Two Myths of The Drug War

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Mar 12, 2001.

  1. By Arthur Cannon
    Source: Times Record

    There are many myths about the drug war, promulgated by both proponents and opponents. Here are two of them:

    Myth No. 1: Most of the million-plus drug law violators serving those horrendously long prison sentences without hope of parole
    are there for using or directly selling minor amounts of drugs. For the most part they are guilty of those acts, but that's not why they
    are in prison.

    Under federal law the maximum sentence for simple possession of any quantity of drugs (other than crack cocaine) is one year, and the mandatory
    minimum sentences for selling do not kick in until 500 grams are involved (five grams in the case of crack cocaine). Most state laws are similar.
    There are not enough people involved with those quantities of drugs to account for our inmate population growing from 400,000 to over two
    million in under 30 years.

    The large majority of drug war prisoners are there for violating the drug conspiracy laws. In the 1980s a simple one-sentence change made
    conspiracy to commit a criminal act the equivalent of the act itself, with the same penalties. Conspiracy is much easier and certain; guilt is
    presumed; innocence is not. Hearsay testimony is allowed (for the prosecution), and its truth is presumed. It has been broadly defined by the
    Su-preme Court to make merely having knowledge of a drug crime and not reporting it to be conspiracy.

    The main reason for charging conspiracy rather than actually selling, possessing or using drugs, however, is that the conspiracy laws now allow
    imposition of those dreadful mandatory minimum sentences on users and the smallest of sellers. By definition, knowingly buying an illegal substance
    has always been a conspiracy between buyer and seller. But a buyer is now presumed to know that the seller is a dealer, and can be charged with
    conspiracy for all the drug sold by that dealer, and be subject to the same penalties. That goes for all of a dealer's customers.

    Since judges no longer have discretion in drug sentences, the only way out is to cop a plea with the prosecution by snitching on others. Dealers
    routinely do that, and usually end up with a fine and short sentence, often just parole. The customers receive the mandatory minimums though,
    unless they snitch on others. Many do just that. And truth is not a prerequisite.

    A typical conspiracy victim is a woman whose husband is a major dealer with little if any involvement by her; she may not even be aware of it.

    He is caught dealing and drugs are found hidden in her home or car, and she is presumed to have been aware of his activities. She can be charged
    as a conspirator, even if he says she knew nothing (testimony of dealers is credible only as government witnesses, don'tcha know), and sentenced
    to 10 years and up – most likely up – without parole.

    The same applies to all of his customers. But because he has cooperated by snitching, he is let off with a fine and a few years, or even parole. His
    woman and customers have no one to snitch on, unless they lie. Many do. And truth is not a requirement.

    The only way she can establish her innocence is to prove she couldn't have known. A bit difficult if they've been living together.

    Not surprisingly, the female prison population is rising far faster than the male.

    Myth No. 2: The drug war is ineffective and irrational. To the contrary, it has been extremely effective and totally rational.

    The drug war was originally sold as necessary to save our children from the scourge of drugs, by going after the drug lords and major traffickers.
    But the stringent law enforcement soon required more prison capacity. Much more. That led to the prison boom, more than a thousand new ones
    built between 1980 and 2000 – one a week – and 1.5 million new beds. Prisons became an end in themselves.

    The prison-industrial complex developed – a confluence of interests including those building and staffing the prisons, bureaucrats enlarging their
    fiefdom, rural areas revitalizing their economies with the new prisons built there, politicians getting elected and reelected with their tough-on-drugs
    rhetoric while keeping the costs hidden, and other drug war profiteers – forming a so far unstoppable constituency behind the drug war.

    But prisons require prisoners. The drug war criteria became the body count – body years actually – rather than curbing drug use. The simplest and
    surest way to raise the body year count is application of the revised conspiracy laws. Concentrating on blacks and other politically impotent
    minorities reduced the political pressure against it.

    The war on drugs has become a war on people, mostly blacks. It is being waged for those most rational of human motives: money and power. And
    it is causing far more harm than any amount of drugs could ever do.

    Arthur Cannon of Phippsburg is a semi-retired construction specifications writer and a returning college student who is about to graduate.

    Source Times Record (ME)
    Author: Arthur Cannon, Phippsburg
    Published: March 9, 2001
    Address: 6 Industry Road, Brunswick, Maine 04011
    Copyright: 2001 Times Record Inc., ASC Inc.

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