Good article by Mike Krause, regarding Colorado Senate Bill 250 A Net Reduction in Drug War Stupidity. He details both the good and the bad in the bill.
It’s a shame that’s the best we can hope for from our leaders – a net decrease in stupidity – but that’s better than we’ve had for so many years, where the political impulse has been to double down.
Mike Krause also points out some of the important aspects of the drug war often neglected in political discussion:
Longer sentences for certain classes of crime are fine as a tool of incarceration and separation. But placing drug offenses, including sale and manufacture, in the same sentencing scheme as violent and property crimes is counter-productive, since incarceration does not affect the use or availability of drugs outside of prison. For example, imprison one serial burglar and there is one less burglar committing burglaries. There is not another burglar waiting to take over the newly vacant burglary territory. The same holds true for other predatory criminals. But the imprisonment of one drug dealer (or even an entire drug network) only temporarily disrupts the flow of illegal drugs. As soon as one supplier is gone, another quickly moves in to take his place.
It also consumes the criminal justice system’s most valuable resource; prison beds, distracting prisons from their primary mission of incapacitating violent and predatory criminals.
Ending “extraordinary risk” sentencing enhancements for drug offenses: One of the most irrational theories propping up the failed war on drugs is that illegal drug sales and use are inherently violent and constitute a threat to public safety, this despite the fact that the DOC lists all drug offenses as “non-violent.” Under current law, most manufacturing and sales drug offenses in Colorado are labeled as “extraordinary risk of harm to society” crimes, which automatically increase sentences in Colorado’s presumptive sentencing scheme. But in reality, much of the violence related to illegal drugs is due mostly to drug laws themselves. Violence from disputes between dealers (turf wars) is engendered by prohibition, just as alcohol prohibition caused violence in another era. Robberies and other crimes committed by drug users to support a drug habit are caused in part by the “risk premium” charged by drug dealers as part of their risk of going to prison.
The people are ready for reform. The politicians are cautiously dipping their toes into the waters of slightly less stupid.