Friday, March 18, 2016

Premature Deaths

The Albuquerque Journal did a good story today on New Mexico's problem with premature deaths.  Of course the rampant drug problem in the Land of Enchantment is a major contributor to young people's deaths.  Coincidentally, last night we were conversing over corned beef and cabbage dinner last night about a friend who suffered a home invasion and burglary a couple of weeks ago.  His briefcase was stolen as he slept.  Five days later the case was found in a stolen car  that had crashed into a ditch in Bernalillo.  The car was full of used syringes.

It just got me to wondering again how much money is spent on an annual basis in New Mexico in the drug war.  Adding up costs of prison, police, court costs, parole officers and insurance payoffs for stolen goods is staggering, when compared to rehab services.  What is the ratio?  What good does the drug war do?

It does nothing and is a complete failure.  I remember as a young reporter in the late 60's and early 70's doing stories on fighting the heroin epidemic in Albuquerque.  It is like forty years later and the stories I did back then are just being rewritten for the 1000th time in 2016.

Why can't we change such a failed policy?  Because there is big money in it for the criminal justice system and private prison industries?  Probably.  But mostly it comes from a fossilized law making system in the nation that can't use logic and common sense.

4 comments:

New Mexican said...

Maybe your ideas on what would be the result if all illegal drugs all of a sudden became legal would help. It would help me. I have heard the argument you make for years, what I have never heard is an idea as to what would look like if all, or a majority of illegal drugs were legalized. The different amount and kinds of drugs available make the situation unlike the prohibition of liquor.

The damage drugs do to families is horrific, and the drugs doing this include marijuana, no two ways about it. I am close to the problem and it breaks my heart to see what they do to our families, and I do mean "ours".

An open discussion with rational people would be something. But the topic is muddled by the alcohol, tobacco and marijuana issues. They are all deadly. But, I have come to the conclusion if you want to kill yourself, go ahead and do it. It does not matter to me what your choice of drug is, including medical marijuana.

Bubba Muntzer said...

If you look around the internet there's not much good evidence on this subject either way (aside from, as you suggest, the cold hard facts of the massive amounts of money being made off of drugs and the big boost it gives to the law enforcement industry.)

There's one Cato Institute study of Portugal, which legalized drugs in 2001, that found it's working out well there. There was very little push-back on that study, but it might be, I think, too limited in scope to say much about our situation. Soon we should be getting data from Colorado and Washington, which recently legalized marijuana, and from the two states that along with DC approved legalization in ballot measures last election.

Many, many people in my generation never did stop smoking marijuana and have lived normal, productive lives -- I know a successful attorney who keeps a bag in her closet -- but I can concur with what New Mexican says. For some people it's definitely not a good thing.

I'd add that nothing like this happens in a vacuum. Families don't exist in a vacuum. We live in a society. Drug problems, like all problems, are ameliorated or exacerbated by the nature of that society. In our society police execute people at will, our government destroys other nations and executes their populations by the hundreds of thousands, and our political establishment has decided it's best to unleash a savage form of Capitalism upon us. We have young people coming out of high school and college and staring at a bleak future world of temporary, low paying work where the law applies only to the least fortunate, an increasingly unequal and unfair world. We live in that society. It has set the rules, including for how we treat each other, whether we greet each other as we pass on the street or look the other way, whether we go along with the political establishment or create a better, more just, less brutal, more loving society by asserting our power in the ways, inside and outside the political system, we have at our disposal. It's our call.

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New Mexican said...

@ Bubba Muntzer... "I know a successful attorney who keeps a bag in her closet"

That "successful attorney" is breaking several laws in the process, possession, using and purchasing. She breaks the law each time she "uses". What type of respect does that show for the law by doing this? What other laws that she does not agree with does she feel at liberty to break. I am not sure I would want an attorney who disregards laws she does not agree with. What Bubba is saying is that she is a habitual criminal, probably worse than the people she represents.

She ought to be behind bars like some of her fellow criminals who felt free to disregard the laws they are incarcerated for.