July 12, 2008

Drug-Related "crimes" are absurd-- especially this one

As you may have heard, this week two delinquent teens broke into a house in Auburn, and burglarized the place, as well as discharged an assault firearm within the house.

Here's an account of the events from WMTW
The tenant, Lawrence Coy, 39, ran to police for help.

After a short chase, police caught both Mohamoud and the juvenile. Police said an assault rifle was found in the getaway car.Mohamoud is being held at the Androscoggin County Jail on $15,000 bail. He is charged with burglary and reckless conduct with a firearm. In addition to those charges, the juvenile faces a additional charge of hindering apprehension.

Police also arrested Coy on suspicion of operating a marijuana-growing operation out of his home.

Coy, the victim of the crime, has been charged with-- "aggravated cultivation of plants" (doesn't that sound like an oxymoron?) and what's worse; It's entirely possible, and in sad fact quite likely, that Lawrence Coy, victim of crime, will serve a longer sentence than his aggressors-- who broke into his home, stole from him, and discharged an assault firearm in his house. (I think it bears repeating that the guy who broke into his home were firing a fucking assault rifle in the victim's house.)

When the Lawrence Coy, who was living in that home called the police, the police searched the house, and found that Coy had been growing cannabis in his basement. We don't know if these plants were for personal use (a victimless crime), for medical use (another victimless crime) or sale, and quite frankly it doesn't matter in the eyes of the law.

I don't even use drugs and this outrages me. Not only is this case an outrage, but it raises a series of points about drug laws in general:

1) Prohibition makes no sense as a strategy to combat drug abuse. Prohibition of the 1930s has taught us that making something illegal only drives it into the shadows, makes the contraband more potent (to balance the reward of sale against the risk of being caught), gives rise to powerful criminal organizations, and counter-intuitively, it actually increases consumption. Alcohol consumption was at it's all time high in America during the Prohibition Era.

2) It's a matter of Liberty-- the State currently has no laws preventing a person from spending all their money in strip clubs, from overeating to the point of morbid obesity and death, smoking too many cigarettes to the point of lung cancer or emphysema, or from drinking alcohol to the point of damaging their organs. In fact, people indulge in lewd behaviour, eat fatty foods, smoke, and binge drink, all across the great state of Maine-- without the law interfering. We all recognize that because we live in a free society, that a person has a right to do immoral or lewd things with their own personal affairs as they see fit so long as they do not harm anyone else, and that it is the responsibility of the individual to decide what they want to do with their bodies-- not the responsibility of government.

3) Drug use is not drug abuse. Just as many people use alcohol in moderation with little ill effect, many people use mind-altering drugs in moderation as well, (and if you think that alcohol isn't a mind-altering drug, tell that to a victim of drunk driving), and these people are able to maintain active lives as participating members of society. The only time that drug use becomes an issue for the government to deal with is when it leads to another crime-- and every crime that knee-jerk reactionaries fear come from drug use, be it vehicular manslaughter, robbery, driving to endanger, disturbing the peace, assault, etc, you name it -- there are already laws against all of these things, and should somebody's drug use lead to such criminal behavior, they should prosecuted as criminals for their crimes, not their drug use. If their drug use has started to affect other people's lives, then what you have is drug addiction, which leads to the next point:

4) Drug addiction is a sickness of the mind, and a sickness of the body. Drug addiction is a medical problem, and should be treated as such. Sending people to jail for drug offenses ruins people's lives, and doesn't get them the help and support that they need.

5) We can't afford the Drug War. The United State of America makes up only 4% of the world's population, yet we make up more than HALF of the world's prison population. Land of the free, eh? I don't know what the statistics are for Maine, but on average, a little more than a quarter of the prison population is in on drug related charges alone. This eats up taxpayer money to keep non-violent offenders behind bars, and eats up time and money sending police after non-violent offenders on the streets and in their homes when they could be protecting people from real criminals, like gun-wielding burglars.

Now back to the specific: We have a case where the victim is being punished for reporting a crime. This climate is the same one we see in inner cities where immigration laws are enforced by local police-- the populace learns to fear, hate, and mistrust the police that are supposedly there to serve and protect the peace. Why should a non-violent act, cultivating plants, be treated with a heavier hand by the law than misuse of a firearm, breaking and entering, and theft combined?

This absurdity needs to end, and it is more clear now in this case than ever that the State of Maine should Decriminalize possession, cultivation, and use of cannabis.

If you live in Maine, I urge you to get on http://maine.gov and look up your state senator and congressperson, and write them something like what I wrote above. I sent copies to both my senator and congressman.