Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Editor of the Reformer: (Brattleboro, VT)

Most Vermonters have always opposed the Bush regime's illegal Iraq war, seeing through the false rationales for it, and understanding that it is ultimately a power-grab for control of Middle Eastern petroleum -- supposedly the most valuable military-strategic prize in the history of the world.

However, we in our state, and we in our country, are still not taking a close enough look at another fantastically expensive war -- more costly in the number of human lives affected than the Iraq boondoggle.

This, of course, is the never-ending drug war, the so-called "war on drugs" that began with the outlawing of marijuana in the early part of the 20th century, and increased greatly with the inception of the Rockefeller drug laws in New York state, the crack cocaine scare of the early 1980s, federal "mandatory minimum" sentences, and "three strikes, you're out" laws.

At the drugsense.org Web site, one can view a clock, which estimates the ongoing and increasing cost of these terrible laws to the American people. The cost in dollars is staggering -- the feds will spend about $20 billion on enforcement this year, and the states even more ... nearly $30 billion. Here in Vermont, we have a brand-spanking-new prison right up the road in Springfield, and they are talking about building yet another one, as the prison population mushrooms so much that we are paying through the nose to house prisoners out of state, far from their loved ones.

And all this for a problem that is essentially not a crime problem, but a public health challenge ... because that's what addiction essentially is ... a medical problem.

Do you like paying for helicopter flights so that local police can spot backyard plots of marijuana, and peoples' lives can be ruined by these unjust laws? Where is the common sense in this? In the early years of our Republic, hemp (cannabis) -- one of the most versatile crops that can be grown -- was not only a legal crop, it was officially sanctioned -- the government encouraged people to grow it. Today, it is re-emerging into our domestic agricultural scene, generating many millions of dollars in commerce and forcing the public to think once again about why so many laws exist that have no logical or rational reason for being.

I personally have nothing to do with intoxicants, legal or illegal, but a handful of my friends still indulge. One of them was arrested right here in Brattleboro for marijuana possession recently, apparently "fingered" by a neighbor with whom they were having a bit of a disagreement. Nice and easy, isn't it, to turn in your neighbors, even your family members, and have the state help you win a nice little battle in your latest tiff? And all at the cost of the taxpayer.

I wish to plead with you, the public everywhere, to stay away from intoxicants, especially including alcohol and tobacco, which generate far more medical and accidental harm than the illegal ones. As long as people will drink or get high and get behind the wheel of a car, there is a reason for some laws against the use of substances -- I myself was disabled from a career as a performing musician in 1978 by a drunk driver. "Being all you can be" means not destroying your brain cells with substances.

However, my dear friends and neighbors, it is long past time to legalize and regulate the use of other controlled substances. Marijuana (cannabis) does very little harm, and has real medical uses. Our society is consuming itself and its economic output with a futile drug war that will have no end, but which like the Iraq fiasco also creates huge vested interests -- people who profit from it. We don't need all the "private contractor" companies (who now outnumber our troops in Iraq) to do our government's work, and we don't need the huge criminal injustice, prison-industrial complex to imprison, stigmatize, and even enslave huge segments of our population at home.

End the drug war now.
John Wilmerding
Brattleboro, Sept. 7
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