...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Friday, October 03, 2003
      ( 9:26 AM )
Double Standards

Drugs. Said to be the biggest criminal problem in this country. There's even a War on Drugs. Attorney General Ashcroft makes it his business to expend millions of dollars and the time of many agents of the Justice Dept. to track down people who sell bongs. Poor people who are caught in the possession of small amounts of marijuana go to jail for years on end. And yet, very rich people who posess and engage in the trade of drugs manage to go free every time.

Example 1. Here in Portland we have the very shameful Portland Trailblazer basketball team - known more for its members' criminal activities off the court than for it skill as a team on the court. A member of that team, Damon Stoudamire, was caught in an Arizona airport in July with a pack of marijuana wrapped in tin foil. Now, if the tin foil thing going through a metal detector isn't stupid enough for you, it was literally his third strike (last year, a pound of it was found in his home, and then last November, he was caught speeding on a Washington highway, high as kite). But he swears he's reformed, and since he went through a program and the team was fined, all should be well and good (not to mention, his attorneys are arguing that TSA didn't have the right to search his packet of tinfoil at the airport). So he's still going to play this season (though he promises to pee in a cup every week).

Example 2. Rush Limbaugh, who has railed for years against drug addicts and thinks they should all be locked up, is now caught up in his own drug scandal. This time it's the illegal trade of prescription drugs (often just as addictive). Limbaugh is being investigated as part of a drug ring in southern Florida. But he will be able to keep his hands clean because he's rich they are only looking to prosecute the sellers, not the buyers.

People in these two men's respective audiences will continue to defend them and claim that they are the victims, yadda yadda yadda. Yet poor people remain the true victims of our disproportionate drug laws. Poor people and people of color are most likely to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned for minor drug misdemeanors while rich, influential people can continue to abuse and traffic drugs at their will. Until this country faces up to the sham that is the War on Drugs and the way that our government continues to allow ridiculous laws to imprison the most vulnerable in our society and set free those most likely to have a bad influence on large numbers of people, then things are going to be upside down, as in Texas:

Of the 58,000 drug convictions won by local prosecutors
over the past five years, 77 percent involved less than 1
gram, according to a Chronicle analysis of district court
data. Harris County sent 35,000 of the small-time offenders
to jail or prison.

(1 gram is about the size of an Equal packet of fake sugar)

Drug addiction is terrible and it should be dealt with in an understanding and effective way - so why can't poor people get the same access to treatment and job help and supervision as rich people can? Because when you live in a society where the class division is ignored by those who make the rules, then those in the lower classes will always be fighting to tread water while those in the upper classes will float on by. I hope whomever is the next president (it won't be Bush, I'm confident) will address this subject in a serious and thoughtful way and make decisions with real results for the people of this country and not continue the sham of fake righteousness and maniacal laws that is the "War on Drugs."

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