COLUMN: War on Drugs in U.S. has Backfired 

COLUMN: War on Drugs in U.S. has Backfired 
Posted by FoM on February 25, 2000 at 21:15:07 PT
By Mani Foroohar, Daily Bruin, U. Calif.-LA
Source: U-WIRE
 Everyone knows the parable of the emperor with no clothes. The significance of a child being the one to point out the emperor's nudity, as opposed to a sermonizing preacher or self-righteous intellectual, is simple to understand. Neither morality nor logic was responsible for stripping the emperor's veil of falsehood. All it took was the truth. 
One can't help but think of this when considering Gary Johnson, the Republican governor of New Mexico, who, despite pressure from power brokers at the top of his own party, has proclaimed that the emperor that is this country's war on drugs is not only naked to the world, but that its body is festering with the sores of moral decay and corruption. In the governor's own words, "The drug problem is getting worse. It's not getting better ... It needs to get talked about, and one of the things that's going to get talked about is decriminalization." He continues: "What I'm trying to do here is launch discussion ... I think it is the number one problem facing this country today... We really need to put all options on the table" (Albuquerque Journal, June 24, 1999). Not wishing to make a statement without providing viable ideas to support it, Johnson said that changing laws regarding the possession of marijuana would be a logical "first step" since pot is "probably the least dangerous of the identified narcotic drugs that we have" (Albuquerque Journal, July 1, 1999 and Hobbs News-Sun, July 2, 1999). Johnson is not simply grandstanding, as the facts of the situation point out clearly. Despite massive expenditures, the simple fact is that the war on drugs is a total failure. There is more, not less, drug-related violent crime in the United States today than 30 years ago. Far from protecting citizens, the war has spurred unwarranted searches, asset forfeitures and the imprisonment of literally millions of stable and productive Americans. Of course, many people have closed their eyes to the truth about the drug war for so long that they can't help but respond negatively to Johnson's common-sense approach. Given how many billions of dollars have been thrown into advertisements that criminalize all drug use without making any distinctions, it is no wonder that many people have trouble divorcing themselves from the illusion of righteousness. This is not a reflection on these people, of course, but a testament to the magnitude of the propaganda machine that has been let loose upon them. But no amount of propaganda can make a lie true, and examining the truth of just one tool of the war on drugs is sufficient to illustrate that it is not such a noble crusade. Civil asset forfeiture statutes allow law enforcement agencies to seize money and property without convicting, indicting or arresting the owners for any crime. Indeed, property can be seized even if the owners have been acquitted. Eighty percent of people who have property forfeited are not charged with a crime. Police are allowed to seize any assets that they claim to be involved with illicit drugs. Civil asset forfeiture is based on the concept that property that is allegedly connected to a crime is itself incriminating, and can be seized and tried in civil court. To challenge the forfeiture, persons who have their property taken must pay a bond of 10 percent of the value of their seized assets. Owners must prove by a "preponderance of the evidence" that their property is innocent of the charges, constituting a complete reversal of the "innocent until proven guilty" principle that our justice system is based upon. Many people, regardless of their innocence, cannot or do not pursue the expensive, lengthy and unpromising litigation process required to regain their forfeited property. The few who win back their property are not allowed to recover their legal fees. Financial assets are returned without interest. Nor can property owners recover money for the damage caused to their property by the government's actions or negligence. Unquestionably, this concept is in direct opposition to the supposedly inalienable rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Undeniably, it is a violation of the basic principles of human dignity used to formulate the Constitution. Irrefutably, it provides an almost irresistible temptation for police abuse. And this is one of the mildest forms of enforcement in the hands of the drug warriors. In light of such bleak evidence, it is clear that the drug war has created no winners, but an abundance of losers. The biggest losers are the American citizens, who have seen their cherished rights discarded and continue to suffer decaying schools, nonexistent or inadequate health care, and crumbling infrastructure in poor and rural areas. And still, billions of dollars are poured into a campaign that is nothing more than a ponderous artifact with no place in a free society. The drug war failed a long time ago, and it's time to let it die. That is the naked truth. (U-WIRE) Los AngelesPublished: February 25, 2000(C) 2000 Daily Bruin via U-WIRE  Copyright  1995-2000 Excite Inc. CannabisNews Articles On Governor Gary Johnson & Asset Forfeiture:
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