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Tradition, Prejudice, or Extreme Stupidity?

British actor Russell Brand has an excellent rant about the death of US actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the stupidity of drug prohibition. You should go read the whole thing; it is short. But here is just one paragraph to entice you to go read it:

Countries like Portugal and Switzerland that have introduced progressive and tolerant drug laws have seen crime plummet and drug-related deaths significantly reduced. We know this. We know this system doesn’t work – and yet we prop it up with ignorance and indifference. Why? Wisdom is acting on knowledge. Now we are aware that our drug laws aren’t working and that alternatives are yielding positive results, why are we not acting? Tradition? Prejudice? Extreme stupidity? The answer is all three. Change is hard, apathy is easy, tradition is the narcotic of our rulers. The people who are most severely affected by drug prohibition are dispensable, politically irrelevant people. Poor people. Addiction affects all of us but the poorest pay the biggest price.



  1. Mike wrote:

    What else can we say but, “he’s right.” Our drug laws are both stupid and counter-productive for any reasonable goal for drug laws.

    Friday, February 7, 2014 at 10:47 pm | Permalink
  2. ebdoug wrote:

    The person to get opinion from is Family Court Justice Marilyn O’Connor mother of Philip Seymour Hoffman. A few years ago, she said she would allow a homeless drug addict to stay out of jail if the drug addict would get herself fixed and stop having babies all the time that became wards of the state.
    I have neighbors next to me who both have fried brains from drugs. The husband from illegal (served time in prison) the wife from legal drugs. No short term memory at all. Sad to watch.

    Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 5:36 am | Permalink
  3. PATRIOTSGT wrote:

    I don’t know what the best solution to this problem is, but I do know we need to try something different. I do know in our system that small time users in general do not get much if any prison time, at least not in my state. Distributers on the other hand get much lengthier sentences. One possible solution might be that anyone convicted of substance abuse (just a user) be sentenced to rehab, with a vacated jail term if they violate the terms of the agreement. It’s probably been tried before but maybe not so consistently. I’d rather spend the money on rehab then the cost of prison.
    For the dealers and distributers if it’s there 1st offense sentence them to a trade school, rehab, military service, peace corps or something similar. If they are a repeat offender or caught with an weapon then jail. But in jail I think we can do a better job of training inmates on job skills for their eventual release.

    I don’t know if any of these have been tried or if they’d work, but if we give this strategy 20 years like the war on drugs and it doesn’t work then we try something new.

    Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink
  4. ebdoug wrote:

    Have we not already learned from the opium dens of the 1800s?

    Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    I don’t think the question is whether or not drugs are bad. Brand himself admits to being a recovering drug addict. The question is whether prohibition helps or hurts solve the drug problem.

    Similarly, I think abortion is not a good thing, but it is definitely none of the government’s business.

    Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  6. ebdoug wrote:

    Except the government supports those who are ruined by drugs. And the government supports those totally unwanted babies such as the ones (eight or so) born to the drug addicted homeless prostitute.
    And the government is us so I guess that it is our money collected in taxes. As much as I don’t approve of Abortion, I don’t wanted those poor miserable unwanted children to be born. And I don’t want to support the people with back problems because they smoked (reason why my neighbor is on prescription drugs and now on SSI disability)
    Those people get in the way of my taxes going to education, parks, infrastructure.

    Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink
  7. Michael wrote:

    Let’s not forget the racial implications of our current policies. Statistically speaking, being black makes you 3 times more likely to go to jail for a non-violent drug offense than if you were white; this statistic even holds up when you account for confounding factors, such as socioeconomic status. This, in turn, creates a racist criminal justice system, due to the likelihood of recidivism (i.e., once you are convicted of drugs, you are more likely to be convicted of a future crime).

    I find that the only rational approach would be to completely eliminate even the possibility of jail time for possession and/or use. Take all of the financial and other resources allocated toward current criminal prosecution and shift them toward (a) education and prevention, (b) rehabilitation support, and (c) social services that address the causes (e.g., poverty, depression) of drug use.

    Monday, February 10, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  8. JOHN wrote:

    the solution is ….we are waiting your opinion (:

    Monday, February 10, 2014 at 6:19 pm | Permalink