Voting Against the War on Drugs

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Third
party candidate Tom Golisano is gaining rapidly in the New York
polls against incumbent governor Pataki and democrat McCall. Most
importantly, his rapid rise in the polls is based on his recently
released media campaign attacking the Rockefeller drug laws of New
York and his plan to repeal those laws.

Everyone,
it seems, wants to reform drug laws these days. Canada
has taken the audacious steps of adopting a "regulated"
medical marijuana law
and of studying the possible decriminalization
of marijuana use (despite protests from her keepers in Washington
DC).

The
Canadian Senate has already declared that marijuana is not a gateway
drug and the House of Commons will shortly release a report on the
non-medical use of marijuana.

By
the way did I mention that President Bush's niece violated the terms
of her court ordered drug treatment by hiding some crack cocaine
in the heel of her shoe?

The
Netherlands decriminalized marijuana long ago but recently
Britain has reformed its drug laws
and so has Portugal. Countries
like Spain and Germany no longer put much effort or energy in enforcing
laws against the possession and use of the softer drugs, like marijuana
and psychedelic mushrooms. In the minds of many Europeans, the war
on drugs is over, and the government lost.

Many
states have passed medical marijuana laws
, including at least
eight states which have passed "effective" medical marijuana
laws that provide at least some protection for doctor and patient
against the federal drug thugs.

But
real reform means repealing bad laws and this is what is so exciting
about the Golisano campaign. The Rockefeller drug law is the worst
in the country with the possession or sale of even small amounts
of narcotics resulting in mandatory sentences of at least 15 years
or longer. Today a narcotics arrest results in a destroyed life,
a broken family, and $2 million in more taxes and government spending.

Golisano
is campaigning to repeal the Rockefeller law entirely and is spending
part of his considerable fortune on commercials that attack the
laws as brutal and counterproductive. As a result his support in
public opinion polls has increased significantly to 22% which is
higher than Jesse Ventura was this close to the election. Golisano
was running to the right of Pataki, attacking him as a liberal,
calling for tax cuts, and declaring his opposition to gun control.
Now his campaign is attracting blacks and Hispanics from the liberal
wing of the Democratic Party.

By
advancing the cause of radical reform Golisano has put new life
into his campaign and broken the deadlock on drug policy reform.
Everyone including Pataki and McCall supported "reform"
of the drug laws, but nothing had passed. If the long-shot Golisano
wins, drug reform wins, but even if he loses you can expect New
York to reform Rockefeller and to pass a medical marijuana law to
appease the voters.

Admittedly,
even with Rockefeller repealed, federal drug laws will still be
on the books, but state-level mandatory minimums will be gone. Non-violent
drug users and small time dealers can be given light sentences or
be directed to treatment programs. Voters and taxpayers will see
that getting "soft" on the hard drugs will actually result
in less crime, the world will not come to a drug-induced end, and
the stage will be set for even further reform. Therefore, while
it is still a "marginal" reform, it's the type of reform
that lowers the bar for all drug law reform and sets the stage for
future victory against the war on drugs. This is a big step forward
from the medical marijuana movement.

Normally
I don't encourage people to vote. However, a case can be made for
voting for the underdog simply because politicians hate competition
and they really hate 3rd party competition. In this case,
a vote for Golisano also deals an important blow against the war
on drugs.

As
a former New Yorker, I greatly lament the state's voting record
which has produced some of the worst politicians on the planet.
Here is a state that even resorts to importation when the domestic
crop of politicians is not sufficiently statist, devious, and destructive.
The net result is the virtual destruction of New York and its economy
over the last forty years. New York was once the leading economy
in the world with leading high tech industries, significant diversified
agriculture, as well as being tops in tourism, trade, entertainment,
and banking. Today it staggers from high taxes, debt, and massive
government.

One
good vote will not earn my forgiveness, but it will be a start.

October
24, 2002

Dr.
Mark Thornton [send him mail],
author of The
Economics of Prohibition
,
is a senior fellow with the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
in Auburn, Alabama.

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