Jesse Ventura on Drugs
Former Independent MN Governor
It's time we faced facts: fighting the Taliban over there is at the same time propping up the biggest drug-based regime in the world.
The World Bank issued a report in 2006 on "Afghanistan's Opium Economy." Isn't it interesting that we're fighting a "war on drugs," yet over there we have no problem with this? Certainly those drugs are going to get here eventually, again just follow the money. But obviously the Afghans involved can buy protection and continue their business.
Let me cite a few statistics that I find mind-boggling. According to NORML, an advocacy group for legalizing marijuana, more than 700,000 of America's estimated 20 million pot-smokers got arrested in 2008. About HALF of the 200,000 inmates in our federal prisons are in there for drug-related offenses. Between 1970 and 2007, we saw a 547% increase in our prison population, mainly because of our drug policies. Of course, that's just fine with the new prison-industrial complex, where corporations are now running the show. We as taxpayers shell out $68 billion every year for prisons, & a lot of that end up going into private contractors' pockets!
Of course, they're not the only ones getting rich. Well-documented federal reports lead to the conclusion that American banks are "collectively the world's largest financial beneficiary of the drug trade."
Yet just about every move he's made since that day has taken power away from the states. Cases in point: 12 states have now passed laws to allow the medical use of marijuana. The federal government under Bush says no way, it won't let the states do this. 2 states have voted for dignity in death. If I'm living in MN and terminally ill, I could have the option of moving to Oregon and fulfill my wishes not to prolong the agony. Again, the Bush administration says, oh no, you can't.
Why not treat marijuana in the same way as alcohol or tobacco? It's so widely used, and it has medical purposes that are denied by the US Food and Drug Administration. Numerous doctors and private studies have clearly shown that medicinal marijuana is a painkiller that can help cancer and AIDS patients and can also be used to treat glaucoma.
The fact is growing hemp for industrial purposes would make it a very useful plant. It can be a fiber for clothing, a source of paper, even an alternative fuel. Canada is already using hemp this way. I simply don't see that cannabis grows wild on earth just so humans can eradicate it.
I keep hearing case after case of somebody doing ten years for drug possession sitting in a cell next to somebody doing two years for a violent crime. Marijuana can get you more time than assault. We’ve got to change that. Prisons should be reserved for violent criminals. Putting anybody else in there is a misdirection, and a complete waste of government resources.
Just imagine if we could find some way for addicts to get their drugs cheaply, safely, and legally. The bottom would drop out of the illegal drug market. We’d see a huge drop in organized and violent crime.
I had been talking about them for years, saying, “Doesn’t anybody else out there see what’s going on?” Steroids came into wrestling with the advent of the bodybuilder physique popularized by “Superstar” Billy Graham [a professional wrestler], who suffers grave medical problems to this day from his past use. Not only do they shorten your life, but guys who took a lot of them were susceptible to what became known as “’roid rage.” They’d suddenly snap under the slightest pressure and would go into a frenzy.
I used steroids occasionally myself. I would take testosterone for 30 days, then I’d go off it for nine months. But I later found out they were destructive. I even did a poster for the FDA once, explaining that I once took them and warning kids not to use them.
But we have to become willing to admit as a nation that our war against drugs has failed. And we have to start looking for other solutions. I want the drug business stopped. But I know it never will stop as long as people want the drugs. It’s supply and demand. You can even get drugs in prison.
But if there were no more demand for drugs, gangs and drug dealers would be out of business. I think the key lies in keeping young people from becoming their customers in the first place. If parents get involved, and if schools educate young people about the dangers of drugs, we can dry up the drug dealers’ customer base. That’s how we win the war.
We don’t need more of the same. We need to rethink our approach. As your Governor, I’ll bring people together and provide the administrative resources to facilitate that rethinking process.
A: Overcrowded prisons and increasing criminal justice expenses are partially due to the misguided way the war on drugs is being waged. Harsh drug sentences have filled our prisons to overflowing with non-violent offenders. Have these harsh sentences worked? No. Does the average citizen feel we are winning the war on drugs? No. Does it make sense to consider new approaches to the so-called drug problem? Absolutely.
Under our current laws, we can’t even keep illegal drugs out of prison. How can we expect to keep illegal drugs off the streets? It doesn’t matter how many drug dealers and users we put in jail. As long as people use illegal drugs, and huge amounts of money can be made by selling them, there will always be more dealers to replace the ones we lock away.
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