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Back to list of Dissenting Judges

January 2003 - The Week Online with DRCNet

Judge Kane Lambasts Federal Drug War

Denver US District Court Judge John Kane, Jr., has once again strongly attacked US government drug policies. Kane has been a harsh critic of the war on drugs since at least 1998, when he signed on to a famous two-page ad that ran in the New York Times under this banner: "We believe the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself." That ad, which called on United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to lead a major shift in global drug policy, was also signed by veteran newsman Walter Cronkite, former senators Claiborne Pell and Alan Cranston, former secretary of state George Shultz, conservative economist Milton Friedman and former New York police commissioner Patrick Murphy.

Kane has not been silent on the subject since, speaking out at events across the country over the past few years. On Tuesday he spoke at Denver's City Club luncheon at the Brown Palace Hotel and, according to the Rocky Mountain News (Denver), "won a standing ovation" from the crowd of business people with his attack on the drug war.

"The war on drugs is costly, ignorant and futile", Kane said. "Drug prohibition only encourages drug dealers to seek black market profits, even from children", he added.

"I don't favor drugs at all," Kane continued. "What I really am opposed to is the fact that our present policies encourage children to take drugs."

The war on drugs is a miserable failure, Kane believes, noting that drugs have become ever easier to obtain and drug use has risen despite decades of prohibitionist policies. The senior judge recounted a story about a friend of his in his 60s who was being treated for cancer. The man joked to his family that he wished he knew where to get marijuana to relieve the effects of chemotherapy. The next day, the man's 11-year-old grandson brought him three joints. "Don't worry, Grandpa - I don't use it myself, but if you need any more just let me know," Kane quoted the boy as saying.

The federal government has no real scientific basis for its drug policy, according to Kane, nor does that policy fit with American notions of fairness and justice. "Our national drug policy is inconsistent with the nature of justice, abusive of the nature of authority, and wholly ignorant of the compelling force of forgiveness," he said. "I suggest that federal drug laws be severely cut back."

And the assembled business people applauded.

U.S. Senior District Judge John L. Kane Jr. has served on the bench in Denver for 20 years and is a frequent lecturer and teacher at various law schools.

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