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Giambra makes sense on drugs; electorate stunned.

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  High Office
Giambra stuns electorate by making sense

Why is that politicians only start telling the truth when their careers are over? Last week County Executive and most despised local politician Joel Giambra said that maybe we should think about legalizing drugs. The drug war has been a complete failure. Declared in 1972 by Richard Nixon, it has done little to control the use of illicit substances. So when the reviled Giambra suggested we should consider alternative ways to deal with the problems related to drugs, you might think he should be applauded for opening a much needed dialog. Of course, he has been lambasted instead.

Now, there’s something to be said for the idea that Giambra should just shut up and ride out his term before fading away into obscurity, but we have to admit—whatever his motives—this is the most sensible thing we’ve ever heard him say. And, according wnymedia.net blogger Buffalo Watchdog, this is not the first time he’s said it. Watchdog recalls Giambra suggesting marijuana legalization twice in 2004 during his reelection campaign.

As Watchdog also mentions, the worst part of the media coverage blasting Giambra for his progressive idea is the implication that he favors legalization of all drugs, as we at The BEAST do. This just isn’t true. As Giambra told WGRZ (channel 2), “he’s not talking about legalizing heroin or cocaine, but lower level drugs like marijuana.”

So why is the law enforcement community pretending that Joel’s handing out vials of rock to school kids? The first words of denouncement came from the lips on the ruddy, alcoholic-looking face of Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark, who said Giambra’s suggestion “probably is the most stupid idea I’ve heard in a long time.” We guess if Clark wasn’t busy with all those drug prosecutions, he might have to get around to investigating the corrupt cesspool that is our local government, and then he wouldn’t be so popular with his pals.

The rest of the higher-ups in the law enforcement community—Lt. Joseph Leo, an 11-year veteran in the Lackawanna Police narcotics unit, Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson, and Lt. Thomas Lyon of the Buffalo narcotics and vice unit—were quick to follow. The hollow law enforcement mantra was that drugs make their job harder.

Giambra responded perfectly, saying, “That is a traditional response from law enforcement. This has become a cottage industry in law enforcement, okay? It’s about overtime; it’s about court time; it’s about doing the same thing over again.”

Law enforcement insists on clouding the issue by arguing not against legalization of pot, but that of crack, which, again, Giambra hasn’t suggested. Knowing they’re beaten on the facts about pot, they resort to tired scare tactics.

In a Buffalo News piece on the subject (“Giambra advocates legalizing drugs,” Robert J. McCarthy and T.J. Pignataro, published, appropriately, on 4/20), every law enforcement official quoted argues against crack legalization, not pot legalization. Leo says, “People can’t afford what it costs to buy a bag of crack . . . so, for $10 the guy goes nuts.” Lyon conjures a gruesome tale of “Doctors, lawyers, kids, people from all walks of… huddled up in the corner of a crack house having lost everything they ever had. Legalizing it is not the answer.”

Legalizing what? In fact there are good arguments for legalizing all drugs, the first being that, despite the efforts of untold thousands of people and billions of dollars, drugs are plentiful and available. Just as prohibition of alcohol created an organized crime network centered on bootlegging, drug prohibition has created a massive revenue stream for gangs. Take away their business, and there would be a reduction in gang activity and gang violence. Take all of the non-violent drug offenders out of jail, and you’d have room for murderers and rapists who get paroled early because there aren’t enough cells to hold them all.

But Giambra’s talking about pot, not crack, and as far as pot goes, let’s face reality. No, pot’s not entirely harmless--it’s bad for your lungs, and overuse can make you...less than 100% effective. But nobody ever beat their wife because they smoked too much pot. According to the Department of Justice, 3 of 4 reported incidents of spousal violence involved alcohol. Pot makes people less, not more, violent, and as such it is infinitely preferable to alcohol—from a societal point of view. (In truth, booze is the real “gateway drug,” as drunk people are liable to try anything, including illegal drugs.)

More people are arrested for pot in the United States than for violent crimes, and more than 80% for simple possession. How does this make sense, when this president and the last one have smoked it? Weed’s illegality is like a running joke in this country, which produces countless songs and even some movies about it, and where celebrities joke around about getting high to audience applause. But we can’t pretend this is a negligible problem; it is really a massive injustice and a huge waste of law enforcement resources.

And that’s why law enforcement doesn’t want to hear it. There are two groups of people that make their living on marijuana prohibition. The smugglers and dealers making cash in the black market, and the cops and feds tasked with catching enough of them to stay employed (we’ll talk about the prison industry on another day). The people that take the drugs are customers to one and assets to another. One sells them the drugs, and the other justifies his paycheck by putting perfectly nice potheads in prison. The war on drugs is no longer a war; it’s a business enterprise.

But it’s easier to scare the public with images of their children reduced to pipe-sucking zombies than to logically address the issue at hand. Because when it comes down to it, there is simply no sound reason to arrest a kid and throw him in prison with violent maniacs because he smoked some weed. It’s goddamn barbaric, and everybody but the worst kind of fascist ignoramus knows it. It is lucrative, though.

“I’m just trying to stimulate a different kind of discussion to get people away from pretending,” Giambra said.

Nice try, Joel. But as important as this issue is, it’s also a subject that no elected official—except one who already knows his time in office is over—is willing to touch. So it’s unlikely we’ll see any progress for a long time.



Idiot Box by Matt Bors
Big Fat Whale by Brian McFadden
Perry Bible Fellowship by Nicholas Gurewitch
Bob the Angry Flower by Stephen Notely
Deep Fried by Jason Yungbluth

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