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October 18, 2004 - The Frontiersman (AK)

Let's Focus On Real Criminals

By Frank Ameduri

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

The deputy drug czar was in Alaska last week speaking out against the evils of Proposition 2, the most recent attempt to legalize marijuana in Alaska. Many of us were shocked to discover the deputy drug czar had such strong feelings about pot. I remember saying, "Boy, that deputy drug czar really doesn't like drugs, does he?"

I should also make one quick aside to announce that from this day forward I wish to be identified as Valley News Czar. I prefer the C-Z-A-R spelling to the T-Z-A-R or T-S-A-R versions, but any will work in a pinch.

Now let's get one thing straight before you read this. The Valley News Czar is not a pot head. Let that suffice. With that behind us, let's have a little pow-wow about marijuana and the war on drugs.

All known politicians share one thing in common. They want to continue being politicians. In fact, the only politicians who ever vote in favor of term limits are ones who are absolutely sure the vote has no way of passing.

Any politician who wishes to continue living on the taxpayers' dime will never appear to be soft on drugs. Therefore, no politician will ever sing the praises of marijuana -- even if the politician's cousin Merle has a grow operation in the basement.

Of course no politician will ever turn down a generous donation from the tobacco industry, but that's for another column.

The second bit of information is that, according to, the federal government has spent more than $15 billion in the war on drugs so far this year. State governments have combined to spend nearly $16 billion. The deputy drug czar tells us that half our high school kids are sparking up. If that sounds like money well-spent, I'd like to sell you a promotional video for $30,000.

Nearly 600,000 people have been arrested nationwide for cannabis-related offenses so far this year; nearly 200,000 of those have been incarcerated. We hear that there are not enough police on the streets to combat crime, not enough resources in district attorneys' offices to prosecute criminals, and not enough room in prisons to house criminals.

We know that many criminals are allowed to plead to lesser offenses for reduced sentences for those reasons. We expend a great deal of energy, money and resources to combat marijuana, and then we allow more serious criminals to serve reduced sentences because the system is clogged.

I'm not advocating marijuana use. I also won't advocate for alcohol or tobacco use, and I won't encourage you to eat a high-fat diet. I don't drive around with my seat belt off, and I also don't ask my doctor to prescribe feel-good drugs I really don't need, but I won't tell you that you can't do it. None of that is any of my business. During prohibition, alcohol drinkers were put in jail following raids.

Organized crime took over the alcohol importing and sales businesses and turned them into highly-profitable enterprises. Unfortunately, the involvement of organized crime also led to increased violence and other peripheral crimes associated with illicit alcohol use. Alcohol still creates many problems in our society, but many of the worst problems disappeared with the repeal of the 18th amendment. It's no secret that prohibition never succeeded in stemming the use of alcohol, and it has fared no better in the battle against marijuana use.

And besides, how do marijuana users compare to other criminals? We're talking about people who value the benefits of a good nap. Their biggest social flaw is that they consume large quantities of chips, cheese puffs, frozen burritos and Twinkies. We've all had an experience with an angry drunk. Sure, marijuana users get a little moody sometimes, but they simply don't have the energy to get genuinely angry. Are we really safer with these folks behind bars? I guess I don't know what the answer is, but I know the current answer isn't working. The least we can do is agree upon that.

Note: Frank Ameduri is a big fan of Twinkies, but it's not what you think.

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