Judge John Kane told a Steamboat Springs audience Friday that the War on Drugs is a complete failure.
Kane, a senior judge with the U.S. District Court in Denver, was the third speaker in the summer Seminars at Steamboat series. He discussed his concerns about the nation's policy on drugs, why it is problematic and what people can do about it.
"Drugs are as accessible today as they have ever been," Kane said.
Kane said the problem with current policy is that it focuses too much on putting people behind bars and not enough on education and treatment.
"The government thinks that if drugs don't enter the U.S., that there is no problem. But what about the marijuana that is grown locally, and the ecstasy and meth that is manufactured here, and the kids that are sniffing glue, gasoline and paint?" he said.
Kane said that when Richard Nixon proclaimed a war against drugs in 1972, the budget was about $6.5 million. Today, the federal budget for the War on Drugs is $22 billion. Combined with local and state budgets, the total is closer to $50 billion.
Kane thinks that the federal government should be removed from drug policies and that each state or locality should be able to decide what their policies should be.
"Laws are not always successful in the same areas," he said.
Kane told the crowd about a science project in Canada in which children tested $5 bills and found that every one had cocaine residue on it.
"They won their science contest," he said.
Kane said that nine out of every 10 $5, $10 and $20 bills contain traces of cocaine.
Kane said that the profit motive for dealers and law enforcement agencies is one reason the drug industry is so large and that the basic idea is to eliminate the "drug motive to eliminate the drug problem."
Kane said that if people really want to change current policies, they should write their congressional representatives. "The most important thing we can do, at this point, is getting out to vote," he said.
Oak Creek resident Mike Kien said he came to the seminar to learn from Kane and that he heard everything he expected to hear.
"I was impressed with the diverse crowd, because it wasn't just a bunch of hippies like me," he said.
Jane Stein, one of the seminar organizers, estimated that 200 people attended the speech at Centennial Hall.
Bob Stein, also a seminar organizer, said he was happy that people attend the seminar programs.
"We're pleased with the response we get to the speeches and the dialogue that seminars begin," he said.
Kane told the audience that he no longer takes drug cases because of his staunch position but that he does still uphold the law, even if he doesn't like it.
"Judges try to improve the law," he said. "That's why I am here."