Friday, October 05, 2007

SF Mayor declares war a failure

By Libby

No, not the one in Iraq. Via Jeralyn, I see "San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed the nation's war on drugs a total failure and insisted the crime rate would go down if the government spent money on treatment as opposed to jailing people with drug problems."

"If you want to get serious, if you want to reduce crime by 70% in this country overnight, end this war on drugs," he told reporters at City Hall on Thursday. "You want to get serious, seriously serious about crime and violence end this war on drugs."

The mayor maintained local jails are overcrowded with people incarcerated for drug offenses, taking up room that could be used to hold more violent criminal offenders. He said violent criminals with lengthy felony records are being turned loose, too often.

San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey, who has run the county jail for 28 years, told CBS 5 that 60 to 75 percent of the 2,000 inmates currently held are there for drug crimes or have underlying substance abuse problems. He also agreed with Newsom.

Newsom goes on to denounce his political peers for political cowardice in failing to address the issue but stops short of advocating the obvious solution. Legalization of drugs. For that level of common sense and courage you have to go to LEAP, a coalition of former law enforcement authorities who travel the country promoting the only sensible policy to combat drug abuse.

The war on some drugs is the mother of all failed wars. Marijuana prohibition alone, costs taxpayers $41.8 billion annually in law enforcement expenses and revenues lost to government at all levels. Our jails are stuffed with non-violent offenders. According to the FBI's figures, in 2006 829,627 marijuana arrests were made, the majority of them for simple possession of a plant.

When we include the "hard drugs" the price we pay for this failed policy rises astronomically and has no appreciable effect on the use, abuse or crime related to drugs. Meanwhile, the prohibition warriors simply refuse to acknowledge the failure.

But Gary Delagnes, who heads the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said ending the war on drugs wouldn't bring an end to crime. [...]

"When we see the homicides in San Francisco, I mean this all centers around drugs," Delagnes continued. "This is gangs and drug violence, this is money. It's all about money all the time."

Well, that's exactly the point. The obscene profits created by an ilicit black market supports criminal enterprise. If you eliminate the black market, there wouldn't be turf wars and violent conflicts over clandestine deals gone bad. When is the last time you heard about a violent shootout over who gets a Beefeaters gin distributorship?

In a related piece, Chris Reed talks to our drug czar, John Walters, whose very existence depends on prohibition. Walters claims we are making progress in this war. The same claim that our prohibitionists have been making for the last six decades.

Walters also claims that Milton Friedman's 1972 treastise on drugs has been proven wrong but offers no proofs. Undoubtably because he has none. Reading the clips that Reed provides, Friedman's piece is just as timely today as it was 25 years ago. The only thing that has changed is the name of the drugs currently in vogue.

I don't post much about the WOsD anymore because after five years at it, I feel like I've said everything that can be said. But it's worth repeating in an election season in the hopes that our political "leaders" will finally step up and do the right thing. The people have long since figured out we're throwing good money after bad in this so-called war. Just as with our other failed war, it's well past time for our politicians to stop the "tough on drugs" posturing and find a better way forward.

Leagalization won't solve everything but it would go long way towards mitigating the damage our long failed policies have caused.

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