The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When the law is at odds with the truth...

The following editorial ran in the Rapid City Journal on Wed., Aug. 11.


My tongue was bound. My typing fingers were paralyzed. On July 6, 2009, these acts were performed by a circuit court judge because I am a visible and ardent advocate of informed personal discretion regarding one's choice of intoxicant or medical palliative. The Court, of course, decides such cases in favor of alcohol, without which there wouldn't be a need for much of current court time.

I was convicted of possession of 3.67 ounces of cannabis. Two ounces is a felony. I was sentenced to a year in jail, with all suspended except 45 days, during which I slept nights in the work-release facility on East North Street in Rapid City. The balance of the year was spent on probation, with regular visits to a probation officer, under the constriction that I was to "take no public role in any program advocating legalization" of currently-illicit "drugs."

Contrary to the beliefs of many, there is plenty of precedent for court-ordered suppression of the truth. Often recalled is the 40-year house arrest imposed on Galileo for pointing out that the Earth revolved around the sun. Millions were burned to death for less.

I'm 62 years old. For 44 years I have observed the incalculably stupid custom of arresting people for possession of a demonstrably beneficial, easily cultivated herb. During the past 20 years alone, over 16 million people have been arrested on marijuana charges in this country, over 12 million of them for simple possession only.

My statistics are understated, purposefully, because most people apparently can't face how destructive cannabis prohibition has been. It's been estimated that each arrest has cost the taxpayers of its jurisdiction a minimum of $500. If that were the extent of the damage, prohibition would be a bargain.

It has become common practice for law enforcement to seize peoples' cash, possessions and children, often based on only an accusation of cannabis use. Those convicted bear an undeserved social and income-reducing stigma for the rest of their lives. No one in government or the financial industry is immune to the lure of the inconceivable amount of cash generated by the prohibited substance trade in general, of which cannabis is the most prevalent. Children find it easier to obtain "prohibited" substances than they do tobacco and alcohol, because the nature of prohibition is to subsidize an unregulated and untaxed market.

As for every politician who endorses prohibition, every judge who sentences someone for possession, every cop who arrests someone for possession; they all are awash in the blood of the 23,000 Mexicans who have been killed in the civil war over drug turf in Mexico during the past three years, and in the less visible detritus of the lives they have shattered senselessly here in the USA.

Amid this carnage, there can not be found a shred of benefit, unless you count (I don't) employment for prison guards, cops, state's attorneys, judges, probation officers, and pee testers. We'd be better off if most of these people were forced into productive jobs.

Meanwhile, cannabis on the street is less expensive and better than ever. Way to win, guys and gals. The Sinaloa cartel thanks us all-especially the politicians and those who vote for them-for making drug sales the most lucrative business that has ever existed. Maybe you, too, owe your job to prohibition, or to not speaking out in opposition.

In a twisted and particularly cruel way of parsing the matter, which above all else is the hallmark of prohibition logic, it makes sense for government to stifle the truth.


Donna said...

Well done Bob. I am very proud of you for not succumbing to being vindictive and revengeful. This was well said and beneficial to the cause.

larry kurtz said...

Yeah, what more can I say? It was great seeing you today. Have my baby?

Bob Newland said...

I'll have anyone's baby who buys me breakfast.

Bill Fleming said...

Very powerful. Nicely rendered, Bob.

larry kurtz said...

So this is what Woster was talking about today. Anybody know where it's coming from? Think it was the 800 pound guerrilla comment at Pat's, Bill? ip posted a contrite response.

Bill Dithmer said...

Nice piece of writing Newland. Is it just my imagination or are you getting mellow in your sixties? At any rate keep it up I like it.
Now as for the baby thing. All you want is breakfast? Didn’t they used to call girls like you easy?
You social climber you!

I Used to Preach Out There said...

Ah, you experienced, we experience, the rugged spirit of frontier individualism and responsibility and minding one's own buzniss!

victorcrown said...

Bob speaks the truth! He isnt afraid to speak and support the truth unlike 99% of our legislators. Good job with your intelligently written editorial Bob. I enjoyed it so much i read it out loud!! Thanks for all you do!!