Beyond prohibition

From Punch and Jurists

"I would just absolutely die a thousand deaths if 10 years from now I'm sitting around reading some article about somebody raising the drug issue," (Johnson) says. "I couldn't imagine myself saying, 'That was something I should have done because I believed in it, but I just didn't have the guts to do it." ­ NM Governor Gary Johnson, Associated Press, October 21

On Tuesday, October 5, 1999, The Cato Institute of Washington, D.C. hosted a seminar entitled "Beyond Prohibition: An Adult Approach to Drug Policies in the 21st Century." The invited speakers included legal scholars, former law enforcement officials and political and social leaders, all of whom discussed the harmful consequences of America's drug prohibition policies. They also assessed alternative approaches to America's longest and most costly war and in the process presented some astonishing figures about the sheer cost of America's drug war.

The keynote speaker was Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico who labeled America's War on Drugs an "absolute failure," noting that illegal drugs are as readily available as ever before. He also noted that America is spending some $50 billion a year in its War on Drugs, and making some 1.6 million drug arrests a year - nearly one of every 200 citizens! Arguing that legalizing drugs would make them harder to get and allow the government to control them better, Johnson said, "Any youth will tell you that it's harder to get a prescription drug than an illegal one. For others under 21 it's easier to get marijuana than beer." He said that drug use would decline if legalized, that is "controlled, regulated, and taxed."
 Governor Johnson will be featured speaker at two forums sponsored by the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation.
The forums, which will include Ethan Nadelmann, Director of the Lindesmith Center, and Kevin Zeese, President of Common Sense for Drug Policy, are free and open to the public.
Tuesday, November 2, 1999, 7:00-9:30pm, "The Drug War: Who is Winning?" - Crown Plaza Pyramid Hotel, 5151 San Francisco NE, Albuquerque, NM.
Tuesday, November 16, 1999, 7:00-9:30pm, "Drug Legalization: A Bold Alternative to the Drug War" - Radisson Inn, I-40 at Carlisle, Albuquerque, NM.
For info, contact the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation, P.O. Box 6994, Albuquerque, NM 87197, (505) 344 1932, fax: (505) 344-6716

Governor Johnson's speech was virtually ignored in the press, but The Cato Institute provided for that by making the entire conference available at its site on the Internet by using a technique known as stream video that permits you to see and hear the entire conference through your computer. Just go to:

Apart from Gov. Johnson's speech, Steven Duke, a Professor of Law at Yale University and the author of "America's Longest War," presented an excellent paper entitled "The Drug War and the Constitution". His opening paragraph gives a sense of his erudite study. He wrote: "America's Longest War was declared by Richard Nixon more than a quarter of a century ago. It has been a total failure in keeping drugs from entering the country. Whether it has significantly contributed to the reduction of drug abuse is debatable. But there is one arena in which victory has been achieved: the Constitution has surrendered. If there is any phase of American life in which the rights of the people have not diminished during the drug war, it has escaped my notice. The anti-constitutional effects of the drug war have been so relentlessly obvious for so long that a cynic might wonder whether the Constitution is not the true enemy of the drug warriors."

David Klinger, Professor of Criminology at the University of Missouri and a former police officer in Los Angeles, presented a paper entitled "Call Off the Hounds." He wrote: "After leaving police work, my concerns about asset forfeiture laws grew as I watched police agencies around the nation use them more and more. I saw agency after agency finance more and more programs with seized assets and heard more and more horror stories about people losing their homes, cars, and cash to a state that could never have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspects had any involvement in the use of, much less the trade in, illegal drugs. At some point I could no longer hold my nose in the face of such abuses and decided that the asset forfeiture laws needed to be scrapped, that our nation needed to return to the core principle that the state can seize the property of citizens suspected of involvement in criminal activity only when and if it can prove such involvement beyond a reasonable doubt."

Joseph McNamara, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, said that the drug laws were corrupting whole police departments. He said "testalying" was rampant, as well as falsifying test results, armed robberies of cash from drug dealers by police, the planting of drugs and weapons (to bring about stiffer sentencing) on suspects and other similar condoned tricks. He said police corruption was everywhere defended by the policemen's "code of silence."

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