Many of those most involved in the drug war both at home and abroad recognize that it is an expensive failure, having had little impact of drug consumption while fostering crime and undermining civil liberties. In fact, many former cops, prosecutors, and judges have joined together in Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
A former Orange County, California prosecutor and judge who once locked up drug offenders now advocates relaxing the drug laws. The Los Angeles Times has just published Steve Lopez's interview with Jim Gray:
All right, tell me this doesn't sound a little strange:
I'm sitting in Costa Mesa with a silver-haired gent who once ran for Congress as a Republican and used to lock up drug dealers as a federal prosecutor, a man who served as an Orange County judge for 25 years. And what are we talking about? He's begging me to tell you we need to legalize drugs in America.
"Please quote me," says Jim Gray, insisting the war on drugs is hopeless. "What we are doing has failed."
As far as I can tell, Gray is not off his rocker. He's not promoting drug use, he says for clarification. Anything but. If he had his way, half the revenue we would generate from taxing and regulating drugs would be plowed back into drug prevention education, and there'd be rehab on demand.
So here he is in coat and tie -- with a U.S. flag lapel pin -- eating his oatmeal and making perfect sense, even when talking about the way President Obama flippantly dismissed a question about legalizing marijuana last week during a White House news conference.
"Politicians get reelected talking tough regarding the war on drugs," says Gray. "Do you want to hear the speech? Vote for Gray. I will put drug dealers in jail and save your children."
I had gone to visit Gray in part to discuss his support for a bill introduced last month by Democratic San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who is calling for marijuana to be regulated and taxed much like alcohol.
There's no good answer to drug abuse. But turning a health problem into a criminal law problem certainly is not the answer. It's time to take the immense profit out of the drug market as have other countries, such as Portugal, which has decriminalized drug use.