Before we get into the policies that Ralph Nader offers, let’s first learn a bit about what the highly respected and non-partisan International Resource Center has to offer. Maybe an unbiased viewpoint is needed here, don’t you agree?
The basic philosophy that Another Perspective has tried to teach is covered very well by the project’s “Key Point”;
U.S. antidrug policy historically has been coercive and has had racist and imperialist overtones. Policy is driven by political opportunism, not by considerations of effectiveness or justice.
The policy hasn’t reduced deaths, drug abuse, drug availability, or the spread of disease, and it emphasizes law enforcement instead of effective demand-control measures.
The drug problem must be managed, regulated, and controlled like other complex problems such as pollution or nuclear weapons.
Now, really, folks, how basically healthy and sane does that sound?
Where did we, as a nation, start to go wrong on this issue of individual rights? Well, in order to appear to be anti-drug in America while we used the issue to force Asian countries to bow before our “moral” rights, promoters of the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 had to convince Southern members of Congress that America needed to expand federal power over drugs. This was easily accomplished by playing into the Southerner’s well understood racism, using the lie that “cocainized” Negroes were the chief cause of the rapes of White women. This lie was also necessary since, even though drugs were widely used in America, very little crime was associated with the users.
During the Great Depression, the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act came into law, again using racism as its chief selling point. The same Mexicans who were vying with out of work Americans for the few agricultural jobs available, it was said, engaged in marijuana induced violence against Americans (another lie told often enough to be still repeated by Republicans). By the 1950’s, antidrug crusaders turned their lies eastward, promoting the lie that “Red China” was distributing heroin to undermine America.
The 1960’s gave those antidrug zealots lots of news time while they claimed that the entire nation was facing destruction due to the wide-spread use of drugs both at home by their own children and by the men and women they had sent off to kill people they had no argument with.
Now, the antidrug forces are being exposed as the failures they have always been. Consider the following conclusions from the project:
Current American drug policy does not meet and of its stated goals. Instead it is supporting two lucrative industries; drug enforcement and drug trafficking.
America’s enforcement-oriented strategy has generated millions of arrests and hundreds of thousands of prisoners who are overwhelmingly black or Latino.
Cost-effective treatment for hard-core drug addicts receives woefully inadequate funding and support.
The antidrug forces now are using the falsehood that drug users account for 80% of all crime in America. What they do not admit is that most drug users never commit any crime other than using or possessing illegal drugs. The fact that most actual criminals also use drugs shows not that every drug user is a criminal but, rather, that every person who chooses criminal activity as a life style also has little regard for the laws concerning drugs. The number of deaths from drugs has steadily risen, the number of drug dealers have remained fairly constant, and the availability of drugs has never been higher than in the late 1990’s. If this isn’t the definition of a failed policy, then I doubt that any government policy could ever again be deemed a failure.
What policies concerning drug usage does the project offer?
Reducing harm both from drugs and from antidrug policies is key to achieving a healthier, safer, more sober society.
Emotionally charged political discussion of drug policy must be replaced by honest study and rational discussion in the private sector.
In the absence of comprehensive control by means of licensing, taxation, and regulation of the drug trade and drug use (for example legalization), there is little likelihood that the drug problem will change significantly.
A RAND Corporation study exposes the degree that the current policies are a failure in terms that any Republican should be able to understand. Its analysis found that a 1% reduction in cocaine consumption could be achieved by spending $783 million in source nations, $366 million on international interdiction, $246 million on domestic enforcement, or just $34 million on treatment. Wow, folks, For those who whine on and on about their taxes, here’s a way to get a huge tax cut and still end up solving a real problem. How amazing would that be?
Finally, many evaluations of the current youth “drug prevention through abstinence” has repeatedly shown this path to be a completely and utterly ineffective. With 50% of America’s youth admitting to drug usage, abstinence can no longer stand in the way of an intelligent and thoughtful program of responsible use, such as that aimed at alcohol and driving. Even programs such as Big Brother/Big Sister, while having no direct action towards lowering drug use, still results in decreasing drug use among the children enrolled in these programs. ( 1 )
Gentle readers, we’ve seen the inaction by Bush and over reaction by Gore on this topic. Both will result in absolutely no decrease in drug usage, only an increase in prisons and cops and laws and on and on as ever before. What America needs more than anything else in this election is a candidate with a real mind that is driven by reality and not just reflecting a fantasy reality of poll numbers and focus groups. What America needs is someone intelligent, thoughtful and progressive who will try to solve the problem, not abuse the abusers.
That brings me right back to the main topic of this article, the campaign of Ralph Nader for President. What does he have to say on the subject of drugs and our failure of a war on our own citizens?
Nader cites the statistics that, in 1980, America spent less than $5 billion on drug control and jailed 50,000 Americans for non-violent drug offenses. In 1999, America spent more than $18 billion and jail more than 450,000.
In the last ten years, the federal government, alone, spent about $150 billion fighting drugs.
Almost two-thirds of those Americans who seek drug treatment have none available.
Drug offenders make up 58% of federal prisoners.
Last year, 450,000 Americans died from smoking cigarettes, 150,000 from alcohol, 100,000 from perscription drugs, and only 5,000 total from heroin and cocaine.
Nader is calling for a “new strategy for combating drug abuse that places a heavy emphasis on treatment and less on jailing non-violent drug users.” Gosh, doesn’t sound familiar? A call to treat the problem as exactly what it is, a medical and societal problem and no longer as a law enforcement problem. ( 2 )
During a Q&A at the Philadelphia Youth Conference, he reminded the audience that, “You don’t treat nicotine addicts as criminals; you don’t treat alcoholics in this country as criminals. Why are you treating drug addicts as criminals instead of treating them as patients bringing all the problems to the surface so that we can treat them?”
Whoa, again! What a rare and beautiful idea! Treat the problem within the person rather than put the problem and the person in prison where, as we all know, life is easy and rehabilitation easy to access.
Nader also makes the point that, “The war on drugs has got no standard of failure attached to it. There is no way of telling that their policies are failing.” He also makes another, less understood detail, in that one must, “... always distinguish between pharmaceutical drugs and street drugs. There are a lot of young people in this country that are over medicated and over drugged.” ( 3 )
Gosh, gentle readers. Where do I begin? Ralph Nader offers the nation a new and far more logical path when confronting the issues of drugs in America. Rather than just continue the failed programs and hateful and mean spirited policies that have done nothing but ruin millions of lives through the law, lives that were not being ruined by the drugs, Nader is offering to steer our nation back to the ideals of freedom from government, a obligation ofttimes shrilly demanded by the right when their toes are in danger of being stood on.
In this area, gentle readers, Ralph Nader stands far above the silliness that Gush and Bore continue to inflict on America. With Nader in the Oval Office, this nation can awaken from its long, gruesome nightmare of the War on Americans Who Use the Wrong Drugs.
Elect Nader. Elect a sensible human being, just this once.
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