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Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim    
Tuesday, June 08 2010 @ 11:18 AM GMT+4
Contributed by: Vidda

ActivismIn the past month I have heard our locals talk about the issues of decriminalization, addiction and crime. To my knowledge, no one locally is calling to “decriminalize drugs” and no one that I know is advocating drug use. This may be happening, but I don’t think it is prevalent.

As an organizer, I am aware of our community effort to decriminalize a "specific" drug – marijuana. Our meetings are setup specifically stipulating that they are not marijuana user meetings. Our advocacy is directed to reducing the harm that drug laws have on our community. Marijuana decriminalization advocates see Decrim as a way to reduce the prison population, save the state money, and keep people from getting a criminal record that affects their ability to continue their education, get a job and apply for housing.

In addition, the hype about addiction does more harm than it does good. Statistically, the majority of drug users are not drug addicts and have little or no need for addiction counseling or treatment. What they really need is for addiction and drug prohibition advocates to get off their backs and leave them alone. This is especially true for marijuana consumers.

It’s ironic and dangerous that our drug laws are based primarily on addiction and not realistic drug use. Treatment and help is essential for anyone who falls from the safety net of moderation, but to scoop up all drug users because a few become addicted is nonsense and harmful to our community out of portion to any drug use per se. It is firmly established that less than 15% of all drug users fall into the category of addiction or serious abuse. The greatest exception are nicotine addicts who run at about a 95-98% addiction rate. Why do the moderate 85% of drug users have to be victims of drug laws because a small number of people are abusers?

Furthermore, drug use and crime is directly proportional to the illegality of drugs, not drug use in and of itself. There is too much mythology that surrounds the harping on the relationship between crime and drug use. Certainly crime is present, but like addiction, it is blown out of portion to the reality of overall crime statistics in a similar way that addiction is a bloated catch-all for all drug use. I have always been wary of the dominance of addiction “councilors” who have too much to say about a topic that affects so few people, and in turn, influence the enactment of harmful prohibition laws at the greater expense of the benign, moderate and responsible adult drug using community. ~Vidda


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  • Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim | 14 comments | Create New Account
    The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they may say.
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: babalu on Tuesday, June 08 2010 @ 02:15 PM GMT+4
    I agree that marijuana should be decriminalized; and no, I don't use it but see it as an unnecessary concern in terms of addictions and crime.
    But, I think you are being a little too casual in your claims of crime and drug addiction. Those who are addicted and involved in drug related crime, are for the most part addicted to the more dangerous drugs; heroine, meth and the like; also, the prescription pain killers are not to be underestimated in their ability to hook someone so intensely that they will do some incredibly stupid and dangerous things to get more of them.
    While the courts may be filling up with casual marijuana users, the prisons are not. These are in reality two separate issues, and as an advocate of decriminalizing marijuana, I hope you find some way to reclassify that drug and drop it in the same pot with alcohol and nicotine, which is where it belongs if it is to be legalized to any degree. Nicotine and alcohol are legal drugs; what was the rationale behind legalizing those two and not marijuana? Read the history and you'll find out.
    But please, especially if you want support for your work, don't undermine the severity of drugs as they relate to crime because it's there's very real connection with serious consequences involving high numbers of people (and their families as well as their victims).
    If anything, alcohol should be placed among the worst of the drugs, and marijuana grouped in with tobacco; my guess would be there are more deaths, and domestic crimes of all sorts from the abuse of alcohol than from marijuana. I think making those comparisons would ring true and could be backed up with statistics, but you are wrong to minimize the connection between drugs and crime and untreated addictions (including addictions to alcohol).
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: Vidda on Tuesday, June 08 2010 @ 04:19 PM GMT+4
    I have been involved with drug reform since 1988. I cofounded a drug reform nonprofit organization in 1990 where my board of directors was comprised of professors, attorneys, and social services that included disciplines in pharmacology, criminal defense, etc. The chances of me “undermin(ing) the severity of drugs as they relate to crime” is practically impossible. The primary reason, as I stated, that drugs will relate to criminal behavior is their “illegality”. Crime is ‘not inherent’ in drug use.

    I am steeped in the history of marijuana prohibition and fully understand why it is illegal. (That’s another conversation.) If people support our Decrim work, it will not be because of one person or their viewpoints. A number of people are working together on this. I am not alone. Most people support Decrim because it offers the best form of harm reduction that we can expect from our legislature.

    I have not minimized the “connection between drugs and crime and untreated addictions.” I have stated more than once that drugs and crime is played up by addiction advocates and the media because it is primarily about money, both funding and profits. I stand by that. That is not to say that there is no genuine concern for addiction...of course there is, quite a bit.

    But addiction groups benefit from huge outlays for funding and dominant the public perception of the drug culture, yet 85% or more of drug users are not addicted. We need more public and media balance so that treatment is readily available when needed or wanted (not mandatory), at the same time that the people who are not addicts are given more than their share of attention and equal footing.

    Where are the groups who discuss the benefits of drug use other than medicinal, ie: recreational, creative, quality of life, and other issues where drug use is truly fun, useful, stimulating, social, etc.
    Why do we have to focus entirely on addiction? ~Vidda
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: babalu on Tuesday, June 08 2010 @ 05:37 PM GMT+4
    If you are talking about all drugs (minus nicotine, which you've already pulled out of the mix); by that I mean alcohol, marijuana, prescriptions of all sorts, heroine, cocaine, - and so forth, then I do not buy that only 15% become addicted.

    If you are speaking only to marijuana use, I'd be apt to believe that percentage until something concrete told me otherwise.

    From my own experiences in life surrounding the many, many people I've known who use marijuana, I'd say that I've met only two who felt addicted to using it and they used it daily, just like some people will have alcohol daily, but they never went out and mugged someone to go buy more.

    If I were going to advocate for something like legalizing marijuana, which means defeating a bad reputation along with all the laws, I'd leave all the other drugs out of it because for most of those drugs, there's a whole lot to be more than just a little concerned about.

    Would you happen to know the percentage of inmates in Vermont who are there because of marijuana use or possession? Or how many people who use it have gone on to beat the tar out of someone to get more, or commit a robbery in order to go buy more? I am saying it is not an issue as far as saving substantial amounts of money for the prison system.

    I'm not arguing most of your points; but in noting the second paragraph of your article, I am saying that in terms of the prison population, you may be distorting the facts.

    Chip away at the end result you want and you might have a chance at decriminalizing marijuana, but you've jumped into an abyss if your position as you state it to be, mainly because you've got about 4 distinctly separate issues gong on all at once.

    1.) There IS an industry that promotes a belief that using any illegal drug is an ailment that needs treatment. There's a nasty built in catch-22 to anyone who might say to a drug/alcohol counselor that they are NOT addicted - it's puts that person into a compound ailment of "addict; in denial". I am highly insulted by this industry who peels way too much money away and gives very little in return. I think you are right if you are telling them to treat only those who are addicted and leave the rest alone.

    2.) The "hype" about addiction is in fact addressing the serious fact that a large percentage of people who are in prison, are there for drugs other than marijuana by virtue of dealing or drug related personal property crimes such a burglary and so, making highly addictive drugs legal would not, for most of those who are addicted, stop drug related crime even if they could go buy it in the grocery store. That's somewhat a provable argument if you look at prescriptions like oxycontin and others. Those drugs are obtained by people legally, then sold on the corners; so legalizing them (in this case, it would mean as over the counter, no prescription needed, right?) would only mean that more people would wind up addicts and further propel an industry we both agree is flawed, but suddenly they'd have a bit more credibility, wouldn't they? And being easier to obtain, I would think the addictions industry would throw a celebratory party.

    3.)If laws were based on addiction only, what would they become? Would they lead to treatment? It's the same group of people who right now are not receiving treatment whether they're in prison or not for drug related crime.

    I'd love to join the bandwagon on legalizing marijuana for some of the reasons you state, but I'd like to do it in a way that excludes the big pot you've put this all into and focus on only the one drug, marijuana. You managed to give addict percentages on tobacco and I think to be fair, should approach the entire issue drug by drug, or substance by substance. Chocolate is an addiction to some people, too, and just as legal as tobacco, but neither of those substances are causing people to go out and commit habit supporting crimes.

    You might be able to get me to change my own position more completely if you try selling it to me one step at a time.

    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: tomaidh on Tuesday, June 08 2010 @ 06:59 PM GMT+4
    "Chocolate is an addiction to some people, too, and just as legal as tobacco, but neither of those substances are causing people to go out and commit habit supporting crimes."

    I assure you that if Tobacco were illegal, many would be committing habit supporting crimes.
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: babalu on Tuesday, June 08 2010 @ 07:48 PM GMT+4
    I'm not so sure about it as you are; I am a nicotine addict BTW, but don't think I'd have the brass to go out and rob someone for a carton of cigarettes. Those who are addicted and can't afford them might try to shoplift or bum from friends. If they weren't legal the problem would be that the courts would be clogged from people being charged with possession of tobacco and we'd have more dealers on the streets. Although the addictive properties have been compared to heroin, I don't think tobacco plays a huge role in altering the mind/thought process in the same manner as other drugs. I think that's a big difference and I also think it's the same difference between marijuana and other drugs, such as heroin.

    I guess eventually, it would be possible if all drugs were decriminalized, to go bum some heroine off a neighbor, right?

    What I'm thinking as I read and reply to this article is that IF all drugs were legal and/or over the counter, I don't think a damned thing would change as far as crime statistics. What I'm hearing is this; "only 15% of people who use drugs are addicted or abusing" - but tobacco was removed from that equation. The argument here seems a statistical mishmash. If we take marijuana out of that equation as well, then what is the percentage of those addicted or abusing drugs? I'm saying it's much higher, it is cause for concern and I'm also saying that the prison problem is not stemming from marijuana violations; I doubt most of those cases end up in prison to begin with.

    So, I'm a little dizzy; I read the last poll that was put up and the comments and there's no suggestion that most people would agree the way to solve crime on Elliot Street would be by decriminalizing drugs or drug use.

    I understand completely what the suggestion is; if there no law being broken, no crime has been committed.

    It's possible that nothing would change if tomorrow, every drug under the sun was available to any adult who had the money to buy all they wanted; but the crime of possession isn't one that has high numbers of inmates attached to it.

    Addiction, which ISN'T a crime DOES have high numbers of inmates attached to it, because of the crime associated with it, some of it brutal.

    But what do I know? I'm not a co-founder of anything and can't rattle off a list of stuff meant to give me instant credibility.

    My reality isn't in statistics, anyway. It is in the people and families I've met over the years and what I've seen happen to many of them. Most every drug addicted individual I've know has died before reaching 40. Decriminalization will not stop this reality.

    It's not "hype" - now I'm talking about my personal reality and not numbers from one report or statistic or another.
    And I've had this observation as one who has never used any illegal drug, so it's not as if I've been confined to observations of any particular peer group; and lastly, none of these people died from marijuana use.

    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: babalu on Tuesday, June 08 2010 @ 07:52 PM GMT+4
    And please show me where this statement is true:

    "It’s ironic and dangerous that our drug laws are based primarily on addiction".
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: tomaidh on Monday, June 14 2010 @ 01:43 PM GMT+4
    "Those who are addicted and can't afford them might try to shoplift"
    If they were illegal, they wouldn't be available to shoplift.
    And, BTW, the merchants have figured out the shoplifting thing.
    Notice that tobacco is always stashed behind the counters.
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: Truman on Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 04:58 PM GMT+4
    Drug use, addiction and its costs, prison and its costs. All good discussions. But what about the other types of crime--the ones not directly related to the purchase/sale of that drug of choice? What about the kids who are neglected because their parents are stoned? What about the welfare system thats back-broken because of the people 'unable' to work because of their constant drug use? What about the spouse that lives in fear because their partner gets mean when they use? Sure, you can say we have all that with alcohol and you're right. So let's add more drugs into the legal mix and it'll be much better?
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: Vidda on Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 05:27 PM GMT+4
    Barbara…drug laws are based on the real and alleged harm they do, not the beneficial things that drugs, especially marijuana, provide. Earlier, you asked me to “read the history.” That’s my advice to you.

    Truman…please try to stick with the marijuana product topic. The things you are describing have little or no relationship to marijuana. If you’re advocating that we keep locking up marijuana consumers for personal possession and use, then you are out of touch with decriminalization. Instead of repeating media and politically induced mantras perhaps you too should do your homework a little better. ~Vidda
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: babalu on Wednesday, June 09 2010 @ 06:47 PM GMT+4
    I'm hearing your argument; I follow some but not all of the logic. You are advocating the legalization of all drugs, right? Not just marijuana? And part of your argument is that according to your statistics, over 80% of drug users do not abuse them or become addicted, is that correct?

    And you further argue that those 80+% of non-abusers are being subjected to laws that weren't intended for them; and therefore, when they are using they are breaking the law and if they are caught, they suffer the same consequence as an abuser or an addict, and likely as part of the consequence, made to attend drug programs that they don't need because they are not addicted.

    I'm thinking about what you are saying; and I tend to agree that not much would change if all drugs were decriminalized. I take exception to grouping all drugs as being only minimally addictive though; as I said, I don't think the addiction rate is the same for pot as it is for some of the harder drugs and the prescription drugs that are being used and abused.

    If tomorrow you woke up and all drugs were decriminalized, what you will find is that the jails are still full of people who will commit crimes while under the influence of drugs. People do all sorts of stupid things when they're abusing drugs whether they're legal or not.

    Decriminalizing them will save a people who aren't addicted all the trouble of going to court, paying fines, being forced into addictions treatments and so forth, and you feel that only people with addictions and seeking treatment should be the ones to go seek it out on their own, is that correct?

    Alcohol is legal; driving under the influence is not. If I am not abusing alcohol or if I am not addicted, what should happen to me if I drive while under the influence? (I don't feel that having a BAC of .08 is any indication of abuse or addiction) And, what should happen if someone is driving under the influence of marijuana or cocaine? Anything? Will there be roadside drug tests, then? Will it be OK to show up in class under the influence? Will people open up drug lounges alongside of bars and coffee houses? Do you think this country is prepared to handle such a casual attitude about all drugs?

    Do you think that if all drugs were decriminalized, that people would then feel free to use them openly? If people used more openly, do you believe there'd be more experimentation by youth, or less? Do you feel addictions would increase, or decrease? Do you think drugs will become commercialized to such a point that we'll see ads on TV and in magazines?

    Part of me can see your logic, and the other part of me sees a very complicated road to pave if all drugs were decriminalized. Would meth labs be included in your list of what's legal? Could people go out and mix up new kinds of drugs and start selling them, too?

    It just seems to me that this approach at trying to solve one problem would just create new and different problems. This is not a socialist country but one that is driven by capitalism and I think therein would be the greater danger to legalizing all drugs across the board.

    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: Truman on Thursday, June 10 2010 @ 03:34 PM GMT+4
    no need to chastise, Vidda. I was following your line just like Barbara--that you would like to see many more drugs than marijuana decriminalized.

    As for marijuana, as soon as they come up with a quickly-administered, quick results test for it's use that gives accurate levels of concentration in blood, I'm all for decriminalizing it. My personal feeling is that if people want to fire up at home, that's fine--but just like alcohol, there has to be a limit that's ok to drive and interact among other humans under.

    But I also know (yes know, from personal experience growing up) that kids can suffer when their parents smoke pot on a regular basis. I was lucky as a kid, two parents, dinner every night and a fairly healthy environment to live in. A friend's parents were known as stoners. Their house was filthy, there were fleas from their many dogs. Dinner was hit or miss and not often nutritious when they got it. The kids came and went at all hours and all but one ended up using pot AND other drugs (because who wants to do just what their parents do?). The one kid made his room an oasis--put a padlock on the door to keep his parents "friends" from stealing stuff and using his room as a place to crash when he was at school. His parents weren't too busy to feed them, they just didn't feel like it because they were extremely mellow. All the time.
    Just like alcohol, marijuana's effects aren't limited to the user.
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: Vidda on Thursday, June 10 2010 @ 10:36 PM GMT+4
    It’s very curious that both of make more than one reference to my ‘alleged’ position of decriminalizing all drugs. I reviewed what I wrote here in order to make this reply. I think my choice of a title may be somewhat at fault here, I admit that. That doesn't excuse you two from failing to understand and 'reading into' my comments.

    While I did make some reference to ‘drugs’ in the plural, at no time did I write about decriminalizing all drugs as Truman stated: “I was following your line just like Barbara--that you would like to see many more drugs than marijuana decriminalized.”

    Thanks for making a bad attempt to read into what I said, rather than reading what I actually did say. I dislike it when people try to put words into my mouth, especially in an attempt to get their own misguided viewpoints across.

    I am quite capable of speaking for myself.

    From this point forward, the two of you may continue your fanciful dialogue, if you wish, but please leave me out of it. ~Vidda
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: Vidda on Saturday, June 12 2010 @ 10:40 PM GMT+4
    Barbara and Truman, It has bothered me that I seemed a bit out of sorts here, and even though I have a lot on my plate, I do wish I had more time to focus on your concerns. I’m rushing off again but if we get the chance, and if you want to, let’s have coffee or tea at Amy’s sometime. ~Vidda
    Drugs, Crime, Addiction, Decrim
    Authored by: babalu on Monday, June 14 2010 @ 12:06 PM GMT+4
    If you were referring to marijuana and no other drugs I understand your frustration over what I was trying to address. But in my own defense, I will say that when I read your reference to "drugs", I had no reason to believe you were referencing only marijuana.
    It's a little difficult to think of weed as a "drug" anyway; anymore than it would come to mind that nicotine is a "drug" - although both are considered to be just that.

    Thanks for the acknowledgment of our communication errors and the invitation to see you if I wanted to discuss this further (but I avoid downtown as much as possible). Suffice it to say I do not object to the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana and would support our legislature if they adopted either.

    Unless it's addictive, it's a matter of personal choice either way. I personally would never consider using the stuff, although at times I've been a suspect user ~ by none other than the Department of Corrections. They seem to suspect anyone who disagrees with them as being under the influence of one drug or another.

    Actually, when I think about it, any person who refuses to mainstream their thoughts or behaviors is usually accused of using drugs; I doubt there's any truth to the suspicion, but wonder how it came to be?

    Now back to my morning routine of "drugs"; caffeine and nicotine.