Continuing the argument about why we need to repeal our failed drug laws

Judge James P. Gray

In this blog entry, author Judge James P. Gray makes a case that our drug laws are not working. He explains why–and why he updated his book Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do about It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs.

On April 8, 1992 I did something quite unusual for a sitting trial court judge: I held a press conference and announced my conclusions as publicly as I could, both as a judge and former federal prosecutor, that our great nation’s policy of Drug Prohibition was not working – and would never work. 

Since that time the situation has demonstrably only gotten worse. Eventually I became so frustrated about the amount of evidence mandating a change away from this failed policy that I organized my thoughts and wrote a book entitled Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do about It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs.

The first half of the book is intended to make people angry at all of the unnecessary problems we have inflicted upon ourselves and the rest of the world because of the policy of Drug Prohibition.  But the second half of the book was intended to give people hope, because it outlines many of the options we have to that failed policy. In fact, many of those options have been proven to be successful both by our own experience and that of other countries.  In many ways, the response to the book was gratifying because it helped to initiate and perpetuate a full, open and honest discussion about this critically important area.

But now the situation is much worse even than when the book was originally published.  So at the request of my publisher and numbers of others, I have written an updated second edition that traces many of the developments of the last ten years. 

Many of these developments have been predictably disastrous, like the fact that our country still leads the world in the incarceration of its people; that tens of  thousands of people, including many children and other innocent bystanders, have been killed in Mexico and elsewhere not because of drugs, but because of drug money; that the continued obscene profits made by juvenile street gangs and adult gangs like the Hell’s Angels, Mexican drug cartels and other thugs are solely facilitated by the continuation of Drug Prohibition; and that all of these illicit drugs are easier to be obtained by children – if they want to – than it is for them to get alcohol, expressly because the illicit dealers don’t ask for I.D. 

But there have also been some definite signs that people in our country and all around the world are beginning to understand the cause and effect of what is happening.  This realization, along with the fact that many of the options used by some other nations like Portugal and Switzerland are working far better than ours, are evidence that we will see some material and positive changes in the not-so-distant future.

Personally I believe that helping us change away from the failed policy of Drug Prohibition is the most patriotic thing I can do for the country I love.  Further, the most effective way of achieving that goal is to let people know that it is all right to discuss drug policy, and that just because we discuss the fact that we have options to our present failed policy does not mean that we condone the use of any of these drugs.  Please join me in this important effort, and I hope that this new edition of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed will assist all of us in providing a foundation for that positive change.

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