Here's a riddle: How many knowledgeable people does it take to suggest a policy change before society adopts their sage advice?
Buried in all the recent news about ISIS, horrific weather lashing the United States, the violence of NFL players, and the like, came a hardly noticed news item about the idea of legalizing drugs.
Now, stay with me on this. It's important.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, an illustrious panel including former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Paul Volcker, former presidents and prime ministers of nearly a dozen countries and others issued a detailed study about why it's smart -- for reasons both humanitarian and financial -- to legalize marijuana and other drugs.
Yes, all drugs.
Maybe it's time to consider their suggestion?
After all, our decades long War on Drugs has been a miserable failure. Actions to curb drug production and violence in other countries and along our border have obviously not worked. Over the last forty years countless billions of dollars have been spent trying to corral the scourge and the result is more drug addicts than ever before. Our prisons are overflowing with dealers and addicts. Yet the supply and demand keeps flowing and growing.
So how long do we keep doing what obviously doesn't work?
The Commission's study has several main recommendations and one guiding goal: The "health and welfare of mankind," including widespread access to essential medicines and pain control. The idea being, I surmise, that patients in pain often graduate to the ranks of full-fledged addicts. Help them early and they don't graduate.
The Commission calls for an end to the criminalization and incarceration of low level users, instead diverting the money we spend on court costs and prisons to treatment strategies. And to undermine the massive profits of organized crime the panel recommends law enforcement specifically target top level criminals and the most violent organizations. In other words, cut off the head of the snake instead of worrying about its tail as we so often do today.
Governments are called upon to totally rethink their drug problem and not be afraid of new ideas. Gee, it sounds so simple.
This isn't the first distinguished bunch of thinkers to put forward these suggestions, including de-criminalization of all drugs.
In 2002, an influential group of American law enforcement professionals, including police chiefs, high court judges and lawyers got together to formulate better ways to handle the drug plague in America.
They formed Law Enforcement Against Prohibition which has already advocated many of the Commission's ideas and believes prohibition of drugs is at the center of the problem. Remove the ban, L.E.A.P's leaders say, and you remove both the colossal profit motive and the violence inflicted upon those who get in the way of the cartels. In the process you've eased the burden on police departments, overcrowded prisons and families whose breadwinners are behind bars.
"We believe that by placing drug abuse in the hands of medical professionals instead of the criminal justice system, we will reduce rates of addiction and overdose deaths," says L.E.A.P.'s mission statement. "We believe that in a regulated and controlled environment, drugs will be safer for adult use and less accessible to our children."
Can all these people who have stared the drug problem in the face and now advocate decriminalization be wrong? They have lived, breathed and been part of the system that was designed to find solutions. How can we ignore their learned advice?
I can hear the naysayer's questions now. How do we know if the recommendations are viable? If drugs are legalized, regulated and taxed by governments don't we run the risk of creating another bloated government entity? Would introducing a new supply stream result in creating more drug dependency? How can we know if more money, time and expertise will really be dedicated to treating addicts?
Well, I guess we don't. But, several states have already taken the step of legalizing marijuana and the gates of hell have not opened. Again, how long do we keep hitting our heads against the wall with zero positive results? Locking up millions of addicts with the hope that the suppliers will dry up hasn't worked. We aren't releasing rehabilitated addicts from prison, often they come back to society as hardened criminals.
Doing the same thing over and over is, to me, the definition of stupidity.
I say its way past time to seriously consider alternatives.
Diane Dimond is an investigative journalist/author and may be reached through her website at www.DianeDimond.com She is also active on Facebook and Twitter @DiDimond