The Will Of The People: Stop The Drug War

††The Will Of The People: Stop The Drug War

Posted by FoM on November 21, 2000 at 11:17:07 PT
By Arianna Huffington†
Source: Arianna Online†

The ``will of the people'' is all the rage these days. If it were a movie, they'd be lining up the Oscars. If it were a stock, it would be soaring. If it were a toy, it would be this year's Furby. It's getting even better buzz than ``the rule of law.'' ``This is a time to honor the true will of the people,'' said Al Gore last week, after earlier claiming that all that mattered was ``making sure that the will of the American people is expressed and accurately received.'' 
I'm glad everyone is now singing the praises of the innate and infinite wisdom of the American voter. But while the people's choice for president may come down to a smudged postmark on a rejected absentee ballot, there's at least one issue on which the American people provided a crystal clear indication of what their will is: the war on drugs. They want a cease-fire. Two weeks ago, voters in five states overwhelmingly passed drug policy reform initiatives, including Prop. 36 in California, which will shift the criminal justice system's focus from incarceration to treatment. The measure garnered more than 60 percent of the popular vote, 7 percent more than Al Gore received in the state, and 18 percent more than George W. Bush. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a mandate. In fact, since 1996, 17 of the 19 drug policy reform initiatives have passed. But despite this rather unambiguous expression of the popular will, politicians have repeatedly failed to honor it. When the people of California, for example, voted in 1996 to allow the medical use of marijuana, then-Gov. Pete Wilson called it ``a mistake'' that ``effectively legalizes the sale of marijuana,'' while the federal government went to court to overturn the wishes of the electorate. But perhaps this year, with the margins of victory growing enviably higher, politicians are beginning to see the writing -- smudges, dimpled, hanging and otherwise -- on the voting booth wall. When Prop. 36 passed despite being solidly opposed by the California political establishment, the response of Gov. Gray Davis, who had campaigned against it, was: ``The people have spoken.'' And thank God, because it's in Davis' state that their voices will have the greatest impact since a third of California's inmates are behind bars on drug charges. Under Prop. 36, up to 36,000 nonviolent drug offenders and parole violators are expected to be put into treatment programs instead. The initiative earmarks $120 million annually to fund these programs, as well as family counseling and job and literacy training. With its shift from high-cost imprisonment to low-cost, high-common-sense treatment, Prop. 36 is estimated to save taxpayers more than $200 million a year -- and an additional half a billion dollars by eliminating the need for new prisons. As UC Berkeley professor Ruth Wilson Gilmore pointed out, ``California has spent more than $5 billion building and expanding more than 23 prisons in the past 20 years, while only one new university has been built from the ground up.'' At the same time, voters in Utah and Oregon passed by enormous margins -- 69 and 66 percent, respectively -- initiatives designed to make it harder for police to seize the property of suspected drug offenders. Just as significantly, all proceeds from forfeited assets will now be used to fund drug treatment or public education programs instead of to fill the coffers of law enforcement agencies. Both measures were backed by people from across the ideological spectrum concerned with property rights, civil rights and racial justice. And in Nevada and Colorado, voters passed initiatives making marijuana legal for medical use -- joining Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, post-election editorials in papers across the country reflected the public's radical rethinking of the drug war. Newsweek even devoted its election week cover story to ``America's Prison Generation,'' about the 14 million mostly black or Latino Americans who will spend part of their lives behind bars -- the huge increase being largely the result of drug war policies. ``The future of drug policy reform,'' said Ethan Nadelmann, who heads The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, ``will be at the state and local levels, where people are searching for pragmatic solutions to local drug problems. The White House and the new Congress should stay tuned.'' In a further indication of a shift in the political wind, a prominent member of Congress, Benjamin A. Gilman, R-N.Y., the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, last week suddenly withdrew his support of our $1.3 billion drug war aid package to Colombia, citing military abuses there as evidence that the U.S. is embarking on a ``major mistake.'' As for our two presidents-in-waiting, they have said remarkably little about the drug war -- other than that they plan to get tougher on it. But if either candidate enjoyed the support that drug reform did, he'd be packing boxes now. The resounding success of drug policy reform initiatives makes it clear that whoever ends up occupying the Oval Office had better change his tune if he intends to do more than pay lip service to honoring the will of the people. Discuss this column and more in the Forum: ddddArianna OnlineAuthor: Arianna HuffingtonPublished: November 20, 2000 1158 26th Street, P.O. Box 428Santa Monica, CA 90403email: arianna ariannaonline.comCopyright © 1998 Christabella, Inc.Developed and hosted by BOLD NEW WORLD Website: Articles & Web Sites:TLC - DPF Campaign For New Drug Policy Articles - Arianna Huffington Articles - Proposition 36

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Comment #9 posted by dddd on November 26, 2000 at 02:02:12 PT


 Thank you Walter.It's good to see you here...dddd
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Comment #8 posted by Walter Gourlay on November 26, 2000 at 00:57:12 PT:

End the drug war

dddd: You are right on man! I agree with you 100% 
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Comment #7 posted by Frank on November 22, 2000 at 13:13:39 PT

The Drug War - Kill Them to Save Them?

The drug war is a total failure. The politicals donít give a damn what the American people want or vote for. Most Americans are fed up with the Drug War. The Government Authorities donít believe in treatment. The only treatment the U.S. Government believes in is a prison cell, shooting people in the back or killing peasants in Latin America. Itís time for All Americans to stand up againstthis attack on our Bill of Rights, on the lives of our children and families. 
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Comment #6 posted by MikeEEEEE on November 21, 2000 at 20:24:02 PT


And give up the alcohol franchise, I doubt it.
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Comment #5 posted by romper on November 21, 2000 at 19:38:13 PT

the will of what people

I dont think our gov gives a damn about the will of the people. For example I don't think two many parents are going to be happy about shelling out 150.00 in fines and court cost when their 13 year old boy is caught with ciggerettes. And why not start sending our youth off to juvenile hall as soon as they ae born because sooner or later we now they will do something WE THE PEOPLE don't approve of. Think about this how much longer before the alcohol companies start comming under fire like cigerette  companies have here of late? ?????????????????
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Comment #4 posted by dddd on November 21, 2000 at 16:58:20 PT

Hippies civil rights

 I'm a hippie,since the sixties,and I consider the purveyors of the war on drugs guilty of hate crimes against American Hippies. The drug warriors make skinheads,and the klan look like rookies.The leaders of this war have made one of the biggest organized hate groups of all time.And it is all done under the color of law. Legalized hate,,,,indeed.....dddd
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Comment #3 posted by MikeEEEEE on November 21, 2000 at 15:37:32 PT


Senator_Snort (cute name) and mememe, it's time to unplug from the system, relax my friend.
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Comment #2 posted by mememe on November 21, 2000 at 14:24:09 PT

ya right

I like the idea of prop 36. All it will truly accomplish isan ease of overcrowding in the prison system. Think about it! How the hell is some nasty junkie going to stop doing drugs just because they get busted? Just decriminilize drugs. How much worse could it get in this country? The politicians and government don't care what the voters want. The stock market is crashing. The blacks are still bitching after all the handouts they recieve. People with a pot charge can't get financial aid to further their education and get a decent job. Immigrants are flooding the country in record numbers and taking jobs from qualified US citizens. You can't even send your kid to school without the fear of one of their classmates opening fire on the class. Gasoline prices are unreasonable high. And just think about it, all the drug war propaganda and drugs are entering the country in record weights. Personally I hope Bin Laden blows this god forsaken country the hell up.
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Comment #1 posted by Senator_Snort on November 21, 2000 at 14:07:33 PT

ignorant people should obey will of officials

> had better change his tune if he intends to do more than pay lip service to honoring the will of the people. Er, well, that's true, when it comes to situations where honoring the will of the people means that I stay in power, or get more power. In the case of drugs, however, I feel that we ought not to practice medicine by referendum. We have to get tough with drug kingpins and drug abusers. We need to take America back from the hippies and potheads and LSD-smoking counterculture weirdo longhairs. Thank you for voting for me, yet again. 
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