by Julian Heicklen
State College, PA
July 12-15, 2001
It is immoral to arrest someone for owning a vegetable. It also is unconstitutional. The Ninth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution says: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be considered to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The most fundamental of all human rights is the right to control one's own body. As U. S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it: "The right to be left alone." It required a Constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol. Why doesn't the same apply for drugs?
In 1972, President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs. We have been fighting that war for 29 years. What are the results? In 1998, 1.4 million people were arrested for non-violent narcotic violations. One-half of these were for marijuana violations, of which 87% were for possession only.
The year 2000, was a historic year for the U. S. Our incarcerated population reached two million (0.73% of our population). This compares with the incarcerated population of two hundred thousand in 1967?1972. One out of every three people entering state or federal prison is doing so for a non-violent narcotics violation. About 24% of the inmates in state prisons are there for non-violent narcotic violations. In federal prisons, the number is 60%. In county prisons, 25% of the inmates are there for non-violent narcotics offenses. Another 16% are there for theft to feed their drug habit. Keeping these prisoners costs a lot of money, my money. I object to supporting dope heads in prison, when they should be out working to support me.
Drugs are just as easy to get today as then. In spite of the fact that 10 times as many "criminals" are incarcerated, the rate of homicide in 1998 was nearly identical to that in 1967. Reported robbery has increased from 148.4 per 100,000 in 1969 to 165.2 per 100,000 in 1998, according to the FBI Crime Report.
Today, with 4.6% of the world's population, the United States houses 25% of the world's inmates. We have the highest per capita inmate population of any country. The cost to keep these prisoners is about $40 billion per year. This does not include their lost wages (and taxes) and the reduced standard of living of their dependents. Add to this the costs of interdiction, police, the courts, and probation and parole. The true cost probably exceeds $100 billion per year.
About 7% of all adult males in the U. S. enter prison or jail each year. Their lives are altered or ruined. Nine percent of all males in the U. S. will be sentenced to at least one year in state or federal prison during their lifetimes. About 5% of the adult males in the U. S. currently are under supervision of the criminal justice system (prison, jail, probation, or parole).
Our policy is not keeping drugs out of the hands of kids. Marijuana was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get for 90.4% of high-school seniors in 1998, the highest point in history. Heroin was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get for 35.6% of high-school seniors, compared to 24.2% in 1975, and 18.9% in 1979, at the height of the modern drug epidemic. Availability of heroin to high school students has increased by 1/3 since the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 was passed, when it was 22.0%.
Ecstasy availability has almost doubled since 1989 from 21.7%, to 38.2% in 1998. LSD availability is greater than at any point in the 1970s or 80s, and at 48.8%, is easily available by half our high school seniors. PCP availability is near record highs, at 30.7%.
More kids in 8th grade—junior high school—report that they are using illegal drugs according to the Monitoring the Future Survey. Use in past 30 days of marijuana among 8th graders tripled from 1991 to 1997, from 3.2% to 10.2%. Cocaine use almost tripled from 0.5% in 1991 to 1.4% in 1998. Use of LSD by 8th graders almost tripled from 0.6% in 1991 to 1.5% in 1997.
Despite repeated promises, we are failing to help the people who are most hurt by drugs—the addicts. The crudely estimated number of persons needing drug abuse treatment has grown from 8.9 million in 1991 to 9.3 million in 1996. The number of hard core addicts needing treatment has grown from 4.7 million in 1992 to 5.3 million in 1996. There are still 3 million untreated hard core addicts, more than in most of the 1990s. Deaths from drugs have more than doubled since 1979, from 7,101 in 1979 to 15,973 in 1997. And what about the people we are killing in our war of intervention in Columbia?
We are engaged in a struggle for the soul of America. It is wrong for the government to lie to us about drugs. It is wrong for teachers to lie to our children about the dangers of drugs. It is disgusting that the government pushes drugs on children by criminalizing drugs and promoting a black market. It is against God's commandment for children to inform on their parents. It is unconscionable to torture the sick by denying them medicine. It is immoral to arrest anyone for owning a vegetable. It is a sin against God to take babies away from their mothers.
The issue here is not marijuana. Marijuana is the messenger, not the
message. The issue is whether we are going to live in freedom or under
tyranny. We say choose freedom. The lighted marijuana weed is the torch
of freedom. Now I am going to light that torch.