Thursday, April 2, 2009

So Legalize It, Already

Illegal drugs are paralyzing the US and Mexico. The former is already swamped with users, dealers, traffickers, addicts and their families whose demands on society cost billions annually. The latter, Mexico, is fast becoming a narconation that has lost the power to govern itself.

In the US, the social services, hospitals, jails and prisons, federal, state and local police authorities are overwhelmed by the direct and ripple effects caused by the flood of illegal substances--heroin, cocaine, marijuana, crack, meth. In Mexico, the drug cartels' war for supremacy have forced the country to mobilize its military in a futile effort to stem the tide of violence and resulted in thousands of murder. The illegal arms trade in both countries is a booming, multi-million dollar business that encourages home break-ins and the the looting of armories and gun stores.

Interdiction does not work. It's believed that for every pound of substance seized by the law, another nine pounds is brought in. Prison sentences for those caught and prosecuted do nothing but fill the prisons to overflowing, turning out thousands of hardened criminals. The fact is, no matter what is done in either country, the flow of drugs across the border will continue. Like water, it will seek its own way and find its own level.

The reason for this is simple. There will always be a demand, because drug addicts will stop at nothing to get their supply. Addiction is an unrelenting force. Ask anyone involved with an addict and the tales will amaze a listener. Husbands and fathers sell their wives and daughters for crack. Women sell themselves for heroine or cocaine. A boozer will drink away the rent and sink to using Listerine or vanilla extracts. If his esophagus and stomach have already been destroyed by alcohol, he will ingest alcohol through enemas. No amount of fear, education, 12-step programs, jail or rehabilitation will ever persuade a drug user to stop unless that individual is ready to do so. This is why addicts are willing to gamble their lives away by using dirty needles or buying poisoned drugs. It's why the fabled war on drugs has been a failure of epic proportions that has left a landscape littered with corpses and misery. This is why we have reached a crisis point, and why the only feasible solution at present is to legalize drugs.

Legalization will not solve all the problems, but it will diminish many of them and free up billions of dollars that can be used to develop a workable distribution and tax system. It will radically lower the number of inmates serving time for non-violent drug-related crimes. It will end the cycle of violence intimately associated with the trade. It will lower the incidence of AIDS, diminish prostitution in large and small cities, and put out of business the hordes of criminals who deal in human misery.

Is it an ideal solution? No, of course not. We don't live in an ideal world. But less than a century ago, Prohibition was launched to rid the country of alcohol. It failed miserably and created a greater demand than had existed before, and that's food for thought. You cannot deny what is wanted, and that includes drugs. But you can legislate and control its use.

We've lost the war; lets work out a peace that will benefit the people and not the criminals.

Here's installment 76 of Wasted Miracles.

Chapter 20

Later that day, Orin said, “Well, Colin, you make a great alcoholic but a piss-poor human.”
Marsha was pouring tea. She looked up. “Hush, Orin. He feels bad enough. You don’t have to make it worse.”
Orin threw her a menacing look. “You stay out of this, Marsha, it’s between me and him. Just ‘cause you married an alcoholic doesn’t mean you know everything about ‘em. Colin’s smart enough to know that even on your best day, you don’t fry bacon naked.” Orin lit his pipe, spit a piece of tobacco out. Marsha’s eyebrows knit. She opened her mouth, thought better of it, shook her head, walked out of the kitchen.
“Now she’s mad at me too.” Orin puffed furiously, his tomato-red face enveloped in a blue cloud of smoke. Colin sat on a chair and stared out the kitchen window. It was raining, mist covered the tree tops in Orin’s back yard. The last two days’ events seemed very far away but by concentrating he could still feel the tingle of the nightstick in his hand.
“You listening to me, Colin? Or am I just flappin’ my gums.”
Colin turned to face his sponsor. “Sorry, Orin.”
Orin rocked back and forth in his wheelchair. “I used to boast to the other old farts about you. I’d tell ‘em that after sponsoring god knows how many losers, people that went out after a week, or a month or a year, I’d finally been asked by somebody who looked like he had his shit together. And you did, in your own fashion. So maybe that’s why I’m taking all this kinda personally. I shouldn’t, I know that.” He paused, spat out more tobacco. “Now I’m gonna have to tell these guys you went out, and they’ll all give me a bunch of program crap tryin’ to make me feel better, and I just hate that, people tryin’ to make me feel better...” His voice drifted off.
Colin watched a crow being chased by a blue jay. The smaller bird harassed the bigger one’s tail feathers. The jay’s wings beat furiously as it dove and swooped but the crow seemed unconcerned, unwilling to evade the attack. It struck Colin that there was an analogy to be drawn somewhere in there but he didn’t pursue it. What he wanted was a drink.
He wasn’t surprised by the urge, by the fact that it had resurfaced full blown after seven years of abstinence. He had expected that. What did amaze him was his own reactions. Even as he sat in Orin’s house, as Orin’s voice droned rising and falling in the background, Colin felt a liberating sense of normalcy come with the unwanted desire, a sentiment of things being as they should be. He had expected a war of emotions, but there was nothing more demanding than a minute unease he could attribute to an overdose of sugar and spirits. The dull headache, the heaviness he felt in his shoulders and legs, the vague sourness that flashed in his gut, all were old friends.
Orin said, “I know what you’re thinking.”
Colin nodded. “I’m sure you do.”
Orin closed his eyes. “I was in and out for years before I got tired of it. For you, though, it’s new. You’ve never had a relapse. There’s a big part of your mind that’s saying that you can do this until all this crap is laid to rest, and then you’ll be able to stop. And there’s a little part--the sane part--that’s saying it’s bullshit. That little part, deep down, it knows how good you are at foolin’ yourself.” He touched a match to his pipe. “Truth is, a man like you, in great health, exercises all the time, you’ll be able to last awhile. You’ll be able to pace yourself better than some other asshole whose idea of exercise is pumping the old lady once a month. You’ve got a lot of willpower and it’ll kick in, and that’ll be self-defeating too ‘cause you’ll think maybe you don’t have a problem, maybe you never had a problem. But that little voice is gonna stay there, Colin, you’ll never quite kill it off.” He paused, turned his chair around, added, “But shit, Colin, you’re welcome to try, you know. I ain’t gonna stop you, wouldn’t even if I could. Ain’t my job.”
Colin found his jacket, draped it across his shoulders. He looked out the window again and saw Orin wheeling his chair on the ramp that led to the backyard. The quarter-acre lot was criss-crossed with concrete walks so Orin could get around and check on his tomatoes, his fishpond, his three apple trees that never seemed to bear fruit larger than cherries. Bolted to the back of his sponsor’s chair was a bright yellow golf umbrella.
The clock on the kitchen wall said it was just past noon. From the living room the television set put out bouncy, muted music, Colin guessed it might be a game show. He wanted to leave the house quickly, quietly, but the front door was across the living room and Marsha was there, while the kitchen door led directly to the backyard and to Orin. He had selected the kitchen as the safer exit when Marsha called, “Colin? Catherine’s here.”

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