Here is a letter to the editor of The Des Moines Register that they published today, 7/14/2022:
It appears clear that most of the recent opioid deaths are the result of people buying drugs on the street and not knowing either the strength or even the actual drug that is in what they think they are buying. If we really want to end opioid deaths, we need to end drug prohibition and make drugs of known strength and purity available through legal channels.
It should still be a crime to drive a vehicle while intoxicated or to sell drugs to children. But it should not be a crime for people to put drugs into their own bodies. People who are addicted should be treated under a medical model, not a criminal model.
During the time of alcohol prohibition, bootleggers and baptists were both opposed to repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. It’s an example of how, “politics makes strange bedfellows.” Even though the two groups seemed to have completely opposite views about drinking alcohol, they both opposed the repeal of prohibition: The baptists for moral reasons, the bootleggers for financial reasons.
I read the report in The Des Moines Register about how scared the Iowa medical marijuana dispensaries are about losing money once the legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois begins next January 1st. (see link below) It makes me wonder if Iowa might face a similar situation in the future. The governor and many other politicians oppose efforts to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for moral reasons. I wonder if Iowa’s legal medical marijuana producers and sellers will oppose efforts to legalize recreational marijuana for financial reasons?
Thanks to Lee Rood for her expose’ in The Des Moines Register about the financial devastation of an Iowa citizen that was caused by Iowa’s drug tax. As Rood reported, Stephanie Hilgenberg was arrested in 2016 after police found about $5,000 worth of meth in her purse. She was convicted and served time in prison. She is now free and working to support heself and her two kids. But she still owes the Iowa Department of Revenue about $150,000 in tax, penalty and interest! She had failed to pay the “drug stamp tax” required in order to avoid the penalties and interest.
Iowa’s Constitution prohibits excessive fines, but this is technically a tax, not a fine. Again as Rood reported, part of the strategy of the tax was to use as a negotiating lever to get small time dealers to give up their suppliers. In our failed drug wars, the little guy is often sacrificed as a means to what drug warriors consider more important ends.
Drug addiction is a terrible thing. But we will be better served as a society by treating addiction under a medical model rather than a criminal model. Education works better than punishment. One step in the right direction would be to repeal the punitive stamp tax that is added to the injury caused by drug prohibition. State legislatiors should take that up next session.
As the Des Moines Register reported yesterday, the Mayor of Jamaica, Iowa and her husband were busted two days earlier at about 4:20 p.m. (no joke) for growing 18 marijuana plants inside their home. The various related charges include a Class “D” Felony for the manufacture and possession with intent to deliver less than 50 kilograms of marijuana.
It’s a shame that our laws in Iowa still make it a crime to do something that is peaceful, voluntary, and uses no force or fraud against others. Marijuana prohibition laws do little to make our state safer, and yet do great harm to people who are victimized by them. In this case, if these two people are found guilty of the felony, they could be sentenced for up to 5 years in prison, be required to pay up to $7,500, lose their voting rights, be disqualified for military service or student loans, and more. Compare that to the fact that nothing happens to a person in her home who is found to be brewing 5 gallons of beer – a standard home-brew batch – and possessing, say, 10 to 20 more gallons that were brewed earlier.
Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, and yet today we see the same unintended consequences resulting from drug prohibition that we saw from alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s: violence, deaths from impure products, and the arrest and punishment of people who are otherwise honest and peaceful. Make no mistake, the violence associated with the illegal drug trade is caused by prohibition laws. If Walgreens moves into a community, CVS doesn’t send out a gang to kill them. When drugs are delivered to a pharmacy, both parties don’t carry weapons to protect themselves. Instead, they call the police if someone uses violence against them. But you can’t can’t call the police for help if you’re dealing in illegal drugs.
We need to follow the trend in other states and around the world: Legalize recreational marijuana and treat addiction using a medical model, just like alcohol. Let your elected representatives know your feelings. That is the way to get these unjust laws changed.
The Des Moines Register recently reported that 36 Iowa counties have joined in a law suit against opioid makers. (See link to Register article below.) Two law firms are enlisting counties across the country to go after drug manufacturers and others for the costs of the opioid crisis. There is no cost to the counties. If successful, the “Lawyers will be awarded a portion of the settlement, …” (Interesting that the word “settlement” is used instead of “judgment”.)
What is often missing in much of the opioid crisis discussion is how our government’s policy of prohibition has made a bad situation even worse. When a person becomes physically addicted to opioids, they will do almost anything to get the drugs they want. If the drugs are not available legally, or if legal drugs cost too much, addicts will find illegal alternatives. According to the CDC, 60% of opioid deaths do not involve prescription opioids. That is, in 60% of opioid deaths the person who died was using illegal opioids. (See CDC reference below.) A significant problem with illegal drugs is that is no way to assure the quality and potency of the drugs. In the case of opioids, that leads to inadvertent over-doses because the illegal drug was much more powerful than thought.
If opioid addicts were able to readily get prescription methadone or other FDA approved opioids at reasonable costs, many deaths would be prevented. That would also take the profit out of the illegal opioid drug trade. If opioid addicts were treated under a medical model rather than a criminal model, it is likely that more opioid addicts would seek help to solve their addiction problem. But as it is, under our drug war, prohibition policy, addicts have good reason to not seek help.
As The Des Moines Register reported on 10/13/2016, “Black Iowans are seven times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than white Iowans…” (See link below.) Drug possession. A crime without a victim. Arrests that create a criminal record that seriously negatively affects a person’s ability to get a job.
Even if blacks do possess illegal drugs at a rate seven times more than whites, which I very much doubt, treating possession of any drug as a crime is clearly unfair, if not racist. Why don’t people get arrested for “possession” if they are caught with a six pack of beer? Why aren’t people be arrested and charged with “intent to deliver” if they are caught with more than a case of beer? Why aren’t people charged with a more serious crime if they are caught with high alcohol content distilled spirits, which are surely more dangerous?
We need to end the immoral and impractical drug wars. The correct and reasonable thing to do is to legalize and regulate the manufacture, sale and use of all drugs, just like alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs. Just like with alcohol, fair regulations would include protecting our children, and prohibiting driving vehicles while intoxicated. In any case, we need to end prohibition.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2016/10/12/iowa-ranks-2nd-worst-racial-disparities-drug-arrests/91958452/
Thanks to the Sunday Register (3/29/2015) for its exposé of the abuses occurring in Iowa under civil asset forfeiture laws. (Sunday Register 3/29/2015) Taking people’s money and other property without charging them with a crime violates the principles of due process of law and innocent until proven guilty.
Allowing law enforcement officers and prosecutors to keep the money that they confiscate creates a clear conflict of interest and is a corrupting influence. The examples given in the Register report show law enforcement officers have become more interested in collecting money than stopping crime. We need to stop this corruption and abuse.
SF467 has been introduced in the Iowa Senate. It would allow forfeiture only as part of a criminal charge against the owner, and it would require any forfeited property to be turned over the general fund of the county or state. If passed, this law would go a long way toward curbing these abuses. Contact your Iowa Senator and urge them to move this bill forward to passage.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/investigations/2015/03/28/iowa-forfeiture-system-legal-thievery/70600856/
Thanks to The Des Moines Register for exposing the unconstitutional and abusive use of civil asset forfeiture laws against U.S. citizens by the Iowa State Patrol, county attorneys, and the Iowa Attorney General. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow law enforcement agencies to take people’s cash (and other property) without charging them with a crime! Then, citizens must prove they are innocent in order to get their money back.
Most amazing is the fact that the three law enforcement agencies that are involved get to split the money! Whatever they can keep becomes a slush fund they can use to expand their budgets without legislative approval. The conflict of interest is clear. As a result, rather than arresting people and charging them with a crimes, our law enforcement officials make getting cash and other assets an end unto itself.
This is another example of how the failed drug wars have gotten out of control. Our police have become militarized trying to fight the drug wars. People who have never been violent or used any force against anyone have been made into criminals. Then, because of their “criminal record”, they can’t get jobs and are prohibited from participating in benefits of our society.
We need to put a complete halt to civil asset forfeiture and we need to stop making criminals out of people who do no harm to others. Ask candidates if they will help put an end to this travesty of justice.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2014/09/30/iowa-state-patrol-cash-seizure-illegal-gamblers-say/16511135/
The U.S. has made many great advances in the fight against racism since the “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years ago. One area where we have failed miserably is the drug wars. Blacks have been arrested, convicted and incarcerated for non-violent drug related offenses in numbers way out of proportion to their drug use when compared to whites. To add insult to injury, once a person has been convicted of a drug offense, they are prohibited by law from getting certain federal benefits including military and other federal employment, federally subsidized student loans and grants, food stamps, federal housing assistance and more. Finally, and even more devastating, most employers legally discriminate against anyone who has had a drug conviction. So, the negative impact on blacks’ ability to get work is again way out of proportion when compared to whites who use drugs. There is no way that the immoral drug wars would have been allowed to continue this long if the tables had been turned and whites were treated so unfairly. If you think that you are not racist, then you must support ending the drug wars – unless, of course, you want to wreck the lives of many many more white people by treating them the same as black people.