Okay, let’s cut to the chase.
The problem many people have with Congressman Ron Paul is his call for the decriminalization of marijuana. This is not his cause celebre’, as my friend Roman Godzich points out, just a logical progression of his notion of personal freedom and personal responsibility. But it is right there in his New York Times bestselling Revolution, for the whole world to read.
He presents the traditional arguments that William F. Buckley and other conservative thinkers have made. Namely that the present arrangement has triggered the same unintended consequences that came with the Harrison Act and the prohibition of alcohol, that it has created a black-market industry that has funded and empowered a massive criminal class. Yesterday it was Al Capone and 3000 street thugs. Today it is fully equipped armies that control entire provinces of Latin American countries. But congressman Paul takes the argument further.
Paul invokes the brilliant conservative, Thomas Sowell, to show the racist nature of the laws and their racist evolution. Every night of the week sirens wail and gun fire erupts in neighborhoods across America. I can take you to those neighborhoods. Good families live in terror, behind closed doors, never venturing out in the streets. The wild rules the night, partially funded by illegal drugs. And this has been going on in America for several generations now. It is immoral. No mother or child should have to endure another single night like that. But there is more.
Ron Paul raises an issue that no other politician dare raise. The fact that the prisons are full of drug addicts who will be imprisoned for life, for no other reason than that they are mentally or emotionally addicted to Marijuana. He is referring to those laws we call “three strikes and you are out.”
As a candidate for congress in Arizona in 1992, I argued effectively for such laws. It meant that anyone, who is convicted of a crime, three times, would have to go to prison for life. The idea was that 5% of the population are habitual criminals who commit 95% of the violent crimes so let’s get them off the streets. The judges won’t. Let’s force it. Some would argue that it has worked.
But in the process, because of our laws, the prisons not only filled up with the criminal class we were looking for, it also swept into the net thousands of ordinary men and women who were not violent and whose life sentences came as a result of a marijuana joint or even being in the car with someone else who had a marijuana joint.
Now, I have never smoked, inhaled, tasted or even touched marijuana. My children have never had a problem with it. I don’t know of a cousin or even a friend who has had a problem with it. But we have had some alcoholics in the family. Two of my brothers died in their forties from it. We have experienced anorexia and emotional problems of all sorts. We are addicted to computer games. (Level 70 Hunter in World of Warcraft and waiting for Warhammer to start as well as Sid Mier’s remake of Colonization.) But thank God we didn’t have to add prison and family separation on top of those experiences. I just don’t think prison is the place to deal with Marijuana use.
In the 1970’s I published ON MAGAZINE and wanted to get the feel for the American prison system. So I spent a weekend as part of a visiting religious group in a Federal Penitentiary on McNeil Island, Washington. I can tell you right now. Anybody can go to prison. Anybody. Of course, everyone I met in prison claimed to be innocent but occasionally they would point out someone else and say something like, “No, he really is innocent. I mean all of us agree he didn’t do anything at all.” Almost always they were referring to a Hispanic man who was driving the car or in the car with others who possessed Marijuana.
Our society takes a cruel view of those in prison. We forget them and throw away the key. We hire people with limited education and at low wages to watch over them. I have never heard of a politician, taking up their cause. They can’t even vote. But this is about justice, not just law. And Ron Paul is right to raise the issue. According to one source, the United States has 2 million people in prison. Only Rwanda has a higher percentage of the population. Much of it is due to these drug laws.
Canadian Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, who was chairman of a two year committee study on the subject, declared that ”scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue.”
Among the finding of the Senate report? Marijuana is not a gateway to the use of hard drugs. Marijuana use does not lead to the commission of crime. Marijuana users are unlikely to become dependent. Marijuana use has little impact on driving. Liberalizing marijuana laws is unlikely to lead to increased marijuana use. Marijuana prohibition poses a greater risk to health than marijuana use.
Ron Paul is right. We need to look at these laws and make some common sense decisions. “The law cannot make a wicked person virtuous,” says Ron Paul. “According to Aquinas, God’s grace alone can accomplish such a thing.”
Clearly, in our attempts to get it right, to wage war on drugs and minimize their impact on our children, we overstepped and got it wrong. And we’ve hurt a lot of people in the process. Now we haven’t the political courage to face down public ignorance on the subject and begin the tedious, thankless work of re-education. Once more Ron Paul is the voice crying in the wilderness, calling us back to our senses and speaking out for those thousands of forgotten men and women behind bars who have no voice or no hope. They are the victims or our good intentions, our human sacrifices to keep the demons from our own doors and our own children. But it is wrong.
There you have it. Wead’s take on Paul’s take on weed.
Watch Doug Wead talk about Ron Paul on a FOX NEWS panel, Saturday, August 16, 4:30 EST,
Read the following three Doug Wead- Ron Paul classics:
The Mouse That Roared: why Ron Paul won the election?
McCain will be in St. Paul but St. Paul will be in Minneapolis.
How a GOP conspiracy continues to cheat Ron Paul.