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Drug legalization revisited

Building off my recent drug legalization letter, the natural response from people who have never experienced the myriad of problems associated with the drug trade is to rebuff any call for drug legalization. In addition, criticisms of drug legalization abound but of course many offer no solutions. “It’ll never work” isn’t really a substantive argument built on solid academic grounds. Other people respond with, “Well, don’t commit the crime.” I do not disagree, but every person’s life circumstances differ.

Are you suggesting that a child growing up in a household with prevalent drug use should then be arrested and aggressively prosecuted at age 18 for making the mistake of drug possession or selling? How do we account for this learned behavior? What behaviors did you learn growing up that might differ from present-day values or the law, yet you believe is “not a big deal?” How many central Pennsylvania teenagers drank a beer at hunting camp with their dad and now have done this with their children? But this example is different, of course, they will claim. How is furnishing alcohol to a minor any different than selling marijuana? Yet, marijuana is likely to be legalized far sooner than underage drinking.

Narrow-minded people often make the “lock drug users and sellers up because they are bad people” argument. Of course, their hypocrisy would be on full display if they had the unfortunate occasion to be caught up in the criminal justice system where they would complain of unfairness and “don’t the cops or the prosecutors have more important things to go after?” The confluence of variables influencing one’s life decisions are not easy to unpack, though.

While we learn in criminology that people have “free will,” it’s not that simple. What we think of as “free will” can be influenced by social, environmental, and psychological factors. Should these factors negate personal responsibility? No, not necessarily. However, growing up in generational poverty, for example, impacts one’s life decisions far more than those living in the large single-family homes with manicured lawns who never interact with persons outside their social bubble will ever realize or understand.

While some may question it, I am a law enforcement supporter, but I am also a huge critic of this area. I’ve done the job, and I know the gray area that is the War on Drugs. By no means am I saying I am the authority on diversity either, far from it. However, I worked in inner-city Baltimore for over four years arresting hundreds of mainly poor African American citizens for drugs. Fifteen years removed from the city, I recognize the issues the drug war perpetuates in underserved communities.

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, Table 29, Estimated Number of Arrests (US 2019), there were a reported 10,085,207 total arrests in the U.S. that year. Across the Part I and II offenses listed, there were 1,558,862 drug arrests, the most of any category other than “All Other Offenses,” a catch-all for other nonsense arrests.

What positive measurable outcomes did this achieve? How much of the War on Drugs financial windfall did special interest groups pocket? With this in mind, then, I would like to pose a question: So how IS the War on Drugs going for our country, and what is your solution?

DAVID BJORKMAN

Williamsport

Submitted via Virtual Newsroom

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