American Criminal Justice and War on Drugs
American Criminal Justice and War on Drugs
James P. Gray, a California based trial court judge in his book Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs believes that war on drugs has been a subject of failure. This regards its impact on society and on its own terms mainly on the stopping of use of illegal drugs. As a former federal prosecutor and an experienced trial judge who briefly held a record for the largest drug prosecution in the Central District of California, he authoritatively speaks about the issues related to the drugs war. He uses a compelling language to describe the war on drugs as exemplified in the opening words of his book. He states that that it is inevitable that the drug policies will eventually change. However, when this happens, people will be left back looking astonished that the former policies had prevailed for the extended period. He compares it to Jim Crow laws, slavery, or the days when women never voted.
In the United States the raging debate on the criminal law proper role in drug control does not centralize around the usual political geography left verses right divisions. A civil war of ideas for generations has been waged between the libertarian and their American right opponents of state drug control and more order conservatives and traditional law. Around 1990 at the zenith of the American drug war, prominent libertarian and conservatives intellectuals provided extreme state control leadership example Milton Friedman who came to be known for his radical deregulations and William Bennett for being the first drug tsar and based on their ideas the deprofitization proposal stated by James P. Gray finds its basis.
The current American treatment of drugs in the criminal justice mainly the surrounding events on the issue reveal that the fear centralizes largely on the notion that many people would support taking the drugs under a legal and supervised regime. However, this presumption may not be correct since there is no direct correlation between the drug-trafficking incidence and the harshness of drug laws. If considered from this aspect legalization that Judge James P. Gray proposes in theory might be able to regulate and even reduce both supply and demand of the drugs (Gray, 2001).
The impact the implementation of the legalization would have on the drug control would be to transform the drugs issue from a law and order related problem to a public health issue. It would also help drive away the gangsters. In addition, the regulated drug tax implemented by the government will ensure that raised funds are effectively redirected into other economic sectors like education, which focus on public education and the risks and treatment of addicts of the substance abuse. The government will also realize that different drugs need different levels of regulations and taxation. The difficulty in this system would be imperfect and fiddly that would require monitoring constantly hard to measure tradeoffs and constant monitoring. Other levels of post-tax prices should be set as a means of striking a balance between discouraging desperate acts and a black market in which prostitution and thefts in which addicts often resort to maintain their habits and damping down use (Gray, 2001).
The main arguments that Judge Gray offers center on utilitarian aspects that go against prohibition of drugs. He states that the enacted laws that should address the prohibition of drugs are not effective, but instead help in the eroding of civil liberties, and the prohibition of drugs is a leading cause of democratic debate stifling mainly over the drug policies, and in this manner increases the danger to the users. In summary, the author stops short of advocating for full implementation of drug legalization through his preferred solutions of a combination of treatment programs, realistic education, punishment for harm to others, regulated sales of drugs (Hakim, 2011).
Thinking of this, proposed notion of legalization requires thinking on the possible issues associated with drug use. Under the influence of the drugs, some users tend to harm possible third parties an example is on marijuana users. A well-established principal of criminal law and tort exists to handle such harms. Reviewing the response of how the principals of legal drug market would apply include seeing advertisements that would support responsible drug use. In addition, there would be a clear incentive for the drug manufacturers to directly invest in the drugs developing mainly on substances that provide lesser risks and short-term high effects that would not impair its social application. This would also be an incentive to the vendors since out of lawsuits fear they would be careful to see that there is a safe behavior by their patrons.
By comparing the present situation to the foregoing hypothetical scenario that the book proposes, drug users search for longer lasting highs due to the fact that the possession of the drugs if done in large quantities mainly by weight increases the stipulated penalties and also they are aware that the drugs purchasing also presents a threat. There is no incentive to the drug dealers to have closer relation or contact with their clients and as such, they centralize on this to avoid chances of being captured. This implies that their cannot be a legal advertisement by the drug manufacturers the issue here is not that there is no profit to the participants in the drug industry, but that the legal system prevents them to effectively participate in the market (Gray, 2013).
Some of Judge Gray’s biggest critics state that his approach had flaws in three main areas. First, he exclusively and heavily relied on popular press accounts as basis to support his factual claims. Even though this view seems baffling, it helps stress the fact that Judge Gray is well conversant on the subject and is aware of the wide professional literature and journals on divergent angels of the war on drugs and the many governmental reports on the matter. If the opinion being expressed had been his own personal account and position the relevance of the citation would not matter, but since he tries to document the drug prohibition failures the lack of better sources of quality undermines his overall message. Critics find the fact that he over relied on popular media as his main source is frustrating since Judge Gray according to most of them was in a strategic position to offer new material on that area that few other authors could provide mainly data on what judiciary thought on the drugs issue.
Judge Gray is also criticized for considering the drug policy in a vacuum, without trying to frame it on a broader aspect. Critical civil liberties questions are raised by the drug policy, but this is similar to other policies within the government mainly the state and federal government’s rights violation in connection to the divergent volume of drug policies but not from their rights violation in connection with gun laws and tax laws. Since there is no rights based analysis that is offered by Judge Gray on the antidrug laws impact, his account however offers no means of a possible consistent approach to the issue. In addition there is also an issue with how Judge Grey proposes to solve the drug issue mainly that of de-profitization that could be brought by a regulated distribution system which his solution revolves on the statement that states that it is much easier to regulate, control and police a legal market as compared to an illegal one (Hakim, 2011).
The author as a long time judge has spent many years imposing compulsory drug court regimes rehabilitation on the offenders and due to this he strongly believes on the efficiency of the drug court system. His acknowledging of the fact that addicts have to be coerced in order for them to receive and be kept in treatment makes it hard for them to be helped this is in unison with the capability of the criminal justice system of coercing into productive and meaningful sobriety the drug users. There are challenges to this proposal like the difficulty of finding candidates to enroll for the abstinence programs due to the many experiments being carried out currently on policies, and the 29-points plan proposed by Judge Gray that may strike many as unprincipled and incoherent for the orthodox libertarians.
In conclusion, through the provision of honest information on different drugs prices and their related health issues, consumers can be steered by the government towards the ones with least effects. In addition, designer drugs proliferation cannot be prevented by prohibitions thought of in laboratories. However, the legalization can also be used as a means of enticing and encouraging legitimate drug companies to try to improve the substances that people partake. The resources saved on repression and the resources would allow the guarantee of treatment by the governments to addicts as a way of making the legalization process more politically palatable.
Gray J.P. (2001). Why our drug laws have failed and what we can do about it: A judicial indictment of the War on Drugs. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Gray, J. (2010). Why our drug laws have failed: a judicial indictment of war on drugs. Temple University Press.
Hakim, P. (2011). Rethinking US Drug Policy. Beckley Foundation.