Proposition 36 Offers Easy Out For Offenders

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Apr 27, 2001.

  1. By Peijean Tsai
    Source: Daily Bruin

    Looks like "lax" in Los Angeles is not just the abbreviation for the much trafficked airport; lax also seems to describe how drug offenders will be punished under the passage of last November's Proposition 36, the California initiative that will place drug offenders into rehabilitation programs rather than in jails.
    Within the next month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be preparing a detailed outline for the July 1 implementation of the passed proposition, putting into effect what will be a new law that promises to turn around the world of drug criminals by curbing their addiction problems instead of brutally taking away their freedom.

    According to the terms of the proposition, drug offenders would undergo drug education courses, detoxification and other treatments for at least three months. After completion of these programs, the charges against the offender would be dropped.

    While such a program may help offenders step out of drug-centered lifestyles, the leniency behind the implementation of Proposition 36 overlooks the fact that doing, possessing or selling drugs is still a huge crime. Drugs are no longer horrible enemies that are leading to the degradation of society; rather, drugs have become a non-threatening and normal part of life.

    In past decades, drugs have often been associated only with distinct populations. With each decade, drug culture has predominately been limited to teens and young adults who embraced illegal substances as a form of rebellion or escape.

    In the 1960s, we had herb-smoking, peace-seeking hippies jaded by the Vietnam War. In the 1970s, drug use shifted to recreation, to disco clubbers who experimented with cocaine and intravenous drugs. Punk-rocker youths defying such icons as Reagan became the key drug abusers in the 1980s, and the 1990s boasted grunge rockers and reggae-listening Marley revivalists as the labeled drug population.

    While it would be presumptuous to say that in the past drugs were only limited to certain social and socio-economic groups, former labels of stereotypical user crowds contrast with what the media and film present today. The population of drug users no longer seem to make general distinctions among users since users are of all genders, ages and social clans. The way of the drugs seems to have permeated class and culture lines, leading to a homogeneous, laid-back drug culture where just about anyone can be a participant.

    Recently, the film "Traffic" exposed the ubiquitous usage of drugs in upper class, white suburban populations instead of perpetuating the stereotype that only inner-city minority groups and the "bad" eggs at American Generic High School use drugs. Unlikely abusers include a white, high school honor student and her friends who free-base cocaine and smoke pot, and an affluent La Jolla family man who secretly runs a drug cartel. This diffusion of drug usage from stereotypical groups to the "unlikely" crowd embodies the idea that society has developed a relaxed attitude about drugs.

    With this shift in who is doing drugs these days, the idea that "everyone is doing it" seems to have become the consensus of society, and this in turn has led to a more casual attitude about drugs as it has become just as common as drinking a glass of wine.

    Drugs have also crossed the borders of where they are normally used. No longer limited to parties, drugs are now part of those leisurely activities like resting after a long day. In last year's flick "The Cell," Jennifer Lopez relaxes with a joint after work as if she were having milk and cookies after a day at school.

    Real life has also taken part in this guilty enterprise of perpetuating the casual attitude toward drug use. The recent arrest of Aaron Sorkin, creator of television's critically praised "The West Wing," for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms spells out the idea that drugs are hardly limited to clueless teens or adults who do "bad things." Sorkin's saga shows that even Emmy-award winning writers with families can be regular abusers.

    Legal measures of the past several years have fostered this lax attitude toward drugs. California led the marijuana legalization race in 1996 when Proposition 215 passed, allowing the drug to be prescribed to treat terminal illnesses like cancer, AIDS and glaucoma. Since then, nine other states have legalized marijuana for medicinal uses.

    While federal law still dictates that possessing, growing or selling marijuana is criminal, such acts at the state level have worn down the strictness of this rule by allowing exceptions. Though states like Maryland and Arkansas have voted against initiatives to legalize marijuana, the frequency of the proposal on ballots since 1996 is remarkable, revealing that America is leaning toward a wider acceptance of marijuana usage. Just two weeks ago North Carolina introduced a medicinal marijuana bill in its General Assembly.

    Drugs are no longer seen as terribly lethal, as city councils in California now recognize the investigation of medical marijuana usage as a "low priority." Terminally ill patients of the Cannabis Buyers Club in Bay Area cities need only flash their membership card to law enforcement to smoke pot in public, as they are protected under California legislation as long as they have a doctor's approval.

    The Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Cooperative in nearby West Los Angeles legally operates to provide medicinal marijuana. Though limitations prohibit recreational use of marijuana, the fact that it can be smoked at all in public follows the idea that drugs are no longer entirely dangerous or prohibited, and so gradually they have become more mainstream.

    Even our own President Bush has evaded the question of whether he has ever used cocaine, implying that he may be guilty of doing so. In August 1999, he avoided the question during an interview for ABC's Nightline and was the only presidential candidate interviewed by the New York Times to completely ignore the question of his possible prior drug use.

    Despite these acts of avoidance and denial of a seriously dangerous drug like cocaine, the American public still elected Bush to be president, revealing that the public does not seem to regard drugs as an important issue when picking the leader of the country.

    Attitudes may be changing for the worse, but there is still hope for society's conscience. The implementation of Proposition 36 will not begin until July, and, in the meantime, hopefully the county Board of Supervisors will draw a plan to carry out the new law with harsh punitive measures and not overlook the fact that drugs are grossly dangerous and illegal.

    The tagline of "Traffic," featured on its movie poster, declares "No one gets away clean." This is exactly what the board should have in mind over the next few weeks.

    Drugs harm just about anyone directly or indirectly connected with them, and America should be careful about letting its attitudes get too casual about drugs because of this harm. Those who are convicted of drug related crimes should also not "get away clean" and putting them into rehabilitation programs without hard punishment might do just that.

    DRUGS: California leads nation in measures that point toward legalization of illegal substances.

    External Web Sites:

    Cannabis News

    Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Cooperative

    LA Public Health

    Source: Source: Daily Bruin (CA)
    Author: Peijean Tsai
    Published: April 27, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 ASUCLA Student Media

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