Happy 40th, Drug War

All those years, and we’re no closer to winning

The author is 60 and lives in Forest Ranch. He says he’s had a bad attitude regarding the Drug War ever since age 18, when he spent four days in the L.A. County main jail for possession of a roach.

On June 17, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s announcement of his so-called “War on Drugs.” It has proven to be our most colossal blunder since slavery.

Nixon commissioned his secret army, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and applied it against his political enemies on the left: the non-white, as well as those pasty anti-war hippies. Also, he mounted the Shafer Commission to give some legitimacy to his efforts.

The Shafer Commission’s report, “Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding,” indicated that criminalization of cannabis was the wrong path to follow. Nixon refused to read the report.

Now we have an august body assembled as the Global Commission on Drug Policy, releasing its report saying the same thing. And once again we have a president rejecting it out of hand, his minions citing a small sack of statistics that show how we are actually winning the war.

Meanwhile, reports of the DEA quietly licensing cannabis cultivation by big pharmaceutical firms are leaking out. It is a fact that our one federal legal cannabis grow is upping its output 900 percent this year.

Our leadership has been able to coalesce around the central lie of prohibition—that it might actually work. It is a fool’s errand, well suited to gumming up the wheels of a great people.

After serving honorably in the Vietnam conflict, I felt ill about the sellout of my values for what turned out to be a lie. Never again. I became and remain a conscientious objector to the War on Drugs.

End it! We euphemistically refer to illegal drugs as “controlled substances.” Prohibition yields any control of the substances to the underworld. It is the rawest form of capitalism: They won’t card your kids.

Regulate, educate, and of course tax them. A chit in the package of drugs (think cigarette pack) would entitle the user to admission to a treatment-and-recovery situation. This will require the use of the “L” word: legalization.

Be brave, Americans. We can do it! It should probably start with California sticking its thumb in Uncle Sam’s eye, repealing all of the state’s drug laws retroactively. Our prison-crowding problem is solved.

We pretty much solved the air-quality issues in L.A. by ourselves; we dropped our tobacco addiction in half by ourselves: The evidence is that we Californios can do it.