Q: Your book is
called Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed. What characterizes
the failure of our drug laws?
A: Our policy of Drug Prohibition has failed
from every standpoint imaginable: unnecessary prison growth, increased
taxes, increased crime and corruption here and abroad, loss of
civil liberties, decreased health, diversion of resources that
are needed to address other problems in society. I could go on
Q: If that is the case, why do we continue
with a policy that so many prople agree has failed?
A: There are numbers of practical reasons: We
are fighting decades of rhetoric which incorrectly assumes that
the answer for drug use and abuse is prison. And scores of politicians
get elected and re-elected each year by posturing about the need
to get "tougher" on drugs. Another big reason for the
perpetuation of this failed policy is money- both legal and illegal.
The profit motive to sell small amounts of drugs for large amounts
of money simply overwhelms all efforts to restrict those sales.
In addition, our policy is fueled by the "runaway freight
train" of federal money-every federal agency we have is addicted
to its drug war funding, and they do not want to give it up.
Q: You are taking a pretty controversial
position for a Superior Court Judge. Do many other judges feel
the same way you do about this?
A: Yes. But, like with most public officials,
there is a difference in what they say privately as opposed to
what they will say in public. However, my book quotes comments
from more than forty judges nationwide about their experiences
and recommendations for change, and many of these judges are speaking
publicly about this issue for the first time.
Q: Considering your position, then, can
you offer any optimism?
A: I agree that people are discouraged under
our present policy. But I bring good news: there is hope. We have
viable options, and they are working in numbers of places around
the world. My book gets very specific about those options.
Q: But these drugs are dangerous. Shouldn't
dangerous things be illegal?
A: Many things in our society are dangerous,
but making them illegal is not the answer. Does anyone really
believe that making tobacco illegal would reduce the harm it causes?
What about glue, gasoline, chain saws and high cholesterol foods?
Further, if you think about it, we have at least some controls
with regard to the sales and use of alcohol and tobacco, because
they are regulated by the government. We have no controls at all
with these illicit substances, because they are controlled by
Q: But doesn't a change in policy send the
wrong message to our children?
A: I answer that by asking you what you think
is the right message? We have more people in prison in our country
than anywhere else in the world. People, including many children,
have died from drug overdoses because of unknown strength and
purity of these substances, and because their "friends"
did not seek prompt medical attention for them fearing—legitimately—that
they would get into legal trouble if they came forward. And, far
from protecting our children, our present policy is actually recruiting
them to a lifestyle of drug usage and drug selling.
Q: That sounds like you are advocating drug
use. Are you?
A: I hate these drugs so much that I want to
change our policy so that we can reduce drug usage and the other
harms these dangerous drugs are causing. These drugs could not
be made more available than they are under our present system-we
can't even keep them out of our prisons, much less off our streets.
But change will come as soon as people realize one simple truth:
Just because we discuss drug policy, or just because we realize
we have options to it, or just because we choose to employ one
or more of those options does not mean that we condone drug use
or abuse. As soon as people understand that simple fact, we will
move forward to a more effective policy, because what we are doing
now cannot stand the light of day.