by Robyn Short
The War on Drugs has led the United States to become the most imprisoned nation in the world. Although the United States represents only five percent of the world’s population, we imprison 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, creating lifelong marginalization of those who have spent time behind bars.
The War on Drugs has had a devastating impact on American society. Following are some quick stats on the impact the War on Drugs has had on Americans, especially Americans of color:
- 2.3 million people are incarcerated in the United States; more than 6 million are under some form of correctional supervision;
- 70 percent of the US population is white; 12-13 percent is black;
- 70 percent of the prison population is black;
- 60 to 80 (depending on the state) of individuals who are incarcerated are serving time for nonviolent crimes (a high percentage of which are drug-related);
- White Americans buy and sell drugs at a higher rate than black Americans, and yet the drug war is waged almost exclusively in communities of color.
While drugs are not a ‘black American’ problem or for that matter even a ‘poor American’ problem, incarceration is just that — a problem faced primarily by Americans of color and poor Americans. Politicians, the creators of the War on Drugs and its seemingly greatest proponents, have been using illicit drugs since the dawn of this nation and continue to use drugs even after passing prohibition laws. There is a huge disparity in this nation in how we treat individuals who use, abuse, and sell drugs depending on whether they are white, black, wealthy and/or poor. If politicians truly perceived drugs to be “public enemy number one” as Nixon so boldly proclaimed at the advent of this terrible human rights travesty, perhaps the hypocrisy would not be so evident and the consequences of drug use and distribution would be without disparity.
Politicians & Prohibitionists On Drugs
Mike Crapo, Idaho Senator
An advocate for the War on Drugs, specifically advocating against the use and distribution of meth in his home state of Idaho, Crapo is a self-proclaimed teetotal, which is confusing since he was arrested and pled guilty to DUI charges in Arlington, Virginia in December 2012. Crapo was sentenced to 180 days in jail, all of which were suspended, although his driver’s license was suspended for a year.
Willie Gandara Jr., Texas County Commissioner
Texas County Commissioner Willie Gandara took a strong stance against drugs, declaring them as bad for America, which makes his February 2012 arrest for federal drug trafficking particularly awkward. Gandara spoke publicly against El Paso Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s congressional bid due to O’Rourke’s advocating for legalizing marijuana. In November 2012, Gandara was sentenced to six and a half years in prison — a light charge considering many people go away for life on much lesser charges.
Dustin Grubbs, Mayor of Poulan Georgia
Poulan was arrested for possessing a bag filled with 57 pills (a variety of Vicodin and Ocycontin). He also was in possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime (intent to sell drugs). Released on $25,000 bond in January for possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute, Grubbs is still the Mayor of Poulan.
Steve Katz, New York Assemblyman
Although voting against the legalization of marijuana in 2012, Steve Katz was nonetheless caught smoking marijuana. Calling the arrest an “unfortunate incident,” Katz vowed to not let the arrest interfere with his commitment to serve his constituents. Ditto to that 2000 DUI arrest. Too bad the millions of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals whose voting rights have been stripped for life for similar offenses will never have the opportunity to vote this man out of office.
Mel LeBlanc, Councilman for Arlington, Texas
A February 2012 police report shows the results of an investigation on Mel LeBlanc, Arlington Texas’ interim deputy mayor. The charges? Meth, marijuana and prostitutes. The investigation was the result of his wife calling 911 seeking help from authorities. LeBlanc had been released from rehab just two weeks prior, and yet his wife was able to turn over to the police a bag of crystal meth she found in her husband’s possession. She also claimed he was on K2 the day she called for help.
Danny Sparks, Mayor of Olive HIll, Kentucky
Mayor Sparks was arrested in November 2012 for selling pot to a police informant in the parking lot of an elementary school. Sparks was charged with felony trafficking in marijuana within 1000 feet of a school. He asked for the public’s understanding that he had made a mistake — a mistake millions others have also made but that’s consequences resulted in felony charges and serious time in prison.
Ted Vick, South Carolina State Representative
Arrested in May 2013 outside of the of House of Representative’s parking garage, Ted Vick was seen struggling to maintain his balance while walking and trying to drive while clearly under the influence of something. Although he refused a breathalyzer, the officer who noticed Vick’s inability to drive in a straight line smelled alcohol strongly on the representative’s breath. No stranger to being on the wrong side of the law, Vick has a 2012 arrest for DUI and unlawful possession of gun from May 2012. Alex Stroman, directer of the South Carolina GOP claims that Vick should, “resign his seat so that he can finally get the help that he so clearly needs.” Too bad the millions of people incarcerated in prisons across the US did not have someone advocating for treatment in the same manner Stroman is for Vick. No, they are just locked up instead.
(source: The Fix)
The bottom line?
Politicians should hold themselves to the same standards of the law as they expect every other American to. And, if they think the consequences of their actions are too severe, perhaps the consequences are also too severe for every other American as well.
Still Not Convinced?
And if you are not fully convinced of the hypocrisy of the War on Drugs and the clear evidence that drug use does not exclude a person from becoming a successful contributor to society, read on. The following lawmakers have admitted to using drugs (the names in bold are US Presidents):
Franklin Pierce, President of the United States; Zachary Taylor, President of the United States; George Washington, President of the United States; Bruce Babbitt, Governor of Arizona, Secretary of Interior; Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City; Bill Bradley, Senator from New Jersey; George W. Bush, President of the United States; Jack Conway, Attorney General of Kentucky; Paul Cellucci, Governor of Massachusetts; Lincoln Chafee, Senator from Rhode Island, Governor of Rhode Island; Lawton Chiles, Senator from Florida, Governor of Florida; Bill Clinton, President of the United States; Steve Cohen, Member of the House of Representatives; Andrew Cuomo, Governor of the New York; Howard Dean, Governor of Vermont, Chair of the Democratic National Committee; Joseph DeNucci, Auditor of Massachusetts; Mary Donohue, Lieutenancy Governor of New York; John Edwards, Senator from North Carolina; Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives; Al Gore, Vice President of the United States; Gary Johnson, Governor of New Mexico; Joseph P. Kennedy II, Member of the House of Representatives; John Kerry, Senator from Massachusetts; Ed Koch, Member of the House of Representatives, Mayor of New York; Richard Lamm, Governor of Colorado; Connie Mack III, Senator from Florida; Kyle E. McSlarrow, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy; John Miller, Member of the House of Representatives; Susan Molinari, Member of the House of Representatives; Jim Moran, Member of the House of Representatives; Evelyn Murphy, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts; Richard Neal, Member of the House of Representatives; Barack Obama, President of the United States; Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska; George Pataki, Governor of New York; David Paterson, Governor of New York; Edward W. Pattison, Member of the House of Representatives; Claiborne Pell, Senator from Rhode Island; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California; William Scranton III, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania; Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice ; Bill Thompson, New York City Comptroller; Peter G. Torkildsen, Member of the House of Representatives; Jesse Ventura, Governor of Minnesota. (Source: wikipedia)
While I do believe that recreational drug use and drug addictions are harmful to the emotional, mental, and spiritual health of the individuals who partake in them, I am unclear as to how recreational drug use is harmful to society. What I am very clear on is the extreme harm the War on Drugs is inflicting on society and the individuals the government is systematically locking up and seemingly forgetting about.
Robyn Short has ghostwritten numerous books and is the founder of goodmedia press and goodmedia communications. She is a student of A Course in Miracles, a self-study system of spiritual psychotherapy. Robyn is a passionate believer in peace and social justice. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Psychology from Auburn University, a Masters of Liberal Arts from Southern Methodist University and will graduate with a Masters in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution from Southern Methodist University in 2014. Robyn is the author of Prayers for Peace, and the forthcoming children’s book Peace People, co-authored with Nanon Williams. Robyn is available for book signings and to speak on topics of peacebuilding and nonviolence, especially as it relates to these core issues. Contact Robyn by email.