------------------------------------------------------------------- The Drug War - Violent, Corrupt And Unsuccessful (Transcript Of Speech By Joseph McNamara, Former Police Chief Of San Jose, California, At The Commonwealth Club Of San Francisco) Date: Mon, 2 Feb 1998 17:35:21 -0800 (PST) From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Darral Good) To: email@example.com Subject: HT: Police chief speech Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Sender: email@example.com Source: Vital Speeches, June 15, 1997 v63 n17 p537(2). Title: The drug war: violent, corrupt and unsuccessful. (speech given by former Police Chief of San Jose, California, Joseph McNamara)(Transcript) Author: Joseph McNamara Abstract: Former Police Chief of San Jose, CA, Joseph McNamara declared that the US government's war against drugs, including DARE, are ineffective. Instead, prohibitive measures such as incarceration, drug free workplaces and communities make sure that drug users can no longer rehabilitate themselves. Subjects: Narcotics, Control of - Addresses, essays, lectures People: McNamara, Joseph - Addresses, essays, lectures Electronic Collection: A19980122 RN: A19980122 Full Text COPYRIGHT 1997 City News Publishing Company Inc. Address by JOSEPH MCNAMARA, Former Police Chief of San Jose, Author, Fellow, Hoover Institution Delivered to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, March 26, 1997 What is the principle behind the United States international war on drugs? It is a blurry picture. There is no clear line between the dangerous molecules that are made illegal and the safe molecules that we decide may be used under proper supervision. The most dangerous drugs of all are alcohol and tobacco, which kill close to a million Americans a year. If we look at all illegal drags, cocaine, heroine, LSD, PCP it is estimated that they kill between 3,000 and 20,000 Americans a year. It is quite clear that we are not reacting to the danger of drugs. Why have we waged this enormously unsuccessful and costly war against drugs? About 2 centuries ago certain groups in the United States began lobbying efforts to attach a criminal and amoral stigma to drug use. They succeeded in getting drugs outlawed. How did we get into this situation? England used to rule the world and waged two wars to force China to accept opium. The use of opium was popular in England at the time and without the stigma that it has today. So opium was sold to China and subsequently caused problems there. When the American missionaries came to China they found the effects very destructive. They began to lobby England and other countries to stop trading opium, and they began to campaign aggressively in America. The Congressional Record is quite clear. Drugs were not criminalized in part because of complaints from the police or medical authorities.They were criminalized because religious groups got their version of sin put into the penal code. In 1914 they succeeded in getting the Harrison Act passed which is the cornerstone of the legislation in the United States. Doomed to Fail Prior to 1914, the United States had a drug problem in the sense that many people were using drugs without being aware of the dangers. But there was no international black market, no organized crime involving drugs, none of the terrible violence and word-wide corruption that we see today. Since drugs were criminalized we have all those things. Estimates are that the per capita use of drugs is twice what it was before drugs were criminalized. I am not in favor of drug use. I think all drugs possess danger and require regulation. What I am suggesting is that we have two extremes. On one side we have the U.S. war on drugs; on the other side we have pre-1914 total market freedom for any drugs. Neither of these extremes is the answer but in between there are a lot of things that could occur. The war on drugs cannot succeed. About $500 worth of cocaine or heroin in a source country, Mexico, Bolivia, Columbia, Peru, will bring as much as $100,000 on the streets of an American city. All the cops and prisons and armies of the world can't stop this; it is an economic force that is simply unstoppable. The profit is there because of prohibition. You all know what happened when the United States, from 1920 to 1933, prohibited alcohol. We had violence, corruption, the formation of an organized criminal structure which is still with us today. Because our thinking about these substances is frozen a century ago we are unable to rationally look at what the drug war is doing to America. An American Problem The war on drugs has not reduced drug use. The United States says that it will reduce or eliminate foreign production of drugs. If you have followed the news over recent months you know that this is ludicrous. The fact is that many of these countries are poor, and drug profits are greater than their gross domestic product. During the presidential campaign, George Bush went to a summit with the presidents of Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia. They told him bluntly that they were not going to destroy their countries in a civil war because we Americans can't control our demand for drags. That is a very legitimate point. This problem exists because millions and millions of Americans are willing to spend billions and billions of dollars to purchase something even though it is illegal, even though they have been told that it is dangerous for their health. The entire illicit supply of drugs for the United States could probably be grown in about 50 square miles, almost anywhere in the world. With that in mind, the government's contention that they can stop foreign production of drugs is ridiculous. The government has to lie to itself, it decertifies Colombia for aid because Colombia wasn't trying hard enough to prohibit drugs, and then they increased aid. These countries hate our hypocrisy, our overbearing methods; they think this is an American problem and that we are very disrespectful of their sovereignty and indeed we are. Strategy two was that since we can't stop production of drugs, we seize them at the border. The government estimates that they seize about 10 percent. One indication of how unsuccessful this is, is that despite seizures of tons of cocaine and heroin, the street price remains stable. The supply already here is so great that even vast seizures of drugs does not cause a rise in the price. Early in the drug war, the government said that tough enforcement increased the price of drugs and made them harder to get. Those on the front lines of policing said that it didn't make it harder, but it made it more expensive and made drug users commit more crimes to get money for the drugs. That strategy of interdiction also fails because of our vast borders, the enormous volume of international trade, and what is left of the Constitution's prohibitions against unlawful search and seizure. Massive Incarceration The third aspect of the government's strategy is massive incarceration. We now have 1.6 million people under penal sanction in the United States, the greatest number in our history. Many are in for long, mandatory sentences of 5, 10, 15 years in prison. Many serve 80 percent of that time. Judges increasingly do not have discretion. This imprisonment falls most heavily on minorities. There is an old racist stream that runs through drug prohibition. The Congressional Record when the missionaries were calling for making drugs illegal is quite explicit. They talked about their efforts to Christianize the "yellow heathen" and to save the "Inferior races." There was also testimony that these substances made black men rape white women. In 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act made marijuana illegal with the same racist commentary and the same inflated erroneous rhetoric that these drags cause violence. The government's own study indicates that only 4 percent of homicides take place because someone is out of their mind on drugs. The other violence associated with drugs is the drug trade, the commerce between drug dealers, and the culture of drug dealing. Drug arrests of non-whites are four to five times greater than for whites, despite the fact that about 80 percent of drag crimes are committed by whites, and this is reflected in the prison population. Ominous Future We have this ominous future before us, people doing mandatory sentences who some day will get out. What chance are they going to have in life? We have drug free work places so nobody with a drug record could get a job to begin with. We now have drug-free housing; if your son or nephew gets busted for pot someplace else, you will be evicted from public housing. We have created this monster for ourselves; we virtually have ensured that people that we have punished for drug use can never rehabilitate themselves. The other problem is the enormous corruption. We invaded Panama because President Bush called General Noriega an "international thug." As soon as the troops had secured the city a Drug Enforcement agent put handcuffs on General Noriega, who is now residing in a federal prison for 40 years. A year later that same DEA agent was himself arrested for stealing $720,000 in laundered drug money. The corruption has reached into our federal law enforcement; all throughout our nation we see the police corrupted, and the legal system paralyzed. Another heavy penalty we pay for the hysteria about these substances is that we have authorized seizure of private property. Remember that under criminal law if you are accused by the police of a crime, you are presumed innocent until you are proven guilty in court. Not so with seizure. Law enforcement authorities can seize a property if they suspect that it is used in a criminal enterprise, and you have to go to court to prove that you are innocent. They have seized more than $4 billion, without criminal conviction, occuring in most cases. With the mere presence of suspicion, large amounts of cash, an "Informant" who said that you were involved with drugs, etc., they can take your house, your business, your car, and they have done this over and over again. Drug education is another thing that the government talks about. The government has spent unprecedented amounts of money trying to educate young children not to use drags. The DARE program (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) runs about $1 billion a year. It is taught by uniformed police officers in schools throughout the country, often financed by federal grants. Two studies commissioned by the government showed that DARE was ineffective. The government did not print or publish this study, which created an uproar in the research community. DARE had a constituency, and the government didn't want to lose that constituency by admitting that DARE had failed. The War is Over We should declare the war is over. The mere word itself gives a connotation that anything goes, that all kinds of violations of search and seizure laws, all kinds of misconduct make sense, that the police can do anything because we are waging war against evil substances. We could immediately treat marijuana as we treat alcohol and cigarettes. There has never been a recorded death by marijuana, there has never been a recorded homicide caused by smoking pot. Prominent politicians and leaders, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, have talked about how they experimented with pot. Now brain damage aside, neither of them went on to heroin or to commit armed bank robberies as far as we know. We need to step back. Prohibition ended when President Hoover appointed a commission to study how Americans could be more law-abiding. The commission repealed the prohibition a few years later. Anyone who looks objectively at America's drug war will see that it is racist, violent, corrupt and unsuccessful. That is why I think a commission for investigating the situation is needed. -------------------------------------------------------------------
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