Last week San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom called for an end to the war on drugs yet insisted he was not talking about legalization. Yeah, I'm not sure what that means either, but his remarks were refreshing both for their candor and for their challenge to his fellow Democrats:
"If you want to get serious, if you want to reduce crime by 70% in this country overnight, end this war on drugs," he told reporters at City Hall on Thursday. "You want to get serious, seriously serious about crime and violence, end this war on drugs."
The mayor maintained local jails are overcrowded with people incarcerated for drug offenses, taking up room that could be used to hold more violent criminal offenders. He said violent criminals with lengthy felony records are being turned loose, too often….
In a ten-minute tirade about the drug war's failure, Newsom told reporters that most politicians—including those in his own party—just don't have the guts to admit the obvious.
"It's laughable that anyone could look at themselves with a straight face and say, 'Oh,we're really succeeding.' I mean, it's comedy. And as I say, shame on my party, the Democratic Party, because they don't have the courage of their private thoughts, because we don't want to appear weak on this topic," Newsom said.
The mayor said the "politicizing" of the illegal drug use issue prevents a discussion about real solutions to the drug epidemic.
"End this war on drugs. Now, that is an attack ad by any politician, what I just said, they would be desperate to find that tape of what I just said," Newsom said.
The mayor insisted, however, that he wasn't calling for the legalization of all drugs—just a recognition that the current approach isn't working.
Trying to rebut Newsom, Gary Delagnes, head of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, implicitly criticized him for not going far enough:
Delagnes pointed to three murders occuring in San Francisco on Wednesday alone, which means the city has already surpassed last year's homicide total.
"When we see the homicides in San Francisco, I mean this all centers around drugs," Delagnes continued. "This is gangs and drug violence, this is money. It's all about money all the time."
Since the only way to eliminate black market violence is to eliminate the black market, I guess Delagnes, unlike Newsom, does support legalization.
Addendum: As Dave Weigel noted in June, Newark's Cory Booker is another sitting mayor who is fed up with the war on drugs.
[Thanks to CK for the tip.]