Drug Laws Criticized in Speech 

Drug Laws Criticized in Speech 
Posted by FoM on April 28, 2001 at 10:30:56 PT
By Ken Fountain, Senior Staff Writer 
Source: Daily Cougar
America's "war on drugs," rather than reducing drug abuse in the nation, has instead created a system in which profits from drug trafficking have "turned an illness into an epidemic," a California Superior Court judge said in a speech in Houston on Thursday. James P. Gray, a self-described "pretty conservative" Republican, spoke at a luncheon benefiting the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, an organization that promotes a re-evaluation of the nation's drug policies. 
Gray, who as a prosecutor in the late 1970s briefly held a record for his district's largest drug prosecution (75 kilos of heroin), began speaking publicly in 1992 about what he perceives are the problems with U.S. drug law. He recently wrote a book on the subject, Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed, and What We Can Do About It. "Drug abuse is the most critical issue facing the United States today," Gray said. "Recognizing what our present policy is, I would think, should be our top priority." Gray said that there are three critical prongs of U.S. drug policy. "In my view, the present policy in the U.S. is, number one, a program of massive prisons, which has been and is a massive failure," he said. Gray said his home state of California ranks second, behind Texas, in number of incarcerated citizens, and the United States ranks first in incarceration among all nations in history, including Apartheid-era South Africa and the former Soviet Union. Those numbers are driven by legislatively imposed mandatory sentences that prevent judges from using their own discretion in adjudicating cases, he said. "Number two is the demonization of drug users," he said. "This process usually means it's 'them' as opposed to 'us.' If 'they' are involved in drug usage, let's put them in prison. But if 'we' are involved in drug abuse, we need treatment." Gray noted that actor Robert Downey, Jr., has recently been placed back in prison for relapsing into drug abuse. "That makes as much sense as it would have to put (former First Lady) Betty Ford in prison for her alcohol abuse." Gray said the third prong of U.S. drug policy is "a total prohibition of discussion of this issue, and people are very successful at carrying out that prohibition." He said that anyone who tries to discuss other options is accused of "waving the white flag of surrender, saying that we don't think that drugs are any big deal." "Well, that's not true. I hate these drugs so much, and the damage that they cause in our society, that I can no longer keep quiet. We must reduce those harms, not exacerbate them," he said. "But prison is not the answer." Gray said that "an extreme policy of total prohibition" only empowers the drug traffickers, since it drives up profits, thus increasing the availability of illicit drugs, particularly to teenagers, who can gain access to drugs more easily than they can to legal but regulated drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. "There must be a better way, and I'm here to say that there is," Gray said. "We have options, and those options are being employed successfully by other countries around the world, especially in Western Europe." Gray described a pilot "drug maintenance" program instituted in Switzerland in 1995 in which hard-core addicts are allowed to come to clinics, staffed by physicians and nurses, to receive a safe dosage that allows them to remain functional. In less than a year, the Swiss researchers found that in the neighborhoods surrounding the clinics, drug usage had dropped, since addicts weren't forced to push drugs to others in order to support their own habits. Also, the health of the addicts under treatment had materially improved -- AIDS and hepatitis were reduced because of the use of clean needles, and overdoses were avoided because the potency was controlled. And since the addicts were able to live functionally, holding down jobs, crime in those neighborhoods was reduced. After these results, the Swiss minister of health expanded the program from five to 20 cities, Gray said. When "moralists" who opposed the program were able to put it up to a national vote, it was approved by 70 percent of the voters. "Why should we not do that here?" Gray asked. "The only reason I have ever heard presented is the tired argument that 'it sends the wrong message to our children.'" "And my answer to that is -- hogwash! Take your children to the clinic, don't hide it from them. Every person in that clinic will tell your children, 'Don't do what I've done. Look at me. I'm a wreck -- I'm 30 years old, and I look like I'm 50,'" he said. "It's the best education we could give to our kids." Gray also advocated the medicinal use of marijuana as pain relief for certain people, such as cancer patients suffering from the adverse effects of chemotherapy. Voters in nine states, as well as the District of Columbia, have approved ballot measures legalizing marijuana for such purposes. "It's inhumane to deprive people of this medicine," he said. Note: Republican judge advocates rehabilitation, not incarceration. Source: Daily Cougar (TX)Author: Ken Fountain, Senior Staff Writer Published: April 27, 2001Copyright: 2001, Student Publications. Contact: dclettrs pop.uh.eduWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:Drug Policy Forum of Texas Policy Forum of Texas - Austin Brown Declines To Welcome Judge Our Drug Policy Failing? Don't Ask
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Comment #4 posted by jeffsnyder on May 01, 2001 at 13:20:11 PT
get this man in office
never had a judge as a hero but i do now.
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Comment #3 posted by anon420 on April 29, 2001 at 08:45:44 PT
Geee im 30 somethin and look 20 somethin but i never do "hard drugs"  love mj
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Comment #2 posted by Charlie on April 28, 2001 at 16:16:18 PT
Say it again.
..nice speech. Makes so much sense. Europe leads the way.
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Comment #1 posted by jAHn on April 28, 2001 at 12:26:34 PT
I'd like to see CNN try to get this guy on
Unfortunately, this guy'll end up being called a "space-cadet" or something of the likes, as usual- by "the people who count"{Literally,historically- miscount}. It's a shame to know that this is more than likely to slip into Obscurity where Noone Important can read it... But then again, Weirder things have been known to occur throughout this herstory {history} of American Behaviour. I am near hopeless, but still dreaming. 
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