At Least Two Of The Seven Million Americans Behind Bars Are There For Drug Offenses

[Ed. note: Now, anytime I write about the schizophrenic and often brutal approach to drug offenses in the U.S., not to mention the wildly subjective and non-uniform way in which cases get handled, I get email insisting I must be a pro drug fanatic. Uh, no. A little pot was about all I ever tried more than once. I'm NOT pro drug but I am anti-drug war because a) it has not worked and never will, b)it probably destroys more lives here and around the globe than the drugs themselves, and with laws allowing for seizure of property with no proof and the feds cherry picking who they prosecute and persecute, the system invites corruption.]

Don't know if you bothered to read the rest of the wire service story - or my previous post on the topic - about the shocking rise in Americans behind bars, but if you didn't, there are some additional bits of information many of us find quite surprising.

More than a quarter of those in prison are there for drug offenses with the overwhelming majority of these are pretty low level and usually non-violent (some stats I've seen put it anywhere from 80-98%) drug crimes.

If in doubt, consider this: many of the laws related to drugs allow police and prosecutors to charge based on the weight of drugs they seize. A good example are the scores of people who get 10-20 year sentences or more based on the weight of LSD seized, with the blotter paper upon which the drop of LSD is placed making up almost the entire weight.

Even if you want to defend this particular point, understand that law books are filled with cases where far more than a medium like that blotter paper gets weighed. I remember one case where someone had hidden four ounces of marijuana in a portable TV; while the pot itself may not have gotten someone years in jail, the law enforcement folks decided to weigh the TV in which the pot was concealed which bumped this person into a federal mandatory minimum of at least 10 years.

Can we really afford an approach to drugs where the kingpins walk and do business as usual but the insignificant players go to prison for one, two, or more decades? Where we've destroyed whole countries like Colombia "fighting" the drug war when it's only gotten exponentially worse? When we invade Afghanistan claiming at least in part we'll kill the opium production (actually, the crazy Taliban had it pretty much under control before we landed) only to make the opium crop grow ten- or a hundred-fold every year? And where a lot of the funding for the drug war comes from corporations like alcohol and cigarette and prescription and herbal drug producers - and for-profit drug treatment centers - that simply want consumers to buy their drugs?