Robert Sharpe: Police and health


Police and health

The police-state approach to public health problems like substance abuse will make for an interesting class discussion when the Bill of Rights is covered at Steamboat Springs High School, but it won't likely impact rates of drug use. The steady rise in drug-sniffing dogs in schools, warrantless police searches and random drug testing have led to a loss of civil liberties in America, while failing miserably at preventing drug use.

The drug war is in large part a war on marijuana, by far the most popular illicit drug. Based on findings that criminal records are inappropriate as health interventions, a majority of European Union countries have decriminalized marijuana. Despite marijuana prohibition and perhaps because of forbidden fruit appeal, lifetime use of marijuana is higher in the United States than any European country.

The drug war threatens the integrity of a country founded on the concept of limited government. It's not possible to wage a moralistic war against consensual vices unless privacy is eliminated, along with the Constitution. The United States now has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with drug offenses accounting for the majority of federal incarcerations. America can either be a free country or a "drug-free" country but not both.

Robert Sharpe

Policy analyst,

Common Sense for Drug Policy


aichempty 8 years, 2 months ago

I think the most effective anti-drug tactic would be to sieze the contraband (and all marijuana is contraband under federal law, like it or not) and destroy it. Drug possession would only be a crime when some other law was broken (weapons use, assault, tax evasion, DWAI, etc.).

As a part of this process, the names and identifiying information for people found in possession would be used to aid law-enforcment agencies in performing surveillance on drug traffickers and users so that any additional contraband found in their possession at a later time could also be confiscated.

This approach would effectively decriminalize marijuana, would leave traffickers out on the streets to be observed and targeted for further enforcement, and would make it much easier to intercept the distribution and prevent use since known traffickers would be likely targets for further enforcement. If traffickers and distributors were consistently subjected to confiscation of their goods, the financial risks of being in such a business would encourage them to stop.

In short, go after the pot, and the money, and let the people stay free to deal with being constantly subjected to surveillance, drug sniffing dogs, tax audits (to make sure they're paying taxes on their unlawfully derived income) and all the other overhead costs of doing business that a legitimate enterprise has to deal with.

Would you go back to the same dude's front door to buy pot if, every couple of times you did so, the cops stepped up and confiscated all the pot and all the money involved in the transaction?

The way to bring trafficking out into the open is to stop driving it underground. The load on the justice system would be cut to zero. People who had baggies of pot, oregano and catnip confiscated from them could hire lawyers to sue the government to get it back, and that would cost them thousands for every legal action they filed. Now that is a REAL deterrent to traficking.

Should it be okay to grow and use your own? Why not? We make homemade beer and wine, and even spirits. Selling it is the crime, not producing and using it as allowed by law. Pot could be the same.

Trafficking provides a way for people to support themselves financially. If you hurt the income often enough, you'll stop the behavior. If traffickers can't keep enough money to buy from their suppliers, the supply will stop, just like in a legitimate business.

The only way to stop people from buying something is to make the price too high. Once the names, addresses and license plates of known users and traffickers were put into the NCIS computers, every traffic stop would be an opportunity to call in the drug dogs. It's no different than the cops running your ID for outstanding warrants when you get stopped for speeding. And, in the end, it would cost you less than paying a traffic fine unless you were holding a large quantity for resale. If you were, uh, oops! Kiss that cash goodbye.


JLM 8 years, 2 months ago

What pure tripe!

Marijuana is a very, very, very dangerous drug as its use funds serious drug enterprises, widespread violence and organized crime.

One only has to become acquainted with the 1985 death of DEA Agent Kiki Camarena by marijuana smugglers to realize the entanglements and danger that are created by the concept that marijuana is a small or insignificant problem.

DEA Agent Camarena was kidnapped in broad daylight and was tortured, mutilated and died ultimately of a crushed skull by marijuana smugglers. The Mexican nationals who kidnapped and killed him employed a doctor to keep Agent Camarena alive so they could prolong his torture. The murderer was in turn sentenced to 3 life sentences in the US and the doctor got off scot free.

The murderers audio taped their torture of Agent Camarena including apparentlly mutilating him with a chain saw in a shower. They distributed this audio tape widely amongst their own ilk in Mexico and it was played at the trial in California. He could be heard screaming as the chain saw dismembered him and his blood sprayed the shower walls. His torturers were laughing.

He had a wife and three sons.

His killers were marijuana smugglers.

Yeah, marijuana is harmless! Tell that to his family.

The Mexican border with the US is now totally unsafe on the Mexican side because of the warring drug cartels fighting over marijuana distribution routes into the US. We are talking 100s of bad guys using automatic weapons against each other and the police.

Next time you are tempted to light up a joint, I hope you hear the echo of a chain saw and think what it must have felt like to have your flesh ripped by a chain saw!

Marijuana harmless? I think not!


bubba 8 years, 2 months ago

So the argument posted by the last two posters that marijuana is dangerous because it is trafficked by criminals is somewhat flawed - distribution of marijuana is only profitable because it is illegal. Bad people will do bad things for money, and if the money is big enough, they will not hesitate to murder to protect their interests. As long as there is demand for drugs, there will be bad people lining up to meet that demand, and doing horrible things to ensure their profits are met.

Since the use of marijuana doesn't pose any more threat to society than the use of legal drugs such as alcohol, nicotine and caffeine, but the trafficking creates the horrible problems described above, why does it not make sense for the government to allow marijuana use, tax the crap out of it, and use the money for education and treatment programs to reduce the demand for more dangerous drugs. By doing so, you are eliminating the money supply to the bad people who traffic pot, and reducing the money supply to the bad people who traffic 'hard drugs.'

Trying to stop drug use by limiting the supply rather than reducing the demand does not make any sense - all it does is drive up the risks and rewards of dealing, which in turn means that the most ruthless people become the most successful dealers. This is not a result of the horrors of people getting stoned, it is a result of a public policy that was created without any consideration of basic economics.


trump_suit 8 years, 2 months ago

Not bad Aich..... I kind of like that line of thought. It has alot of merit that leaves some of the teeth for hardened criminals and serious traffickers

I have long been a proponent of legalyzing the whole shooting match, we should spend our money on treatment and and education instead. I would hope that this kind of approach would dry up the black market, and take some of the violence and money out of the supply side.

I want to be clear that I am not advocating the use of these substances. I just think that the overall cost to society could be lower if we attacked the problem from a different direction. It is clear that the "War of Drugs" has not accomplished much if anything in slowing down the supply/use of these substances, and the violence/gang culture on the supply side is a serious problem. It is time for a different approach.


playa46 8 years, 2 months ago

JLM- What are you talking about? Marijuana has very many medicinal purposes and is very good at healing the body, it is true that you can OD, but how is it dangerours if you don't use it 10 times a day? What about alcohol? You're more likely to die from an alcohol related insident than drug related, and this town has one big problem with it. Also, your post has nothing to do with marijuana being dangerous, but the people selling it. People will do anything to get it, even if it means breaking the law. Laws don't work, it's like prohibition back in the 20's, people will find new ways and we waste our money.

This article is very imformative, thanks for the good read!!


localboy17 8 years, 2 months ago

Playa46 has a point, but loses another one. In order to OD by using only marijuanna one would have to smoke nearly their body weight, but people that smoke would know that by the time you made through a pound one would find it hard to stay awake. Falling asleep would wear off the affects, and you could live to try it agian the next day. Its not even dangerous to use it 10 times a day. It is however mioderatly linked to short term memory loss, but as most people find themselves writing down stuff to remember it anyways, whats the big deal?


freerider 8 years, 2 months ago

JLM your not even in the ball park on this one .... it's the money that's evil not evil dangerous plant let's talk about history a little here since you seem to like to quote it ..Police tactics don't work on the war on drugs , never has never will , it's always about the money ...people die in this drug war over money ...geeez even my teenage kids understand that..if there was no value to drugs then nobody would die over your un-empathetic jarhead view will just keep getting peolpe killed...the real tragedy in the war on drugs is the addicts that get hooked..same as alcohol and nicotine and pharmaceudicals..these people need help , not police brutality and jail.. nobody in the history of the world has ever Overdosed on pot ...over 150 thousand people died last year from prescription medicine from your local doctor...the real dangerous drugs are the ones at your local grocery store..the ones that Big pharma lobby's to get put on the shelf..The number one all time money maker in washington is money from pharmaceudical drug makers to get you hooked on there poison. Robert Sharp is right on ...the police state approach is wrong...the Nazi's already tried that approach , it doesn't work and it's a violation of every basic human right that American solders have fought and died for...


JLM 8 years, 2 months ago

Just what the world, SBS and this thread need --- some more stoned slackers! LOL


playa46 8 years, 2 months ago

Ah, the old infamous assumptions, eh JLM?

It has nothing to do with us being stoners (Which at least I know, am not.) It has to do with the fact that marijuana is NOT harmful, unless using it too many times, it is NOT a negative affect on your health, and it is NOT worse than many other drugs, even alcohol.

Your post simply shows you blind logic and your inability to actually post something informal on this topic.

"Just what the world, SBS and this thread need some more stoned slackers! LOL"

-Have a nice day


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