Drug Policy

Jesse Jackson Wants to End the War on Drugs

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Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Jesse Jackson says it's time to end the war on drugs:

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the day Richard Nixon launched the "War on Drugs."…Four decades later, it would be impossible to invent a more complete failure.

About $1 trillion has been spent on the war. Millions of citizens who pose no threat to anyone have been incarcerated in prison. Some 2.3 million now overcrowd America's prisons — 25 percent of whom have been arrested for nonviolent drug crimes.

Our neighbors to the south — Mexico and Colombia — are being torn about by gang violence and corruption. In Afghanistan, where our soldiers risk their lives, fully one-third to one-half of the entire economy is generated by the opium and heroin trade. All of this is in reaction to nonviolent acts that were not even crimes a century ago.

Although that last line suggests not just calling off the "war" launched by Nixon but repealing the drug bans that the federal government began to impose in 1914, it's not clear exactly what policy Jackson favors. "What if we treated drug addiction like alcohol addiction as a public health problem?" he asks. Well, if the government actually did treat drug addiction like alcohol addiction, drug users would not be arrested, and treatment would not be mandatory (except maybe in cases of drugged driving or other offenses that harm or endanger others). Furthermore, production, sale, and use of the currently prohibited substances would be legal. Is Jackson ready for that? It doesn't sound like it:

Marijuana accounts for one-half of all drug arrests in the U.S.; decriminalizing it would save millions that could be used to treat addicts rather than arrest kids. Alternatives to incarceration should be preferred for those who pose no threat to others.

Harsh mandatory and minimum sentences should be repealed. Why not take drug addiction out of the criminal justice system and treat it in the public health system? It surely would be better to spend the money not on locking people up, but on clinics that might treat their illnesses.

"Decriminalizing" marijuana could mean treating it like alcohol, or it could mean (as it typically has in the U.S.) eliminating the possibility of jail sentences for possessing small amounts. While he is vague about the alternatives, Jackson's forceful condemnation of the status quo is welcome. It's too bad he didn't make these arguments when he was running for president.

Jackson mentions the recent report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which I discussed last week.

[Thanks to Richard Cowan for the tip.]

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56 responses to “Jesse Jackson Wants to End the War on Drugs

  1. the drug bans that the federal government began to impose in 1914

    Nixon banned ’em when he was a one year old.

  2. The condemnation of the Drug War by Jesse Jackson is not worthless–it has negative value. I would be happier if Donald Trump denounced Prohibition.

  3. Blind squirrel, nut, etc.

    1. My thought exactly, but it’s still a good piece.

    2. yeah this might be the first time i’ve ever agreed on an issue at face value with this piece of shit from my hometown.

      great comparison.

  4. Bout fuckin’ time prominent black folks started pushing this …

  5. Jesse Jackson, champion of personal liberty! Where is *Barfman* when you need him?

  6. The War on Drugs failed Billions of dollars ago! This money could have been used for outreach programs to clean up the bad end of drug abuse by providing free HIV testing, free rehab, and clean needles. Harmless drugs like marijuana could be legalized to help boost our damaged economy. Cannabis can provide hemp for countless natural recourses and the tax revenue from sales alone would pull every state in our country out of the red! Vote Teapot, PASS IT, and legalize it. Voice you opinion with the movement and check out my pro-cannabis art at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot…..-2011.html

    1. These dope threads always make me reconsider the “myth” of marijuana-induced brain damage. I guess I just got lucky.

    2. PSSST! This is a libertarian blog.

      1. Don’t ruin it for him!

        1. He’s gonna find out eventually. What else can you conclude from a bunch of people that wish they were in Somalia?

          1. They want to make every day “Talk Like a Pirate Day?”

    3. Your ideas are intruiging. I would like to receive your newsletter.

    4. fucking hippies

  7. “This money could have been used for outreach programs to clean up the bad end of drug abuse by providing free HIV testing, free rehab, and clean needles.”

    Or that money could have been returned to tax payers and “use at your own risk” could be our new mantra?

    1. What money? It’s FREE!!!!!!!!!!

    2. Yeah, I was gonna say I could have used that money for another ivory back scratcher. Can’t have too many.

  8. Just Jesse Jackson looking for more transfer payments for himself.

  9. Has Jesse fathered any illegitimates lately?

    1. Has Jesse smoked any weed lately?

  10. Add the war on poverty and we’re cooking.

  11. Why not take drug addiction out of the criminal justice system and treat it in the public health system?

    BECAUSE LOGIC WOULD HAVE IT THAT ADDICTS ACCOUNT FOR A SMALL MINORITY OF ALL DRUG USERS, YOU FUCKING IDIOT.

    Seriously, why is this even posted here? Did reason implement a stopped clock quota or something?

    1. File it under “right about this for the wrong reasons”.

      1. I’d have an incredibly difficult time doing that, to say the least. Fundamentally the argument he’s presenting is absolutely no different than that of the hardened drug warriors he claims to oppose. The only difference is that where they demand prisons, he demands asylums.

        1. I was only talking about ending the drug war. The rest of it – meh.

          1. I just read the entire thing and have to admit that my reflexive revulsion from all things Jackson did heavily influence my initial reaction. Aside from that detail out it’s actually a pretty compelling piece. Mea culpa.

            1. I’ll believe it when he comes out swinging for a republican with racist newsletters on the war on drugs issue.

  12. Does anyone else remember “down with dope, up with hope”?

    1. nope, but people used to say “it’s a free country, man”

    2. It was the 1st thing I thought of in this cx. It bothers me that he can hide from that once the wind shifts. Oh well, he always specialized in rewriting hx, at least his own hx.

  13. Libertarians who want to make a futile gesture expressing their drug war pacifism can sign this petition:

    http://www.avaaz.org/en/end_th…..45854bf92f

    It has 620,000+ signatures and could use a few more.

    1. That counter should totally go to 420 signatures, and then just stop counting, that would be epic! I mean, it would be totally fucking symbolic and shit, man, know what I mean?

  14. Another irrelevant has-been comes out against the Drug War.

    w00t!

    1. Right. It’s so easy to do when you aren’t running for office anymore. Still, better late than never.

  15. If just 40 percent of people of color could understand that it’s the War on Drugs and not the drugs that’s killing them, the War on Drugs would have ended long ago. But instead they have ignorant shits like Jackson feeding conspiracy theories and reefer and crack hysteria. Jackson doesn’t understand the effects of black markets because he doesn’t understand economics at all. Needless to say, public education is silent on economics.

    1. Are you saying that Reagan didn’t slip out of the WH every night with the goal of impregnating teenage girls and giving crack to their babies?

      1. I assumed he did, that’s why I voted for him

    2. Jackson doesn’t understand the effects of black markets because he doesn’t understand economics at all.

      Racist!

  16. I remember watching a debate, probably 30+ years ago on TV (help, someone) where Jackson and another liberal were arguing that marijuana must remain illegal, it’s “devil weed,” etc. On the decrim side was … Bill Buckley and another “conservative.” Again, Buckley was right on this one (he was wrong on others, but was a good ally in opposing the drug war) and way ahead of the curve. It would take no time at all to dredge up the very worst kind of scare quotes from Jackson’s drug warrior days… but I don’t want to do that, except to show how much he has “grown.” “Growing” (especially “growing in office”) for a pol usually means that a tightwad GOPer or Southern Dem has learned how to spend like the rest of the drunken sailors. Anyway, anyone remember that show? Was it a Firing Line, perhaps? Getting old…!

    1. I have vague recollections of more than one Firing Line show on drug legalization.
      I remember Charlie Rangel on the pro- WoDs side. Buckley usually had some lefty “harm reduction” folk like Ira Glasser and Kurt Schmoke but I recall Thomas Szasz once arguing the case once from the libertarian side.

      1. Thanks, SIV, you spurred another memory or two to (temporary) life. I remember now that it began with that perfunctory “Resolved: Blah blah blah” bit, so it was a Firing Line. I really did get a kick out of it and used it to ridicule the American media shorthand for political positions. The “caring liberal” wants pot smokers in jail? The “crass conservative” wants pot decriminalized? Hmm… I guess that shorthand hasn’t been cleaned up yet, has it? And I second Spur’s suggestion (below) about not being “picky” concerning anti-drug-war allies. We need all we can get. I can almost (almost) feel a critical mass building, albeit slowly. But it’s picking up speed (along with the backlash). Steady on!

  17. Despite the fact that Jesse Jackson opposes the war on drugs, I oppose the war on drugs.

    1. Despite the fact that Rob Reiner has made a few good movies, I would like to make a few good movies too.

      (that was a pretty tough formula to apply. not sure if I did it right anyway).

  18. Marijuana Sodomy accounts for one-half of all drug sex arrests in the U.S.; decriminalizing it would save millions that could be used to treat addicts deviants rather than arrest kids. Alternatives to incarceration should be preferred for those who pose no threat to others.

    Harsh mandatory and minimum sentences should be repealed. Why not take drug addiction sexual perversion out of the criminal justice system and treat it in the public mental health system? It surely would be better to spend the money not on locking people up, but on clinics that might treat their illnesses cure their homosexuality.

    1. Yes. Next question.

      1. (wait, didn’t read all the way through. revised answer: yes, this is the problem with the decrim->institutionalize way of thinking. 1st two sentences still stand with my original blanket-yes, of course with the inclusion of “leave people along until they pose a problem to others with their crimes” as “an alternative to incarceration”)

  19. If Jesse Jackson gets a few more people questioning the war on drugs or making opposition to the WoD a bit higher on their list – I’ll take it – when it comes to opposing the war on drugs I haven’t been too picky about who sides with us or to what extent for a while now.

  20. So if they legalize dope, can my family get paid to not grow it?

    1. Absolutely!

    2. Sadly no, John, but we’ll do our best to find something else for an important person like you. I’ll talk to the boys in agrology and see if we can’t schedule a few tests to find out what would be best to not grow in your soil.

  21. Once drugs become legalized, Jesse Jackson and co. will discover that big “Drug” companies are targeting poor blacks and other minorities to turn a hefty profit, which would be legal but now racist.

    Jackson will attempt to say something like “It would appear big tobacco has found a new partner in their quest for profit on addiction and widespread human misery”, but it’ll come out as unintelligible gibberish.

    Eventually he’ll mishear someone whistling as “I won’t sell drugs to colored folks” and he’ll find enough heroes in the government to illegalize drugs one more, this time with the threat or torture and rendition to Russia. The children would be safe once more.

    So you see, the GOP is wrong about Jackson. He’s really their ally.

  22. Some simple facts:

    * A rather large majority of people will always feel the need to use drugs, such as heroin, opium, nicotine, amphetamines, alcohol, sugar, or caffeine.

    * Due to Prohibition, the availability of mind-altering drugs has become so universal and unfettered, that in any city of the civilized world, any one of us would be able to procure practically any drug we wish within an hour.

    * The massive majority of people who use drugs do so recreationally – getting high at the weekend then up for work on a Monday morning.

    * A small minority of people will always experience drug use as problematic.

    * Throughout history, the prohibition of any mind-altering substance has always exploded usage rates, overcrowded jails, fueled organized crime, created rampant corruption of law-enforcement, even whole governments, and induced an incalculable amount of suffering and death.

    * It’s not even possible to keep drugs out of prisons, but prohibitionists wish to waste hundreds of billions of our money in an utterly futile attempt to keep them off our streets.

    * Prohibition kills more people and ruins more lives than the prohibited drugs have ever done.

    * The United States jails a larger percentage of it’s own citizens than any other country in the world, including those run by the worst totalitarian regimes.

    * In ‘the land formally known as free’, all citizens have been stripped of their 4th amendment rights and are now totally subordinate to a corporatized, despotic government with a heavily armed and corrupt, militarized police force whose often deadly intrusions into their homes and lives are condoned by an equally corrupt and spineless judiciary.

    * As with torture, prohibition is a grievous crime against humanity. If you support it, or even simply tolerate it by looking the other way while others commit it, you are an accessory to a very serious moral transgression against humanity.

    * America re-legalized certain drug use in 1933. The drug was alcohol, and the 21st amendment re-legalized its production, distribution and sale. Both alcohol consumption and violent crime dropped immediately as a result, and, very soon after, the American economy climbed out of that same prohibition engendered abyss into which it had previously been pushed.

  23. Where would the internet be without a little copy and paste from Malcolm Kyle?

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