The Great Tennessee Marijuana Cave

THERE IS ONE SUBJECT BEING forgotten in the 2008 Democratic race for the White House. While all the major candidates are vying for the black and Latino vote, they are completely ignoring one of the most pressing issues affecting those constituencies: the failed “war on drugs” — a war that has morphed into a war on people of color.

Consider this: According to a 2006 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, African-Americans make up an estimated 15 percent of drug users, but they account for 37 percent of those arrested on drug charges, 59 percent of those convicted and 74 percent of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. Or consider this: The United States has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70 percent) of them are black or Latino.

Arianna Huffington

I was listening to Adam Curry the other day and he was talking about an incredible underground pot growing factory that was recently uncovered in Tennessee. It really is an amazing example of what pot prohibition has created.

Our current Republican advertising campaign, aka ‘the war on terror’ has been so successful that it tends to gray out everything else. Still, the pot factory story got me thinking about that other, older advertising campaign, aka ‘the war against drugs.’ That’s when I found the Huffington piece.

The statistics are both frightening, as Huffington notes, and reassuring, in that most Americans seem to favor reforms that would have once seemed too radical. Decriminalization and medical use seem reachable political goals.

As Huffington suggests, it would seem to be another issue that the Democrats could use to help reinforce their progressive agenda. The case against the tactics of the so-called war on drugs is virtually air-tight, as numerous Front Line episodes have illustrated.

It would save money all over, too: in the prison and legal systems, and in local and state governments. According to Drug Sense, we have already spent 13 billion so far this year. And these are numbers taken from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Ending the war on drugs– the congress could pull the money plug on this one too– makes a lot of sense. It would ease immigration and security fears too by making smuggling pot a moot point. We could raise it ourselves, as those guys in Tennessee make plain.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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