As usual, a drug warrior does not get it.

Houston police chief Charles McClelland, Jr.:

Police officers tend to target violations that are visible and that create a sense of crime and disorder. In Houston, open-air drug dealing and possession tend to generate citizen complaints.

I’m going to guess that the “open-air drug dealing and possession” also “create a sense of crime and disorder.” But it’s worth asking why those activities do that when, say, smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer on the front porch do not. Alcohol and tobacco, while perhaps not quite as dangerous as something like cocaine, cause enough damage on their own. But unlike marijuana and cocaine, alcohol and tobacco are still legal.

You see what I’m getting at, right? Arguably the biggest reason, if not the only reason, McClelland’s “sense of crime and disorder” is there is the illegality of the substance in question. There’s going to be that perception of wrongdoing even when no one’s actually doing anything wrong. He and those who agree with this approach might argue that illegal activity attracts criminals who by definition commit more illegal activity. And this is true, but the same could be said of those who were smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer on their front porch if alcohol and tobacco were illegal, as alcohol once was.

As for this:

The public needs to know the health risks associated with marijuana use and the amount of marijuana use that causes psychological and/or physical impairment. In other words, the public needs to know when drug use becomes an immediate public danger.

We need to know the health risks? You mean we don’t already, after more than 25 years of Just Say No, DARE, and assorted other anti-drug programs? “Do it again, only HARDER!” Yeah, that sounds about right.

And speaking of that whole illegality of alcohol thing. You remember reading about that, right? About how it was a resounding failure? Why haven’t we taken any lessons from that?



5 Responses to “As usual, a drug warrior does not get it.”

  1. Dwight Brown Says:

    I don’t disagree with you, but I do think there’s another factor that’s worth considering.

    With alcohol, you can slip your 40 into a brown paper bag, and that gives you plausible deniability from the police and the people around you. Nobody knows, or needs to know, what you’ve got in that bag; could be a soda, could be a beer, could be a pint…

    There’s no brown paper bag for dope.

    And anyone who has watched “The Wire” (not sure if you have, sir) knows where I’m going with this:

    Bunny Colvin’s “Brown Paper Bag” speech.

    (I think you can watch this out of context without having the rest of the series spoiled for you.)

    • southtexaspistolero Says:

      That bit about “police work that’s actually worth the effort” was great. I have to wonder how things would be different if there was a “brown paper bag for dope”…

      • Dwight Brown Says:

        I actually kind of think I can imagine that.

        A few years ago, I read what I think is one of the wisest and sanest books I’ve ever read about the criminal justice system.

        At one point, the author talks about drugs. He notes that the police frequently bragged about seizing “$50,000 worth of drugs”; and, that when he was a child, “$50,000 worth of drugs” would have filled a horse-drawn wagon.

        He goes on to observe that, yes, there were people addicted to narcotics. And generally, they could find a pharmacist who would give them enough to tide them over while they did some sort of productive work, like sweeping the sidewalk in front of the shop or some other thing.

        If heroin was $5 for a shot instead of $50 or $100 or whatever it is today, would we see the kind of criminality and other things we see today? Or would parents come home at night, fix dinner, eat with the kids, put the children to bed, and then take a shot? Much like they do now with scotch?

        Is that, in some way, a brown paper bag for drugs? Make it legal = make it affordable = remove the social stigma?

        By the way, that book I mentioned earlier? It is called “The Court of Last Resort”. It is a non-fiction book written by Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason. And it was published in 1954.

  2. mick Says:

    Hear, hear!

  3. Quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore (#2 in a series). « Whipped Cream Difficulties Says:

    […] the smartest and sanest writing about crime and criminal justice ever. There are things in there (especially about drug policy) that still hold up nearly 60 years after the book was […]

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