Letters to the Editor

From the week of November 29, 2001

Drug Bust

Praisin' Kane:Regarding federal judge John Kane (Stuart Steers's "Disorder in the Court," November 22), I have three words for this man:

God bless him.

It amazes me that so few in his position see what is painfully obvious: The "War on Drugs" is a colossal waste of money and manpower; hypocritical (as long as booze is legal), unconstitutional (see "pursuit of happiness"), and used by law enforcement as a license to steal (oh -- sorry -- the word the cops use is "seize") and freely vent their hostilities on what are essentially the modern-day witches, with a zeal not seen since the dawn of the civil-rights movement.

Kudos to Judge Kane for having the balls to speak out against the perpetuation of this mass injustice. More power to him.

Melinda Brindley
Denver

The needle and the damage done: As one of the growing minority of law-enforcement professionals who see the present system as clearly not working, I can adamantly state that Judge Kane is basically right on target. In fact, the USA is straddling the middle between the two poles of effective drug control and interdiction. If you examine the policies of Western European nations (such as England, Holland, Switzerland and Sweden) that deal with drug abuse as a medical-sciences criteria, the problem is more controllable. The massive pyramid scheme of users and addicts bringing in more users and addicts by their self-sustaining sales is economically halted. Treatment is the primary criteria, and criminal prosecution is the last possible resort.

In Asia, treatment is also available and intensive. Heroin addicts using five to six times the potency of American addicts are weaned with acupuncture and intensive "re-orientation." The most prominent key to their version of the War on Drugs, however, is severe and brutal retribution to the traffickers. Executions or long sentences to horrible prisons (by American standards) are common and mandatory. When you get off the plane in these countries, they will start off with pictographs of your execution if they catch you bringing drugs into their countries.

Both of these formats work more effectively than the USA's vacillating nonsense, but as the USA is not prepared to emulate Malaysia or Singapore with massive executions, the European methods may be more applicable.

Judge Kane is also clearly correct in his assessment of the prejudicial nature of the "war." African-Americans account for 13 percent of the population, 12 percent of all cocaine usage and in excess of 80 percent of all arrests, prosecutions and incarcerations. The upper-middle-class white kid from southeast Denver caught with a couple of grams of cocaine will get deferred prosecution or judgment and "treatment programming"; the black kid from northeast Denver caught with a couple of rocks will likely get Cañon City. The key is the undercover narcs who deal with it all: It's just so much easier to catch the black kids involved than the white kids.

But what Judge Kane may be missing, or at least not describing in this interview, is the massive economic stake in the perpetuation of the "war." This is not just the fabulous fortunes available in any kind of prohibition and illegalization to any "entrepreneur"; it is also the massive perpetuation of new businesses and power bases that are created in the process. These include everything from the contracts of urine-testing labs to mandatory drug treatment programs for unwilling and unready users; from SWAT and police paraphernalia manufacturers to prison and jail architects and construction companies. The job security of lawyers, law-enforcement agents (myself included), criminal-justice professionals, government bureaucrats and politicians all attests to the real addiction to drugs in terms of the response we call the War on Drugs.

Max Winkler
Englewood

The evil that men do: Thank you, thank you for your article on Judge John Kane. He is a gentleman who knows what he is talking about. Drug prohibition makes no constitutional sense at all. Almost all of the ills that our countrymen blame on drugs are caused not by the drugs themselves, but by our stupid drug laws. Drugs are chemicals; many are prevalent in nature and are neutral. They are not evil, nor are they the source of evil. Only man can be evil.

Evil is a judgment call made by the superstitious and the abysmally ignorant. Marijuana is not a drug to fear, nor is heroin. Heroin is the treatment of choice to maintain those addicted to it, and marijuana is 100 percent harmless.

The idea that the government should or will ever control the flow of drugs in our society by prohibition is nonsense. Prohibition is a fascist concept and has no place in our democracy. We, the people, will always have our drugs, and nothing will change that.

I am as old as Judge Kane's father, and I can still remember what the sweet air of freedom was like before 1937. Judge Kane, the "people" are with you!

Joseph E. Hopwood
Quantico, MD

The fix is in: I applaud Judge John Kane for his honesty concerning this dark chapter in American history and our ill-fated experiment with drug prohibition. Unfortunately, all Americans suffer the consequences for the mistakes of a very few, and the War on Drugs is probably the clearest example of this type of policy. There's little question that American drug laws are not so much an attempt to control illegal drugs as they are a way to support two thriving industries, forever: The anti-drug bureaucracy and the illegal drug manufacturers and importers reap hundreds of billions of dollars of profit from their symbiotic relationship.

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