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Kristof, Crouch, Soros, and McNamara on Prop 19

A year ago, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote this in an op-ed on the War on Drugs entitled “Drugs Won the War”:

“First, we have vastly increased the proportion of our population in prisons. The United States now incarcerates people at a rate nearly five times the world average. In part, that’s because the number of people in prison for drug offenses rose roughly from 41,000 in 1980 to 500,000 today. Until the war on drugs, our incarceration rate was roughly the same as that of other countries.

“Second, we have empowered criminals at home and terrorists abroad. One reason many prominent economists have favored easing drug laws is that interdiction raises prices, which increases profit margins for everyone, from the Latin drug cartels to the Taliban. Former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia this year jointly implored the United States to adopt a new approach to narcotics, based on the public-health campaign against tobacco.

“Third, we have squandered resources. Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard economist, found that federal, state and local governments spend $44.1-billion annually enforcing drug prohibitions. We spend seven times as much on drug interdiction, policing and imprisonment as on treatment.”

Just this week, he added this in an op-ed entitled “End the War on Pot”:

“Our nearly century-long experiment in banning marijuana has failed as abysmally as Prohibition did, and California may now be pioneering a saner approach. Sure, there are risks if California legalizes pot. But our present drug policy has three catastrophic consequences.”

And here is Stanley Crouch in The New York Daily News today in an op-ed entitled “Weeding out the Prohibitionists”:

“American states spend an estimated total of $50-billion a year on our penal system. If Proposition 19 decriminalizes marijuana in California, the entire country will see how much money can be saved with laws based less on puritanical superstition than on facts. Then there’s the issue of tax revenues: Federal and state tax revenues for alcohol sales exceed $5.6-billion. Imagine if Prohibition were still in place, and what that would mean for our tight budgets.”

And now George Soros in The Wall Street Journal in an op-ed entitled “Why I Support Legal Marijuana”:

“Law-enforcement agencies today spend many billions of taxpayer dollars annually trying to enforce this unenforceable prohibition. The roughly 750,000 arrests they make each year for possession of small amounts of marijuana represent more than 40 percent of all drug arrests. Regulating and taxing marijuana would simultaneously save taxpayers billions of dollars in enforcement and incarceration costs, while providing many billions of dollars in revenue annually. It also would reduce the crime, violence, and corruption associated with drug markets, and the violations of civil liberties and human rights that occur when large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens are subject to arrest. Police could focus on serious crime instead.”

And here is Joseph D. McNamara in Reason magazine this month (he is former San Jose Police Chief and now a Hoover Institution fellow and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition):

“Good policing wins public trust so that people are willing to report crime, come forth as witnesses, and believe police testimony when they sit on juries. The confrontational policing endemic to marijuana enforcement results in volatile stop, search, and frisk situations that ofen escalate into controversial police use of force, alienating minority youths and communities. Busting pot smokers also diverts law enforcement resources from predatory criminals. . . . Our last three presidents used marijuana during their reckless days of youth but went on to successful careers because they were never busted. Millions of others Americans are not so lucky.”

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