Former President Jimmy Carter adds his voice to many other police chiefs, health professionals, military analysts, and an international Blue Ribbon Commission urging the United States to Call Off the Global Drug War. The so called "war on drugs" is really a 'war on drug users", which is not only destroying the lives of those needing medical and mental health care, but is also corrupting foreign police forces, and governments, as well, as creating and funding, a vast criminal infrastructure that represents a growing threat to US national security.
As I reported here on June 1, in War on Drugs has Failed says Global Commission, Governments Should Explore Legalization this global commission included "the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker."
In a New York Times, op-ed, former President Carter writes:
The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America’s “war on drugs,” which was declared 40 years ago today. ... Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families (disproportionately minorities), but it is wreaking havoc on state and local budgets.
Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.
President Carter reminds us that he made the same recommendations in 1977.
In a message to Congress in 1977, I said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts. I also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.” ...
Carter points out that the Reagan military and police interdiction approach to the "drug problem" has been 'a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin American countries." Carter fails to mention that we've also corrupted many Latin American countries beyond the reach of democracy.
Carter, also notes, that few countries will be looking to the United States for advice as our
Drug policies here are more punitive and counterproductive than in other democracies, and have brought about an explosion in prison populations. At the end of 1980, just before I left office, 500,000 people were incarcerated in America; at the end of 2009 the number was nearly 2.3 million. ... a higher portion than in any other country and seven times as great as in Europe. Some 7.2 million people are either in prison or on probation or parole — more than 3 percent of all American adults! ...
And the single greatest cause of prison population growth has been the war on drugs, with the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses increasing more than twelvefold since 1980.
President Carter's best new idea to add to these growing calls to end this insane war on American drug users, is to propose a special tax on the wealthiest American to pay for it. After noting that in 2010, over 11% of California’s state budget went to prison, while only 7.5% went to education.
Maybe the increased tax burden on wealthy citizens necessary to pay for the war on drugs will help to bring about a reform of America’s drug policies. At least the recommendations of the Global Commission will give some cover to political leaders who wish to do what is right.
President Carter notes that he worked side by side with a group of prison inmates who were learning the building trades as part of their work-release program. "They were intelligent and dedicated young men, each preparing for a productive life after the completion of his sentence. "More than half of them were in prison for drug-related crimes, and would have been better off in college or trade school."
This is so tragic it breaks my heart to imagine how we are destroying so many young lives, for such stupid reasons.
We Should Demand That Present Obama Pardon All Non-Violent Drug Offenders.
I would go farther than former President Carter. President Obama, should pardon all non-violent drug offenders, immediately. He does not need agreement from the Republicans to do this. And, it could save us an enormous amount of money and symbolize his willing to demonstrate the courage to do the right thing.
President Obama should also instruct the Attorney General, and his Drug Czar to stop federal prosecution of non-violent marijuana users, and federal raids
It cost $50,000/year per person to foolishly, and cruelly, incarcerate young people for non-violent drug offenses. If we freed the approximately 1 million nonviolent drug offenders out of the 2.3 million US prisoners now incarcerated we could save $50 billion a year.
Ask, yourself the question this way. Would you rather pay to have 1 million non-violent drug offenders in jail, or maintain our Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social programs.
How can we take any politicians complaining about budget deficits, or anything else seriously, if they do not act immediately to correct this outragous and tragic squandering our American's lives.
In a country that does not provide minimally adequate mental and other health care, it is immoral to incarcerated people for attempts at self-medication.
How infuriating and disgraceful is it for politicians to tell us we can not afford to maintain our foundational commitments to our Democratic Party's best programs for the poor, needy, and elderly, when we squander money like this to destroy young people's lives.
And, these are not criminals, except for the luck of the draw, President Obama, President Bush, or President Clinton, could have all ended up in prison, and lost their access to Federal College loans.
Let's end this cruel, racists, classist, and self-destructive insanity immediately.