Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It

Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 284
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It
    Book Description:

    Our drug prohibition policy is hopeless, just as Prohibition, our alcohol prohibition policy, was before it. Today there are more drugs in our communities and at lower prices and higher strengths than ever before.

    We have built large numbers of prisons, but they are overflowing with non-violent drug offenders. The huge profits made from drug sales are corrupting people and institutions here and abroad. And far from being protected by our drug prohibition policy, our children are being recruited by it to a lifestyle of drug use and drug selling.

    Judge Gray's book drives a stake through the heart of the War on Drugs. After documenting the wide-ranging harms caused by this failed policy, Judge Gray also gives us hope. We have viable options. The author evaluates these options, ranging from education and drug treatment to different strategies for taking the profit out of drug-dealing.

    Many officials will not say publicly what they acknowledge privately about the failure of the War on Drugs. Politicians especially are afraid of not appearing "tough on drugs." But Judge Gray's conclusions as a veteran trial judge and former federal prosecutor are reinforced by the testimonies of more than forty other judges nationwide.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0800-6
    Subjects: Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. PART I Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    On April 8, 1992, I did something quite unusual for a trial judge: I held a news conference in the plaza behind the courthouse in Santa Ana, California, and openly set forth my conclusions that our country’s attempts through the criminal justice system to combat drug use and abuse, and all of the crime and misery that accompany them, were not working. In fact, I had concluded that drug reform was the most important issue facing this great country and that our so-called War on Drugs was our biggest failure. I had reached these conclusions after spending years as a...

  5. PART II: Our Drug Laws Have Failed

    • CHAPTER 1 Past and Present
      (pp. 19-48)

      The results of our country’s Zero-Tolerance Drug Prohibition policy are multifaceted, overlapping, and overwhelmingly negative. We will see from a historical perspective that Drug Prohibition had its beginnings in 1914 and has become accepted in our everyday lives. Its failings have for the most part been unquestioned. Throughout the twentieth century, recreational drug usage has waxed and waned, but hard-line drug usage has remained proportionally about the same.

      National Drug Prohibition began in our country with the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1914 when, ostensibly, Congress saw that about 1.3 percent of our population was addicted to narcotic...

    • CHAPTER 2 Increased Harm to Communities
      (pp. 49-102)

      There once was a man on his deathbed who, at the very end of his life, called his wife to his side and said to her, “Dear, before I leave this earth, there is something that I really feel I have to tell you. For a number of years now, I have been having an affair with a particular woman who lives across the street. I do not mean to hurt your feelings, but I think you had a right to hear it, and hear it from me.” The wife thought for a moment and then replied, “That’s okay; I...

    • CHAPTER 3 Erosion of Protections of the Bill of Rights: Where’s Paul Revere?
      (pp. 103-130)

      Nothing in the history of the United States of America has eroded the protections of our Bill of Rights nearly as much as our government’s War on Drugs. Not even the statutes and court rulings after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, have trampled our constitutional rights as much as has our policy of Drug Prohibition. There are at least two major reasons for this. The first, as we have seen, is that the enormous amount of money to be made from the sale of illegal drugs has resulted in large-scale criminal organization and violence, which makes the drug problem...

    • CHAPTER 4 Increased Harm to Drug Users
      (pp. 131-146)

      A good friend of mine who is a federal district court judge teaches a class about the War on Drugs to upper-division students at the University of California at Irvine. Each year he invites ten residents of a live-in drug treatment facility to come to the class. Then he divides the class into ten sections, pairs each section with one of the residents, and leaves them alone for an hour to talk.

      This experience allows the students to see the drug problem in a wholly differently light. For the first time they see the problem in human terms rather than...

    • CHAPTER 5 Increased Harm for the Future
      (pp. 147-158)

      In August 1991, while attending a reunion of my Peace Corps Costa Rica group in San Francisco, I went with some friends to a service at the Glide Methodist Church. This is a famously successful church in one of the poorer areas of the city, where people from all walks of life attend a rousing church service full of love, brotherhood, and rock music. Although there is normally a wide variety of people in attendance—rich and poor, young and old, healthy and sickly, educated and streetwise, and people of all races—the majority are black. That Sunday, the senior...

  6. PART III: Options

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 159-162)

      Surprisingly enough, whether we should change our current policy of Drug Prohibition actually comes down to only one question: would the benefits from increased health and civil liberties and from decreased crime, violence, corruption, incarceration, and costs of administration be outweighed by any possible temporary, or even long-term, increase in drug usage under a new policy?

      As we have already seen, every drug policy has some benefits and some drawbacks. We must remember that Alcohol Prohibition did not do away with alcohol or alcohol abuse; it simply changed the distribution system and the legal control. And although the repeal of...

    • CHAPTER 6 Increased Zero Tolerance
      (pp. 163-176)

      Certainly one of the drug policy options open to us is to do more of the same. We frequently hear the exhortation, “Let’s reallywinthe War on Drugs!” But what does that mean? What can we possibly do differently under this failed policy? How many more Colombian coca fields must we fumigate with poisons? How many more prisons must we build? How many morebillionsof dollars must we dedicate to strategies that have been shown not to work?

      Many people have heard the definition of insanity, repeated by President Clinton during the 1992 presidential campaign, as “doing the...

    • CHAPTER 7 Education
      (pp. 177-192)

      Everyone is in favor of drug education—parents, politicians, law enforcement officials, newspaper editors, and the general public. And in fact, every proposed drug policy option that I have ever heard of contains a major provision for drug education. But what actually is drug education, and how can it be used most effectively?

      The first thing to remember is that the problem of drug use and abuse is multifaceted and that nothing, including a good program of education, is going to enable us to get drug-related problems out of our lives. Education can be a powerful tool, but it will...

    • CHAPTER 8 Drug Treatment
      (pp. 193-220)

      On June 13, 1994, the Rand Corporation released a study that found that drug treatment is seven times more cost effective than domestic law enforcement in addressing drug abuse, eleven times more cost effective than our attempts to interdict illicit drugs as they come across our borders, and twenty-three times more cost effective than our drug eradication and crop substitution programs overseas.² When this respected think tank found that every dollar spent on drug treatment resulted in seven dollars of overall savings, whereas the same tax dollar spent on law enforcement alone resulted in only ninety-nine cents in savings, many...

    • CHAPTER 9 Deprofitization of Drugs
      (pp. 221-242)

      One major pitfall in the discussion of our current drug policy and alternative options is that people do not define their terms. It is, regrettably, quite common for one person not to know specifically what another person is talking about, and this naturally leads to a great deal of miscommunications and misunderstandings. If people would take care to define their terms, we would make a lot more progress. In this chapter I discuss several options available to deprofitize what are now illicit drugs, taking care to define and explain my terms and to show that many of these alternative approaches...

    • CHAPTER 10 Federalism, Not Federalization
      (pp. 243-246)

      Our country was founded on the concept of federalism. This means that, except for certain matters that are reserved by the U.S. Constitution to the federal government, all states can and should be separate experimental units, doing what they decide is appropriate for them. To my knowledge, this “states as laboratories” linchpin of our republic was first articulated by Justice Louis Brandeis when he said, “It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory, and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to...

  7. PART IV What We Can Do About It
    (pp. 247-262)

    So our drug laws have failed. So our prisons are beyond being full, and our freedoms and civil liberties are being severely reduced. So drug sellers here and around the world have become obscenely wealthy; money from the sale of illicit drugs has corrupted large numbers of our public officials and private citizens and is directly responsible for revolutionary movements and terrorism all over the world; and drug-addicted people are unnecessarily committing crimes and contracting dangerous diseases, which they spread to other nonusing people.

    So what?

    You might be asking yourself: How can I do anything to make a difference...

  8. APPENDIX A: Resolution
    (pp. 263-264)
  9. APPENDIX B: Government Commission Reports and Other Public Inquiries
    (pp. 265-278)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 279-284)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 285-285)