On The Issues

Drugs

In Brief

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Immediately decriminalize marijuana and other drugs, and treat them like we do alcohol.

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Immediately pardon all non-violent drug offenders.

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Prohibition did not work with alcohol, and it’s not working for drugs.

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If it took a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol, shouldn’t it take a constitutional amendment to ban marijuana?

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The problem is not so much that they’re drugs, the problem is that they’re illegal drugs.

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Treatment, not jail.

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Drug laws are nothing but a jobs program for narcotics officers, nothing but price supports for drugs.

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We’re releasing murderers and rapists from our overcrowded prisons to make room for pot-smoking Grateful Dead fans!

In Depth

[This speech was presented to approximately 250 students at the “Professor Heicklen Marijuana Smokeout” held at the main gates of Penn State University in State College]

Hi, and thanks for coming out today.

A few years ago, I spoke at another Penn State campus, the Abington campus. I was one of the speakers at “Marijuana Appreciation Day”. And even though a couple of years have passed, the message about marijuana is still the same today as I presented it that day.

I told the students that if it’s marijuana appreciation day, then just what is it we’re appreciating? Should we appreciate that marijuana is illegal? Shall we appreciate that medical research using marijuana is forbidden by law? Can you appreciate the fact that you can lose all your worldly possessions if you’re caught with it, that the drug laws are ruining our cities? Can you appreciate that the General Accounting office said that in spite of $1 billion spent, the Drug Free School Act had no measurable effect on reducing the use of illegal drugs?

Maybe YOU appreciate it, but I don’t.

What’s the problem here? Put simply, it’s that the drug laws do not work. The drug laws are nothing but an attempt to legislate morality.

But you can’t legislate morality. We tried that once, as a nation. It was called “Prohibition”. It was a dismal failure that gave us rising homicide rates, drive-by shootings, and gave birth to organized crime. That experiment failed miserably and was finally abandoned.

But we didn’t learn. They’re doing it again with their insane War on Drugs. Only now instead of Al Capone and the Gangs, it’s Escobar and the Cartels. The drug war is history being repeated.

Why do we have drug laws? What good have they been?

In my opinion, they’re nothing but a jobs program for narcotics officers, nothing but price supports for drugs.

By making drugs illegal, their price has shot through the roof. This causes an increase in thefts as addicts have to steal more to pay for their habits. Huge profits mean more money to support organized crime, which leads to even higher crime rates. And the bigger the profits, the worse the class of criminals are that get involved.

The drug laws are killing our inner cities, killing our children. Every time I hear of a child being killed in the crossfire between two drug gangs, I say to myself: “The drug laws killed that child”. Every time I see a gold chain around a drug dealer’s neck, I say “The drug laws put that chain there”. Drugs aren’t the real problem — the drug laws are.

The drug laws have overburdened our criminal justice system, given countless opportunities for police and court corruption, overcrowded our prisons with non-violent “victimless criminals”. Then they release real criminals, the murderers and rapists, to make room for pot-smoking Grateful Dead fans. The drug laws have made criminals out of peaceful people.

Did you know that 59.9% of the people in federal prisons are there for drug-related offenses? That our incarceration rate now tops the world, even surpassing Russia and Communist China? Amnesty International should drop by sometime.

And it’s worse than that. Because it’s now possible under our insane drug laws that you can lose all your worldly possessions even if you haven’t been convicted of a crime. Even though a court of law finds you “not guilty” of a drug offense, you can still lose your car, your house, everything you own. Then the money they seize goes into unaudited, secret accounts to line who-knows-whose pockets.

They call it asset forfeiture; I call it highway robbery.

And if it weren’t cruel enough to turn someone penniless onto the streets, their insane drug laws prohibit by law any research into the medical uses of marijuana. Suffering people are forced by law to continue to suffer. Prior research shows that marijuana can help with asthma, nausea, muscle spasms, glaucoma, menstrual cramps, chemotherapy, AIDS wasting syndrome, and a host of other ills. But these humanitarian uses are denied to us by the drug laws. Our friends in the government have seen to that.

For those of you with legal training, consider this: If a constitutional amendment was needed to ban alcohol, shouldn’t it also take a constitutional amendment to ban marijuana?

There’s no question: the drug laws have gotten completely out of hand and things are getting worse.

So what do we do? How do we get out of this mess? You can’t clamp down harder — it just doesn’t work. If prisons can’t stop the flow of drugs in a completely-controlled facility, how can they expect to eradicate drugs in a free society? They can’t.

So first we must realize that there is no utopia. Pandora’s Box has been opened, and drugs are here to stay. So what do we do?

I say the time has come to end this insane War on Drugs.

It’s time to decriminalize drugs (not legalize) using alcohol as the pattern. That will help keep drugs out of the hands of kids, and it’s not being kept out of the hands of kids as it is.

Once we decriminalize drugs, the price will plummet. Overnight, there will be no more dollar incentive for organized crime. Thefts would drop as addicts don’t need to steal as much. Children wouldn’t be caught in the crossfire anymore. Life in the inner cities would improve. People would take back their neighborhoods from the drug dealers.

Today, those drug dealers are the role models for many of our inner city youth. They look glamorous in their fancy cars and gold chains. But once we decriminalize drugs, it won’t be glamorous anymore to do drugs — it’ll just be stupid.

And when we decriminalize drugs, being on drugs would be no excuse if you should do some damage to someone else. You would have to take personal responsibility for your own actions, take personal responsibility for your drug use, and pay the price for your actions while you’re on drugs.

I can’t say it enough. The problem is not so much that they’re drugs, the problem is that they’re illegal drugs. And the only answer is to decriminalize them.

You know, we Libertarians aren’t the only ones who are calling for the repeal of the drug laws. There’s a growing host of people who are calling for decriminalization, people such as Mayor Schmoke of Baltimore, William F. Buckley, former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, former Secretary of State George Shultz, Nobel prize laureate Milton Friedman, and the list grows all the time.

You know who else is calling for decriminalization? Dear Abby, of all people. And we all know from our history courses that George Washington grew hemp. In fact, under today’s drug laws, Thomas Jefferson’s hemp farm would make him a drug kingpin subject to asset forfeiture and a long prison sentence.

Even the New York Bar Association is now calling for decriminalization. If even the lawyers realize it’s a bad idea, you know the time has come to end this insane War on Drugs.

So how can we bring decriminalization about? How can you, personally help?

The obvious answer is to vote Libertarian. No other political party is committed to ending this insane War on Drugs. We were against it when the Libertarian Party was founded in 1971, and we’re against it today.

In fact, I’m here today to repeat my basic message from prior Smokeouts: That the Libertarian Party stands behind Professor Heicklen 100%, not just for his civil disobedience in challenging this insane War on Drugs, but that we also support his legal defense of jury nullification.

Speaking of which, another thing you can do to help end the drug war is to serve on juries. Did you know that juries have a power called “jury nullification”? This means that a jury can find someone “not guilty” even if the evidence is clear. This is what happened with Prohibition; prosecutors couldn’t get a conviction because jurors refused to convict.

So don’t avoid jury duty. Try to get on juries. You people are the fourth branch of government. It’s your duty to stop crazy laws wherever you can, and jury nullification gives you that power.

Another thing you can do to help is to get involved. Join the Libertarian Party, come to our meetings. Consider running for local office as a Libertarian, or helping someone who is running. Call us at 1-800-R-Rights and familiarize yourself with all the reasons why this insane war must end. Spread the word.

But don’t just sit there; do something! Because if you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue getting just what you’ve always gotten. And I, for one, have had enough.

Thank you for your attention, and good day.

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