|A Third Party Victory is Inevitable
|Part 1: ...So Why
Part 2: I'm Outraged!
Part 3: How I Became a Green
Part 4: Comparing the Platforms
Part 5: An Open Letter to Al Gore
Part 6: Vote for Ralph! (Unless...)
I used to think we were doing the right thing, fighting this war against drugs. But during the course of the last 10 years, I have developed doubts, followed by concerns, and finally, objections. But now I'm angry. The prosecution of the sick and dying in states with legalized medical marijuana, the government's overall disregard for the will of those states' voters, and in particular, the death of Peter McWilliams, have all made me madder than ever about this horrible and destructive policy. I'm outraged!
In what has got to be one of the most ironic tragedies of all time, Peter McWilliams, the man who literally wrote the book on the absurdity of consensual crimes in a free society, is dead. He was a victim of the criminal "justice" system that enforces the very laws he so eloquently spoke out against, and his death stands as absolute proof that the suppression of medical marijuana is killing the seriously ill patients for whom no other treatments are effective. And since this happened in a state where medical marijuana is supposed to be legal, I put the blame for his death squarely at the feet of President Clinton (*and* Al Gore), since this administration has done everything in its power (and many things beyond it) to over-ride and over-rule the will of the voters on this matter. How many more must die before we adopt a rational and humane marijuana policy?
Peter McWilliams had cancer and AIDS. An assortment of drugs, mostly legal prescription drugs, were keeping him alive... but they made him terribly nauseous, and constant vomiting makes it difficult to keep those pills down, to say nothing of food in general. Peter suffered therefore from AIDS wasting syndrome in addition to everything else, and might have died long ago if it weren't for pot. Fortunately, since smoked marijuana is a drug you don't have to swallow, it singularly alleviated his nausea, allowing him to eat as well as keep down those other drugs that kept the AIDS and cancer at bay. He gained back the weight and became remarkably healthy for a man with cancer and AIDS.
And then he got arrested, for growing plants (or more accurately, for being part of a conspiracy to grow plants). He went through a farce of a trial, in which the judge refused to allow him to testify about his medical need for marijuana, and when he died was about to receive an undoubtedly harsh jail sentence (like his co-conspirator and fellow cancer sufferer Todd McCormick did -- he's in prison now, and for the next 5 years). And all of this happened in California, a state where medical use for cases like these was approved in a popular vote four years ago, by a wider margin than the election of Bill Clinton.
But here's real the kicker: It wasn't the AIDS or the cancer that got him. It was the vomiting. Having been effectively compelled not to smoke pot by harsh threats and daily urine testing, he had nothing to quell his intense nausea. His health immediately began to fail again, and one day he was found dead on the bathroom floor, having choked to death on his own vomit. (What a horrible way to die.) Marijuana itself may not be causing any deaths, but the war on marijuana certainly is.
The whole thing just leaves me absolutely outraged. Peter wrote many great books, including Life 101, Love 101, How to Survive the Loss of a Love, and other self-help books that have made a real difference in the lives of thousands of people. He accepted a plea bargain because he didn't want to die. He still had more to give the world. "I don't want to be a martyr for this movement," he said, "it already has enough martyrs." But he died a martyr nonetheless, and the world is a poorer place without him. (The text of all of his books, including Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do and the medical marijuana writings he was working on when he died, are all available for you to read online, for free, at McWilliams.com.)
Peter McWilliams was just one person, but he represents millions of others who are continually having their lives interfered with, utterly ruined, and even taken from them completely, all for the shameful suppression of one of nature's most useful and easily renewable natural resources.
I'm outraged that our government is so arrogant and out-of-control that it can override and nullify the will of the people whenever it chooses. As children we are taught not to take the law into our own hands, but instead to work within the system to effect change by the proper channels. But how are we to react when we vote to enact such changes, only to have our government reject and trample upon our decisions? I'm especially outraged at the treatment of the voters of DC, where the government successfully suppressed the results of a medical marijuana ballot initiative for a *full year*. And when the votes finally were counted, and it passed by almost 70%, the politicians still struck it down. I call that tyranny.
I'm outraged by the hypocrisy of a nation that turns a blind eye to its drinking problem while persecuting stoners as if they were rapists and murderers.
I'm outraged that we've wasted so much money and destroyed so many lives in a drug war that primarily targets one of the least dangerous drugs known to man. Have you ever noticed how many of those anti-drug ads on TV (paid for by our tax dollars) single out marijuana, with nebulous claims like "it's bad"? Oh sure, there was that heroin girl smashing up her kitchen, but most of the ads sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy specifically target marijuana as the most evil and dangerous of all drugs. None of them ever target alcohol.
But consider these facts: the number of people who died from smoking cigarettes last year is around 450,000, which coincidentally is about the same as the number of non-violent drug offenders we currently have living in our jails (which is itself about a fourth of our 2 million+ prison population). Then there's alcohol... it causes about 150,000 deaths per year. And let's not forget the staggering death toll caused by legal prescription drugs, which account for at least 100,000 deaths each year. And yet, heroin and cocaine *combined* were only responsible for 5,000 deaths last year, with marijuana apparently causing *no deaths at all*. Add that up and you see that illegal drugs are only responsible for a teeny tiny fraction of all drug-related deaths. So how then can it possibly make sense to spend $18 billion a year on a "drug war" that doesn't work and doesn't even attempt to address the most serious of our nation's drug problems? It's like fighting World War II by invading North Africa while ignoring Europe and Japan. Our priorities are so screwed-up, it makes me absolutely furious.
If we're not going to legalize pot, then why aren't we criminalizing cigarettes and alcohol?
I'm outraged by the basic fact that the entire War on Drugs is nothing but a nightmarish rerun of a show that sucked the first time around: Prohibition. Why don't we learn from past mistakes? It's sad to think that all I'm asking is to raise our society's level of common sense to the level it was at in 1933, when we rightly repealed the War on Alcohol. Of course, they were in the midst of a crushing depression... I hope it doesn't take another one of those to make us question the value for money we're getting from our failed drug war.
I'm outraged that so few people seem to regard stopping the drug war as a cause worth fighting for. I'm outraged that so few besides the bravest of pot-smokers and the most visionary of non-users are ever willing to say any of these things. I'm outraged that so many people have friends and loved ones who live in daily fear of being arrested, who don't consider this issue worth speaking out on. Think about it... you undoubtedly know someone who covertly smokes pot. Maybe it's your cousin, or a co-worker, or your best friend. Maybe it's your child, or your parent (and maybe you don't even know it). Or maybe it's you. What would happen if that person were arrested tomorrow? With the harsh laws we currently have on the books, the government could start rounding up the stoners and sending them off to prison camps at any time. In fact, it's already happening. We are now a nation of prison builders, and we arrest more and more marijuana smokers every year -- 700,000 last year alone. America is Number One: the world's biggest jailer. How's it going to end?
I'm outraged that anyone who expresses an appreciation for cannabis is immediately accused of deliberately seeking to corrupt and destroy children, while a far more dangerous drug - alcohol - is socially acceptable and can even be aggressively advertised on television with appealing characters like spotted dogs and talking frogs.
I'm outraged about the lies that are constantly broadcast at us, at the cost of vast sums of taxpayer's money. I'm outraged that so few seem to realize that the phrase "war on drugs" is itself a lie. Drugs are inanimate objects. The war is on drug users, and is as much an attempt to destroy an unpopular culture as any other oppression of an entire ethnic, social, or religious group of people.
I'm outraged by the suppression of a medicine that not only could have saved Peter McWilliams, but also could help my lovely wife Kristin cope with her terrible migraine headaches. For centuries, cannabis was well-regarded as a good treatment for migraines... and yet our government still insists it has no medical usefulness. I'm outraged by the fact that, again and again, the government commissions studies on marijuana and then simply ignores (or worse yet, suppresses) their results. I think if all the migraine sufferers in America (and the loved ones who suffer along with them) had any clue about how effective pot is for relieving migraines, it would have been legalized long ago.
And now, as if I didn't have enough to be outraged about, our drug hawk of a president has just flushed another $1.3 billion down the drug war toilet by giving it to Colombia, to spend on helicopters and other military hardware. And then he has the audacity to assure us that this won't become another Vietnam... as if the entire drug war isn't that already. And get this: To make Colombia eligible for aid, President Clinton even overrode ("for national security reasons") six human rights conditions that the Senate had attached to the aid bill. We're giving a huge military aid package to a nation where leftist guerrillas routinely kill civilians and where kidnapping is a popular way of raising money (there were more than 2500 abductions in Colombia last year - it's the world's kidnapping capital). Last week, Clinton took a quick trip to Colombia to hand over the money, and at least seven civilians died in leftist guerrilla attacks on various towns, just during those few hours when Clinton was visiting. And yet, we're explicitly overlooking these and other human rights violations, all in the name of keeping foreign entrepreneurs from making and exporting a product that America has an unquenchable thirst for. If these were sweat-shops making shoes for import to America, there'd be talk of imposing economic sanctions; but when it comes to fighting "drugs", concern for human rights goes right out the window, along with vast sums of our tax dollars.
How much longer will we put up with this madness?