Wednesday, March 12, 2008

HB 516 And The War On Drugs

Tara at The Political Game is beginning to feel like she's beating a dead horse for bringing up the same topic within a short time period. This topic, however, is so important, that every person in Idaho should be reading about it. Before the Idaho House is House Bill 516, a bill that, in Tara's words "...would give discretion to sitting judges to determine in which drug offense cases treatment is appropriate...." This bill is not only humane, economically good for the state as well as for its prisons and taxpayers, but also gives pause so that all of us may re-consider what we are actually doing with our drug laws.

In a prohibition movement that boggles the mind, the United States has moved far away from giving doctors and the medical profession the right to determine patient treatment based on their medical knowledge, to a government agency, created

" enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States...."

What exactly does this mean? It means that under the Controlled Substance Act, the Attorney General can decide which substance is a drug, what kind of drug, the ability of a drug to create dependency, and how to criminally control that drug. Did anyone hear of the word physician mentioned here? True, the DEA and the Attorney General are supposed to read the scientific evidence. But lo and behold, or should I say, shock and awe, guess whose scientific articles they read and cite? You're right, Big Pharma, whose own research has been brought into question on any number of occasions. Check it out here and here and here and here and need I go on? I guess it's obvious whose research the DEA and the Attorney General read, if they read it at all.... It's more likely that they just take and take and take more and more money from the drug lobbyists.

HB 516 wants the Idaho courts to take into account the medical condition known as addiction, and thus, as The Political Game points out,

"The purpose of this legislation is to provide treatment focused alternative sentencing for certain mandatory minimum sentences. This legislation will allow judges, where appropriate, to sentence those whose crime was primarily the result of addiction, to a treatment focused track so as to more effectively rehabilitate offenders, reduce recidivism and slow growth in Idaho's non-violent offender population." (Highlighting is mine.)

And Senator Denton Darrington and Representative Jim Clark are leading the way to oppose this bill, no questions asked, no consideration given, no compassion shown, and, well, basically no rational thought given to the good this bill might do, not just for Idaho people, but for the state as well. See the excellent press release by Nicole LeFavour and more about the cost of ignoring treatment at The Mountain Goat Report.

The draconian drug laws of the United States have done more to create criminals, as this CATO report describes:

"The long federal experiment in prohibition of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs has given us unprecedented crime and corruption combined with a manifest failure to stop the use of drugs or reduce their availability to children." by David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute.

Many scientists support this view as a google search will reveal yet our government, and the state of Idaho included, persists in destroying the lives and families of non-violent drug offenders. In other countries, novel approaches to drug dependency have taken a more compassionate approach, focusing on harm-reduction, treatment, and health professional training. Lower crime rates, less "needle-park" scenarios, employment and improved quality of life for addicts, and illegal drug activity reduction are just some of the benefits that countries like Switzerland and Holland now appreciate because of their sensible drug policies as noted here and here and here and here and here, and that's just for a start.

To end with a few more absurdities, it seems that while the International Narcotics Control Board has issued a press release (pdf) calling for Greater Access to Opioid Medicines in Developing World, a doctors group issued a memorandum warning doctors "...not to prescribe opiates for pain relief...." They further state that since the US government has lost the war on drugs, now they're starting a war on doctors.

I don't think you can say enough about this problem, Tara, so keep up the good work at The Political Game.


Tara A. Rowe said...

Thank you for the mention and for the encouraging words. If we all keep at them, Darrington and Clark won't have a choice but to hear this very important legislation.

Anonymous said...

Wow, a Democrat quoting the Cato Institute. You sound like Democratic Freedom Caucus material.

Linda/IdahoRocks said...

I can't help myself.... the evidence about the worthlessness of the drug war just keeps piling up. But the real tragedy is all the lives ruined in this worthless war.

Tara A. Rowe said...

Amen, IR, I can't agree with you more about the lives that are being ruined.