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