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May-24-2008 15:29TweetFollow @OregonNews
$70 Billion a Year for Drug Laws While Predators Remain FreeErin Hildebrandt Salem-News.com
Outdated drug laws intended to lock non-violent offenders in jail results in more leeway and fewer arrests for violent criminals and predators.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Imagine a town, somewhere in the United States. At the local police station, Officer Joe is pouring himself a cup of coffee at the start of his shift, when a call comes in. A citizen thinks she smells marijuana coming from her neighbor’s house.
Joe proceeds to respond to the call, driving the 30 or so odd miles to the house. Just then, another call comes in. An armed man has taken 27 children hostage at the local elementary school – now 25 miles away from Joe’s location.
In this extreme example, there can be no doubt that Joe should abandon his investigation of the marijuana smell and proceed immediately to the school. No officer in his right mind would consider putting children’s lives at risk, in order to pursue the smell of cannabis, would he?
But on a larger scale, when we fund drug enforcement to the tune of 70 billion dollars every year, we are effectively putting lives at risk by not funding other important police work.
Officers are only charged with enforcing the laws that “we the people,” through our legislators enact, and according to the priorities these legislators reflect through their funding of all of the various departments of law enforcement. We must demand that our leaders choose to prioritize the health and safety of our nation’s communities, over policing the personal morals of the citizens of the “Land of the Free.”
As a nation, we’ve lost sight of the forest for the trees. We’ve charged law enforcement officers with the awesome responsibility of not only preventing violent crime and apprehending violent criminals, but we’ve further empowered them to act as the morality police, saving America from the evils of everything from cigarette smoke to cannabis to sex toys to, of all the crazy things – certain kinds of fat! Where does it end?
The U.S. currently incarcerates more people for non-violent crimes, than for violent crimes. We lock up more of our citizens per capita than any other nation, even Russia, China and Cuba. Yet, according to national data from the FBI for 2006, the clearance rate for all violent crime was an abysmal 44.3%. Our current approach is not working. In all of this often politically-driven chaos, our priorities have been perverted.
It’s time to reprioritize.
For decades we’ve waged a “War on Drugs,” supposedly designed to prevent and deter the abuse of ten substances through their prohibition. Instead of encouraging our citizens to abide by the laws of the land, this war on some drugs encourages entrepreneurial anarchy in a game “won” by survival of the most corrupt and callously capitalistic.
It has driven the major funding for organized crime and terrorism, created and maintains a black market so enormous that it rivals the wealthiest industries on Earth, and which has become directly responsible for far too much of the vigilante violence in our communities. It encourages everyone who would dare to taste the forbidden fruit to live outside of, and develop disrespect and disregard for, the laws of our land.
Instead of seeing heroes among police officers, suburbanites like me grow up to become adults who fear law enforcement. We view them as potential threats, terrorizing patients who need medical marijuana and pursuing and persecuting cannabis consumers, while child rapists are given slaps on the wrist – some never spending a single day in jail, even for raping multiple children. And that only includes the small percentage of predators that are caught.
Additionally, NIDA reports indicate that survivors of sexual assault are 4-10 times more likely to abuse illegal drugs, than those who do not suffer abuse. Incarcerating non-violent survivors of rape for using drugs to self-medicate anxiety, depression and other symptoms of PTSD, while allowing their perpetrators to roam our streets with impunity, does not make us safer.
A legislator once challenged me on the issue of medical marijuana. He said that he didn’t want to support an amendment to a funding bill which would have protected medical marijuana patients. His reason for objecting, however, surprised me. He said that he didn’t want to single out marijuana from every other medicine. He wanted to see all drugs regulated equally.
This makes perfect sense to me. As a patient with Crohn’s Disease, who relies on medical marijuana to ease severe symptoms, I couldn’t really argue with his logic. I could only ask him whether he felt it would be a wise investment of our scarce resources to send the DEA to break down my door, terrorize my five young children, and haul me off to jail, just for taking my medicine? He had to admit that would be a very poor use of our resources, and I’m thrilled to say he’s supported the Rohrabacher - Hinchey Medical Marijuana Amendment for four years in a row.
I keep coming back to that meeting with the Congressman in my mind, because I’d very much like to see his vision come to fruition. By regulating all drugs equally, effectively ending prohibition once and for all, we could accomplish what the originators of prohibition first promised – actually reducing drug abuse and violent crime in our nation.
No longer can we afford to funnel tens of billions of dollars annually into a “War on Drugs,” which effectively ensures the perpetual funding of organized crime and terrorism. We must not waste the precious time of our law enforcement officers in chasing down the sick and dying who need medical marijuana, while child rapists roam our communities, knowing that their chances of even getting caught, let alone doing any time in prison, are very low.
Do we want to cut crime in our nation by half?
Do we want to eliminate drug dealing overnight?
Do we want our police officers spending our scarce resources to pursue people who prefer cannabis to cocktails, or do we have more important work for them to do?
It all comes down to our priorities.
To learn more about prohibition and why “cops say legalize drugs,” please visit: LEAP.cc.
Another site worth visiting on this subject is: medicalcannabis.com.
For more information about medical marijuana and prohibition, please visit: ParentsEndingProhibition.org (currently undergoing revision).
Erin Hildebrandt wears many hats. She's wife to Bill Hildebrandt, mom to five beautiful kids, activist, artist, legally registered Oregon medical marijuana patient, public speaker, and an internationally published writer. She co-founded Parents Ending Prohibition, and her writing has been printed in Mothering Magazine, New York's Newsday, and Canada's National Post, among many others. Erin has been interviewed for a front page story in USA Today, and she has been published in the American Bar Association Journal. Speaking as a survivor of child sexual abuse, Erin also appeared on the Geraldo Rivera show. She has also testified before Oregon Senate and House committees, and Maryland Senate and House committees. We are very pleased to feature the work of Erin Hildebrandt on Salem-News.com.
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