Liberal values at their best:
The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars waging its 40-year "war on drugs," responsible for the imprisonment of 500,000 of our fellow American citizens. Despite this enormous waste of money and lives, drugs are as easily available and cheap as ever. The drug-warmongers say it is all for the safety and protection of our children, yet high schoolers all over the country can easily obtain just about any illegal drug they are seeking in this unregulated market. Half of all high-school seniors will have tried marijuana before graduating. The government's latest Monitoring the Future report, released in December, indicates that more young people are now choosing to smoke pot rather than cigarettes.Despite these disheartening facts, there is reason for optimism and hope. More and more people are joining the movement to end the failed war on drugs. Passionate people in every neighborhood and from every walk of life, liberals and conservatives, are joining this fast-growing movement. Though there are some compelling reasons drugs should remain illegal, we should at least begin an honest discussion about the root causes of the violence and the range of options to deal with the harms associated with prohibition. It is clear that the strategy of the past 40 years is not working.
President-elect Obama has been refreshingly honest about his current and past drug use. Obama has been making news recently because of his struggles to give up cigarettes. He has written and talked about his marijuana and cocaine use when he was younger. He has never run from or made excuses about his drug use or habits. Like Obama, tens of millions of Americans have tried marijuana and so far they seem not to be holding his past drug use against him. Having someone in the White House who continues to grapple with relapses from his nicotine addiction will hopefully create more empathy between the executive branch and others trying to give up drug addictions.
On the policy front, President-elect Obama has made some good commitments during the campaign: He supports repealing the harshest drug sentences, removing federal funding bans on needle-exchange programs to reduce AIDS, ending federal raids on marijuana dispensaries in states where medical marijuana is legal, and supporting treatment alternatives for low-level drug offenses. President Obama will also have some key allies in the Democrat-controlled Senate and House. Senator Webb of Virgina has made our country's prison overcrowding crisis -- fueled by the drug war -- a top priority.