By Shelley Fox-Loken
I went into criminal justice because I wanted to serve the public. As a corrections official, I thought that by working with inmates I'd be able to help them reintegrate into society, making their lives better and our community safer. I quickly became disillusioned with that noble idea, however, as I saw that rehabilitation, once the overarching goal of the penal system, was increasingly impeded as Oregon's prisons were overrun with people whose only crimes were drug-related.
Prison used to be reserved for those who committed what we think of when we hear the word "crime" -- murderers, rapists, thieves. But increasingly during the past 40 years, drug users and low-level dealers who've committed no offense other than succumbing to the medical problem of substance abuse have been joining those ranks. In order to prosecute those committing these consensual crimes, we're using resources -- police time, court time, jail beds -- that could be better spent going after those whose victims are all too real.
Measure 80, the initiative on Oregon's ballot this November that would regulate marijuana like alcohol, doesn't solve that problem entirely, but it's certainly a step in the right direction.
By NEILL FRANKLIN, NY Times Op-Ed Contributor
The Obama administration's crackdown on state medical marijuana laws, as Ethan Nadelmann pointed out, does not make "any sense in terms of public safety, health or fiscal policy." Medical marijuana is consistently supported by more than 70 percent of voters. A recent Gallup poll shows that more Americans now want to legalize marijuana altogether than support continued prohibition on adult use.
In an earlier era it may have been a smart move for politicians to act "tough on drugs" and stay far away from legalization. But today, many voters recognize that our prohibition laws don’t do anything to reduce drug use but do create a black market where cartels and gangs use violence to protect their profits.
While some fear that legalization would lead to increased use, those who want to use marijuana are probably already doing so under our ineffective prohibition laws. And when we stop wasting so many resources on locking people up, perhaps we can fund real public education and health efforts of the sort that have led to dramatic reductions in tobacco use over the last few decades — all without having to put handcuffs on anyone.