as you. Sixty.

Lookin In and lookin out

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013
Article comment by: Trivia Question

A prize goes to the first person who knows the correct answer to this question:

What percentage of the prisoners currently in the Arizona Dept. of Corrections system are there solely for drug offenses and no other crimes?

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

@Rev: I didn't see any more cannabis less anything arguments because legalization doesn't necessarily lead to more smoking. I was contesting the logic behind the gateway theory. If there does happen to be a gateway effect, I'll bet you and I both agree that it has nothing to do with the intrinsic qualities of the plant. There could be a forbidden fruit effect that ties marijuana in with these other drugs. There could be other causes if the gateway effect even exists. Fruits are only forbidden by policy. You might be trying to say the same, though I still don't perfectly understand what you said. If you want to understand whether the Netherlands strategy works, you'd have to look at the studies. One archive of such studies is http://www.druglibrary.org. They kept heroin use way down, but it's hard to control the variables because they used so many harm reduction strategies at the same time.

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: Jasmine Tea

Many of the drugs that are ‘approved’ by the FDA have short and long term side effects that are worse than the natural illegal drugs.

One should study how the relationship between Big Pharmaceutical companies, lobbyists and the medical profession work… corporate cronyism if there ever was any, the last thing they care about is someone’s long term health.

This is just another prime example of the Government using their massive power to selectively bludgeon certain people and industries while enriching others and justifying their existence.

The answer is in teaching people to be self sufficient and realizing that we each are in charge of our own actions.

When this happens, people learn to live in the moment.Then they learn to make the correct decisions so they don’t feel the need to ‘escape’ with anything like: drugs, alcohol, materialism or any number of things.

Each of these is fine in their own right… when used for the right reason, (e.g drink or smoke because you enjoy it,not to mask problems).

Unfortunately, the politicians have and are currently fostering an attitude of dependence and “you can’t do it on your own”.

This is a prime reason this Country is in dire straits now. The failed ‘war on drugs’ is very much the same as the failed ‘war on poverty’ because it does nothing to address the real problem and solve it through education and empowering the victims.

When the people are educated they become empowered… and that is the last thing a dictatorial government, (like we now have) wants, because then there is no need for a large government structure.

There truly is some special karma awaiting those who deliberately suppress and control others for their own enrichment and empowerment… and it’s not good!

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: By Design

When drugs are outlawed, only outlaws will have drugs. By design. Two other things that are "undeniably entwined" are the drug war and racism. This is not an opinion. It's a fact, easily verified by anyone with access to a library or the Internet. If you support one, you support the other.

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: Reed A. Book

@ Veritas Semper -- The ONDCP's own research shows that when young people experiment with illegal drugs, the progression is almost always tobacco, alcohol, marijuana. But why stop with illegal drugs? Why not include caffeine in the skewed statistics? How about baby aspirin for my generation, Tylenol for the X's and the Y's? The gateway drug theory was MADE UP by the same people who MADE UP the link between addiction and crime. How many more times does it have to disproved before you people give it a rest? Or do you keep trotting it out because it really is the only excuse you have for your wanton destruction of human life?

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: Reed A. Book

Editor -- you would consign human beings to cages just because releasing them might "overtax" other agencies? Aren't you the one who was just complaining about people perceiving Prescott as "mean-spirited"? You may (or may not) be interested to know that keeping a person on probation costs much less than keeping a person in prison. An alternative would be leaving them alone in the first place, which costs costs nothing at all.

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: War On Drugs Funded Afghan Taliban

Who now remembers that in May, 2001, the Bush Administration gave the Afghan rulers, aka the Taliban, a grant of $43,000,000 as a reward for banning the production of opium? No strings attached. Meanwhile, Osama Bin Laden was being sheltered in Afghanistan (when not in our "friendly" Pakistan), which five months later was the ostensible cause of our stupid invasion of that country. Since then, as is well known, opium production in Afghanistan continues to hit record levels.
Even the Koch brothers funded, right-wing Cato Institute had an article August 2, 2002, referring to this pre-9/11 funding of the Taliban as "Moreover, evidence quickly emerged that the Taliban all along had been collecting millions of dollars in profits from the illicit drug trade, with much of that money going into the coffers of the terrorists. Rarely is there such graphic evidence of the bankruptcy of U.S. drug policy."
The New Yorker Magazine this past week had a great long article on the profits being made off of confiscated money and property under the protection of outrageous "laws" of the War on Drugs. Profit is driving all this.
All this is Blowback from this idiotic policy started many Presidents ago.

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: jon Q

thay could wen the war on drugs if the c.i.a.would stop being the pushser man.but you see its all part of the big plan.get the baby boomers on perscrip drugs and the x-gen.on want ever eles. get em' all like puppits.e.z.er to control..mean wail [,when no buddys looking ]ramp up law inforcement and get em all on food stamps.wake up sheep.

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: The Rev

Was disagreeing with the gateway does not exist thoughts. I believe that gateway is well paved from an unstable, faddish and demanding market. Been said More Guns Less Crime and I wonder More Cannabis Less Damaging Gateways?

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: Lynn Cee

First of all---- I DETEST Mr. Holder and his boss.
I have known meth addicts- most of them die of it. I knew one guy who beat the addiction- then he put a bullet in his brain. And that killed him. His depression was never addressed. It was escalated by prison tho.
We need to learn from history here-prohibition didn't work against alcohol. What sort of imbecile would actually think it will work against dope?
And then there is the collateral damage of the Drug War. Your liberty. Make no mistake- you don't have to be a drug user to be seen as an enemy of the state- all you have to do is to object to all the stupid rules now on the books. Like the regulations dealing with pseudoephedrine. I pray this goes the same way that the assinine "lock box on spray paints" went.
And of course there is the safety-theater of drug testing. The processes and tests in use now were devised and approved ONLY for use in prisons. Welcome to the Gulag folks.
Drug tests don't test for impairment- they test for chemicals that you took at home, on vacation, sometimes weeks in the past and which are none of your employer's damned business. And the tests are not reliable. This sort of invasion of privacy is the passive-aggresive abuse of the day.
Because of tactics like drug testing and other monitoring that is done, today's kids don't know what privacy is. This does lead to lower self worth, and depression. How can you be surprised if someone under 24-7-365 surveilance
resorts to escapism thru drugs?
The issue is not as simple as deregulation or legalization. Deep in your soul- ask yourself- is it proper to imprison a person who has an illness? That is what addiction is. The savages in our gov know that. Hell, some of them do make money off the War -no doubt some of them make money off the dope.
The politicians in both parties use scare tactics to get the sheeple to agree to the Drug War's freedom killing tactics. They tie "use" to crime. The boogie man will get ya!
If the chemicals that are being abused today were suddenly legal there would be a crap-load of human debris (pushers) holding there as--- in their hands and trying to figure out how to make money now. Well- there is always those soon to be illegal lite bulbs the greenies hate. How about smuggling in toilets that actually work on the first flush instead of those low water use ones. And then there is freon.
Anyway- seriously now- until America's drug pushing street gangs are treated as the terrorists they are, and the feds delare Mexicos cartels to be terrorist groups- well I have to assume that the politicians like the meat-grinder of the Drug War just the way it is.
Oh yeah-we can't declare War on the true criminals (cartels and gangs) cuz that would be racially insensitive.

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: The Future

The war on drugs is an essential part of the modern economy. Is this the economy that we want for our nation in the future. The difficulties is that anytime there is of war effort to subdue something, it is often more severe than we would otherwise want to act.

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: Who Really Cares?

It's a nutso country filled with armchair opinions of former and current pot smokers, addicts of drugs and alcohol regarding legalization of drugs.

The entire universe in the user's world revolves around drugs, drugs, drugs and legalization so the pressure is off.

Legal or not legal...still a user-loser. Unable to cope with life unless drugs/alcohol are there to get you through, worthless wimps...we used to call that a pantie-waste junkie.

What a bunch of bunk. Never "used", don't intend to use...and more importantly, life is good, have great coping skills for adversity, still happy, healthy and there is no need to use.

What a pathetic drug/alcohol dependent society the U.S. has become. Mostly the cause of the dumbing down of America.

Have at it "users", ex-users...your world doesn't concern non-users. Having lived in the best years of this country, happy, healthy and drug/alcohol dependent free. Glad to be off this planet soon and won't have to deal with your stupid choices.

Go for it..smoke it up, snort it up, shoot it up, chew it up, lap it up, mainline it, drink gallons of booze on a daily basis...with or without legalization. You deemed your life disposable and you can wallow with the rest of societies losers.

Stop wasteing your time posting the pros and cons of drug use and legalizing it. Boring! Just do your thing and let the chips fall.

People that have not used don't give a rip about your choices nor whether your drug use causes harm to you except those that make money from your lifestyle.

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Steele

Research prohibition of alcohol and the crime it created. Drugs may be more dangerous to the user, but not us. An entire industry has sprung up around drugs. Drug bureaucrats, drug courts, drug lawyers, drug task forces, and of course drug rehab centers. And do not forget the drug cartels of the world and the crimes committed to pay for the high cost products. My suggestion would be to decriminalize ALL drug use. Then, place a small tax on legal sellers to cover rehab operations. With low cost product, there would be very little crime or gangs to protect routes and distribution costs. Of course there would be the same problems we have now with alcohol but we should not be spending Billions to protect people from themselves.

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: lOOKIN IN

Anyone notice the propaganda train is doing a turnaround? Bout time!

We have used zero tolerance to feed the prison system with our young.

Law enforcement has become militarized and faceless.

For a start I say walk away from marijuana. It is a boondogle of layered laws. Make it like homebrew, no harm no foul.

Quit feeding the prison system with our greatest asset, our youth!

There are probably a million people right now smokin up, The sky hasn't fallen, we rub shoulders with them every day.

Just say NO!

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: In Dog Years

@ The Answer Is..."Society will provide you with any and all drugs of your addiction."

Would that include alcohol ?

"wrong choice" is pretty strong, I mean as compared to the questionable choices of consumer products and foods deemed safe, and when the regulatory system is captured by the regulated (and scared of the corporate law suits to say only the minimum scientific provability.)

No rash, that went away when I stopped using those not-said brand name desperation products. You know that mold can grow on soap?

I'm for taking the small steps to segregate the pot issue from the dangerous drug issue. The second much dries up with the first being legal (that's the theory). But I like your libertine approach.

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: Bogart That Roach One More Time and I'll Slap You

So here we are in Everybody's Nowhereville reading the whack-job Comments section and -- gad -- stumble across what seems to be meta-brilliance. Can't be. Better have another toke and read those again.

Still they ring of rationality, intelligence and competent handling of the language. In dCourier! (Must not be from staff.)

Getting critical in the re-reads it's possible to think of better phrasing, more welded logical connections and the painful shortage of pink laughing bunnies. But those flaws are minor and, in light of the transformational connections attempted, shrink to dried snot.

Now... whose comments were we talking about? Oh yeah, I see. How's come they're always so long? Oh, I see again: Sometimes many, many words are needed to gently shoehorn obviously rational concepts into tiny minds.

Tough job but somebody better...

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

I forgot to address the Rev. @Rev: I didn't understand your question. More specifics needed.

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

@The Answer is Deregulation. I have to agree on most of that. Take all that War on Drugs money and spend it on prevention, fighting addiction and researching how to do so. We have the same addiction rate to currently illegal substances we've always had despite the laws. Aside from that, legalize Ibogaine (60% success rate) and heroin maintenance (outstanding results in, I believe, Switzerland). Then, boom! No more cartels and less addicts. That's the real War On Drugs... actually reducing addiction and the problems associated with it. One of my favorite speakers on this topic is Cliff Thornton. I've known this guy for a long time. A great interview can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pd_3HowvKlA

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: old & thoughtful old & thoughtful

When I was young and smoking pot, I had all the answers to societies woes. Now I'm old and wishing I were smoking pot, and have been so many places and have seen so many sides of this issue that I'm confused. It's easy to criticize, but much more difficult to come up with salable solutions. look to societies who have dealt well with this problem!!

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: The Answer Is Deregulation

I am going to lay something on you that is going to rub you raw. Really raw.
But first I am mostly in agreement with this article. I would add a great deal but the crux of the matter is, children are taught at home the values they espouse in later life. Granted, it is not the parents fault an individual makes or continues to make wrong choices.They will become what you train them to be, up to a point. So far so good, right? Didn't disagree with a single thing I said. This is where you are going to get a rash.

What if:
All drugs were made legal.

Blood pressure rising, me too. Except, what I propose is, society does not have to pretend to care if you wind up a junkie, it will have a clean conscience.

Society will provide you with any and all drugs of your addiction.
Society will give you the tools and training to try to make the most of yourself with your affliction.
Society will allow you to be as functional as you are capable, with your drug addiction. Limits to your future are of your choosing through your choices.
Society will no longer lock you up for the failings of your parents or yourself for your drug addiction or your judgement.
Society will not allow you employment in safety sensitive positions and will continue drug testing, same as now. Employer has full rights in this for any position at their choosing.
Society will not tolerate other criminal activity. A harsher than now penalty will apply.

OK, I rubbed it raw, it is sore but you don't know where it is sore exactly. Here is some possible salve.

We separated drugs from crime.
We will spend a small percentage in support of this strategy as compared to the trillions spent with the War On Drugs for this new concepts administration.
We can tie it in nicely with Obamacare, like it or not. Grr
We can start loving cops again, though there will be fewer of them needed.
We will, as a centrifuge does, separate the population of drug users into layers of .... what? Individuals Choice, and Freedom. Something that has become compromised with the up to now strategy. You will probably, like myself initially, find a great deal wrong with this different approach. I have been thinking about this for quite some time in elephant years, I wanted to plant the seed as the weather looks pretty good. Hope it grows, it will probably need a lot of trimming.

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: Yellow Dog

@Editor, "arguably dangerous element among the masses."

Yet, the arguably low level non-violent convicted people are not dangerous by definition.

Here's the deal, as long as our legislature who make the laws are captured by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) lobby, the same lobby that represents private prison corporations, why would sane person believe such 'half-baked notions of "criminals among us" has meaning.

The rhetoric of social control and 'law and order' falls flat upon the hypocrisy.

Rule by force is what remains, when rule by virtue and example become prostituted.

This is in the form of corporate bribery that is masked as education and initiation into the legislative culture, until the freshman legislator has voted (complicit) in the light of the ALEC lobby interest, often word for word as drafted by ALEC's corporate attorneys.

The problems of drugs and crime should be considered the ills inflicted and perpetuated by corrupt interest and power, or at a minimum complicit in not standing against public corruption that has operated in the guise of legislative crime fighters and drug warriors.

When we get our Arizona government in order, then get back to us on that crime and drug thingy.


Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: The Rev

Gateway being a byproduct of an unstable, faddish and demanding market, Tom VonD?

Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013
Article comment by: Dear Editor

So, you mean that people who use illegal drugs are criminals? Gasp! Boy, it's a good thing those bad ol' drugs are banned, then, isn't it? What a crock.

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