A recent report in the occasionally useful New York Times spotlights the harsh contradictions related to the execution of drug policy in this country, with the halogens focused squarely on the Sunshine State. According to autopsy results released this week by the state’s medical examiners, marijuana played no role in any of the deaths documented by state authorities last year. On the other hand, prescription drugs, which have been certified as contributing to the deaths of people like Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith and Chris Benoit, are being abused at a rate roughly double that of ten years ago.
Quoting (in bold print) from the NYT story: “The Florida report analyzed 168,900 deaths statewide. Cocaine, heroin and all methamphetamines caused 989 deaths, it found, while legal opioids — strong painkillers in brand-name drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin — caused 2,328. [...] Drugs with benzodiazepine, mainly depressants like Valium and Xanax, led to 743 deaths. Alcohol was the most commonly occurring drug, appearing in the bodies of 4,179 of the dead and judged the cause of death of 466 — fewer than cocaine (843) but more than methamphetamine (25) and marijuana (0). [...] The study also found that while the number of people who died with heroin in their bodies increased 14 percent in 2007, to 110, deaths related to the opioid oxycodone increased 36 percent, to 1,253.”
It goes on to state that “Florida scrutinizes drug-related deaths more closely than do other states, and so there is little basis for comparison with them.” This is good news for anyone supporting this ridiculous state of affairs; imagine having such data compiled from all 50 states to confirm what is suggested by the study out of Florida. A cynic might wonder aloud if the MEs will be allowed to continue such research this year. It seems like the kind of things that could be eliminated through budget cuts.
Poor Charlie Crist, in his misguided zeal for a national name, has quickly undone whatever good will he had among the regular people of his state. He has gone against his citizens by reversing himself in favor of off-shore oil drilling, which will only increase the environmental instability in the super-heated waters off our east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, for the benefit of multinational gasoline firms who will ensure that most of the profits flow like liquid away from taxpayers of the state.
Any casual observer understands that the prohibitions against marijuana only ensure that the profits to be obtained from this most beneficial crop are concentrated in the black market, where there are no taxes and no accountability. The current policy has the effect of simplifying the nature of the various substances and their effects, and leaves authorities increasingly powerless to counter the international criminal syndicates that are taking up more and more of the drug business in the US.
The insipidly named “Operation D-Day” (column reprinted below) shut down over 100 alleged grow-houses across Florida, netting 130+ arrests and upwards of $40 million worth of the dreaded herb. The bust was timed to coincide with the passage of a draconian escalation of penalties for pot-growers, which Governor Crist signed into law this week. One struggles to see how the state benefits from adding to an already overextended criminal justice system, while simultaneously subtracting from the rolls of tax-paying citizens and property owners.
Florida had just under 100,000 prisoners in 2007, up 2.3% from 2006 and 4.5% from 2000; expect to see a recorded increase of about 3% when this year’s numbers come out, next year. Of course, this counts only those held in state or federal custody, and not the thousands more being held in local jails, juvenile facilities or mental-health centers related to charges. Perhaps if the government hadn’t allowed such wholesale rapacity as was seen in the bad-faith manipulation of interest rates in recent years, and not tied down so many people with bullshit possession convictions that undermined their ability to earn legal livings, maybe some of those owners and renters wouldn’t be need extra income that badly. But that’s just speculation.
America’s Most Blunted
In these rapidly changing economic times, even drug dealers are feeling the pinch—literally, in some cases. Take, for example, the ridiculous Operation D-Day, months in the making, where state and local law-enforcement executed simultaneous busts in 48 counties across Florida. They shut down about 100 suspected marijuana grow houses, made 135 arrests and seized at least $41 million worth of that sticky green.
It says something about the state of leadership in Florida that they would dare to cheapen the legacy of the Allied invasion of France—a truly necessary undertaking that cost thousands of American lives but probably helped save millions from certain doom at the hands of the Third Reich—by attaching the name “D-Day” to their latest assault on individual liberty. If there are any WWII veterans still alive to read this column, one can only apologize, on behalf of our government, for pissing all over their sacrifice.
The operation was timed to maximize publicity for the “’Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act,” which was already being hyped through a series of alarmist stories that ran on local Florida stations that week, including the resolutely straight-edge First Coast News. The same willing dupes who claim that buying drugs supports terrorism are the ones who have made sure that America’s dope market is controlled by foreigners.
The fallacious and foolhardy nature of the Drug War is borne out by the simple fact that if the current laws were to be applied retroactively, at least one President—George Washington, a pioneering pot grower—would be sent to prison for the rest of his life. Imagine DEA trying to run up on Mount Vernon! Given that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and many of the founders’ personal papers were printed on hemp paper, and that our first flags and some uniforms of the Continental Army were crafted from hemp cloth, a case could be made that today’s laws against the cultivation of hemp amount to a repudiation of America itself.
The silliness of it all becomes most apparent as we traverse the national political landscape of 2008, where at least one presidential contender—Barack Obama—is on record with a history of drug use that would have automatically disqualified either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, had rumors to that effect been proven. The governors of two of our biggest and most profitable states, California and New York, are controlled by men (Schwartzenegger and David Paterson, respectively) who openly admitted to having smoked pot. History now leans in the direction that the sainted JFK smoked, too. Now, if the point of the Drug War is make sure that no one like Bush, Clinton or Kennedy is ever able to become president again, that would make sense, but it would not explain Obama, whose past is apparently out-of-bounds since he obliges the Drug War too.
Honestly, now: if the Drug War is legit, then why has Snoop Dogg never taken a possession rap? A cynic would argue that, since his work has consists of leading young black men down a road that leads directly to prison or death, he is performing a service to the government, and thus roams free. But as for the rest of you, don’t expect mercy from government unless you’re a child molester or a terrorist. The authorities know the limits of their power, and are careful not to press anyone who might press back. Parents, take heart: if you put a bag of marijuana in your kids’ backpack before school, the cops will follow him around all day, and he might actually live long enough to graduate!
It can never be said often enough that the political leaders of today are so far beneath their predecessors in every single possible category—from intelligence to physical strength, to say nothing of intangibles like wisdom and experience—that their only option for retaining their spots is to aggressively destroy any possibility of dissent. And that is why the criminal penalties against marijuana have been progressively jacked up while the rest on the world has moved in the other direction.
There is not much sense in making a decriminalization argument based on civil libertarian or humanitarian grounds. No case can be made on William Buckley-esque conservative grounds, since the folks who bullied us into Iraq have done to conservatism what Pope Benedict and the perverts who serve under him have done to Catholicism. In the old days, one could at least quote the founders, but as America cedes its place in the global hierarchy, the founders’ appeal has begun to wane, as well. Besides, the political leadership of today (especially in Florida) appears to derive more inspiration from Tom of Finland than Thomas Jefferson. I’d call them traitors, if I could afford a lawyer.
May 5, 2008