We should acknowledge that state and local policies and government aid not only perpetuate but also promote our drug addiction crisis. If we accept this sad fact, we can embrace a solution.
State-sponsored drug dependency is nothing new.
The opium dens in the 19th Century China funded lavish living for the elite and powerful. For 50 years, criminal cartels in Colombia, Mexico and Central America have used the billions they raise through cocaine and other drug sales to ensure drug-friendly shelter in those countries. Even today poppy fields in Afghanistan coordinated by the Taliban pay for weapons and terror activities.
Congressional leaders, in the pockets of big pharmaceutical companies, for the last 20 years still turn a blind eye to big pharma, which has pumped out hundreds of billions of oxycodone and oxycontin pills, pills designed as an addictive product for the masses.
Three components are needed to enable a widespread illegal drug industry.
First is government cooperation. Legalizing addictive products, abandoning enforcement, and allowing government funds for purchases foster dependency.
Second is channeling demand. There is always a population that genetically and emotionally leans toward dependency. If this population has easy access for purchase, for example through an underregulated internet, drugs are everywhere.
Finally is minimizing risk while offering great rewards. Strong financial incentives with relatively low criminal risk for processing, transporting and selling drugs enables an illegal drug industry.
Curbing these three components needed for a prosperous drug trade comes down to political will.
Newly introduced state Senate Bill 519 calls for legalizing even the most deadly and addictive psychedelics such as LSD and ecstasy. This bill also proposes to expunge any criminal records for inmates convicted of possession or personal use of these drugs.
Bill author, state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, justified his proposal by stating about drug use, “It’s a health issue, not a criminal issue…”
My take is that drug use is criminal, and only treatment after addiction is medical. Wiener’s view is naïve at best but malicious from any perspective.
We know that the “homeless crisis” is in reality a drug crisis.
Many homeless camps are organized and managed by street gangs who collect EBT cards, Cal Fresh credits, Social Security payments, welfare, and other government handouts in exchange for access to drugs and protection.
Wiener correctly states that many psychedelics like ecstasy and mushrooms have chemical components that have been found to be effective in treating depression, PTSD and bipolar syndrome.
But this does not mean that we release and forgive about 70,000 inmates in state prison because some drugs may have medical properties that can be refined in some way as part of medical research.
Wiener’s twisted logic and reckless approach is an attempt to empty the prisons and without offering inmates medical treatment and curative support.
This May there has been a rash of inmates overdosing while in custody at the nearby Pitchess Detention Center.
L.A. Police Department officers and L.A. County sheriff’s deputies can point out and even name the gang members supervising drug distribution at large homeless encampments and on skid row.
These examples obviate the acceptance of drug use.
We have not yet mustered the political will needed to cure our illegal drug problem. Rather, our government manifests the environment, provides taxpayer funding and denies law enforcement support, allowing illegal drug use to flourish.
If Wiener and others really wanted to end illegal drug use, this is what they would do:
1) Identify and remove addicts off the street and from our jails and prisons and place them long-term in drug-free camps for rehab. This reduces demand and may offer cures.
2) Require periodic drug testing and create mandatory in-person visits to receive and use EBT cards and other government funds. This reduces the flow of drug funding, much of which is currently government-sponsored, and stifles the anonymous transfer of government monies to drug dealers.
3) Set mandatory 20-year-to-life sentences for illegal drug manufacturing, distribution, advertising and sales. Severe penalties for prison guards, airline employees and even executives at Snapchat, Craigslist and Facebook who allow drug ads to run, will destabilize the manpower chain and advertising that perpetuate drug transport and sales.
4) Criminalize the manufacture and distribution of addicted pain killers and component chemicals by the pharmaceutical companies.
I prefer we elect representatives who will enact tough decisions rather than issuing blank forgiveness as a solution.
Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the COO of an acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.