A Message to the Super Committee: You Failed, Now Legalize Drugs and Save Billions

 The Super Committee's failure to do the very thing it was designed to do, balance the budget, speaks volumes about our leaders and political system.  But rather than debate austerity and spending, I offer you a loophole to escape the polarized narrative of taxes and public services, all the while pushing billions of dollars back into the economy: Legalize drugs. 

Attorney Joy Freeman-Coulbary's blog post on the Roottoday explained why the embarrassingly unproductive Super Committee should accept its failure and end the draconian, horrific continuation of Jim Crow we now call The Drug War:

Save our souls and our nation by legalizing your way to deficit reduction is my recommendation to the Super Committee members attempting to curb our national debt and bolster the economy.

Ending the war on drugs—pragmatic, sensibly humane and post racial—would alone save our nation billions of dollars. The Cato Institute, which examined the budgetary impact of ending the drug war in a recent report, finds that a whopping “$88 billion could be saved each year if prohibition [of drugs] were ended.”

Not swayed by dollars and cents? Then think about Rocrast Mack, of Alabama, who has become a poster child for everything that’s draconian and wrong about the drug war and our nation’s non-rehabilitative penal system. Mack, 24, was serving a 20-year sentence for a petty drug crime and savagely beaten to death by prison guards after a minor disciplinary infraction. Prior to being killed, Mack appealed to the sentencing judge for greater leniency, citing the birth of his son. His appeal was denied.

The United States has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prison population. And  nonviolent drug offenders account for aboutone-fourth of all inmates. What's more, people of color are much more likely than whites to be arrested and sent to prison for drugs, despite similar rates of drug use. 

The War on Drugs has not only selectively imprisoned Americans for nonviolent crimes, but it has also destroyed the futures of those whose educational and employment opportunities are lost following a drug conviction.  What's more, the war on drugs has helped to militarize police forces and strip Americans of their rights. As SWAT teams bust down doors with flash-bang grenades and Americans are racially profiled, stopped-and-frisked for drugs, our freedom shrinks.  And it's all for chemicals the government has arbitrarily declared illegal: While some of us take anti-depressants, sleeping pills, and pain killers, others smoke cigarrettes and drink alcohol or coffee. Others smoke marijuana or use cocaine, and they go to jail.

As Freeman-Coulbary said:

The war on drugs has undermined our sacrosanct Fourth Amendment right to privacy, to be free from warrantless searches and seizures. The Supreme Court over the last two decades has upheld significant exceptions to the warrant requirements in drug cases.

As a result, we have allowed considerable narrowing of our collective and cherished privacy rights from government, quasi-government, and even private institutional intrusion. As private prison profiteers continue to ratchet up profitable lobbying efforts against decriminalization, Mack serves as a powerful metaphor for the callousness that imbues our over- all political climate, as well as the Super Committee’s current deadlock.

Their inability to act could result in result in higher taxes for middle and working class Americans and end extended long-term unemployment benefits.

Indeed the failed war on drugs is a watershed for our legislators’ failure of conscience to turn away from big money interests to adequately respond to Americans evolving needs for adequate health care, jobs, and equal opportunity to advance.

It is time to act. The drug war is a disastrous failure, as is the Super Committee. So, please, take the money used to oppress us and put it into programs that will educate and uplift. 

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at November 23, 2011, 10:21am

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