The war on drugs and vested interests

The Economist has an article on the war on drugs in its February 11, 2012 issue.  Here’s my comment.

The problem with the war on drugs is that there are some powerful  people with a vested interest in keeping it going – judges, lawyers and police.

I once asked a (slightly inebriated) drugs police detective how many judges and police would be out of work if the drugs problem were to be solved.  His answer was one-third.

Calling for a royal commission on justice

Following is a copy of a letter to the editor to be submitted to the Vancouver Sun.  The column was printed on Monday, April 11, 2011 on page A3

Columnist Ian Mulgrew is correct in saying the entire legal system is “gummed up” and that “public money is lining lawyers’ pockets”.However, one fears putting “more money – a lot more” into the legal system will only line the pockets of even more lawyers.

As an alternative I suggest a royal commission on justice to evaluate all aspects of the legal system with a mandate to improve justice and reduce costs.

Here are some things at which a royal commission should look.

First, it should evaluate the laws themselves for justness. Some laws are unjust because they are applied to situations the law was never intended to cover and others are unjust because they try to force the values, morals or sexuality of some people on everyone.

A royal commission should also do a serious evaluation of the use of legal tactics and procedures. Lawyers use these to get around the weaknesses in their cases. Not only do they lead to unjust decisions but they also add considerably to costs.

A third thing to look at is the attitude of police and their training especially regarding force. Police should be trained to use people skills before they are trained to use force. Hardly any of the people police deal with are so dangerous they need to be tasered or shot.

I believe justice is more important than the rule of law and that our society is in urgent need of a royal commission on justice.

Proposition 19 and police power

California’s Proposition 19 to alter the legal status of marijuana may be a test of the power of the police in that state.  A report on the financial implications suggest the greatest impact would be from massive law enforcement cuts.

Cash-strapped California would get some relief by legalizing pot, but the biggest boost would be thanks to massive law enforcement cuts, not new tax revenue, experts say.


Jeffrey Miron, a senior lecturer at Harvard University and senior fellow at the Cato Institute who co-authored the study, said the majority of the cost savings would be a result of cuts to law enforcement personnel whose services would no longer be required. And axing police officers, prison guards, prosecutors and judges would hurt the job market, at least initially, he said.

It will be interesting to see how many police will quietly accept pink slips if Proposition 19 passes.

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