Losing Battle | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Losing Battle 

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Utah Democrats are running for the tall grass—again! Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the Demos would just stand their ground for once and not get hysterical anytime someone says anything remotely progressive? Oh, perish the thought—then voters might be able to draw a distinction between them and the Republicans, who run this state with an iron fist.

What has the Democrats’ undies all knotted-up this time? It’s that Rocky Anderson rascal. The Salt Lake City mayor went off to Los Angeles and made a speech declaring the War on Drugs a dismal failure. It wastes resources and lives while the drug trade thrives and thrives, he said.

Anderson told a standing crowd at the Shadow Convention that the fight against drugs, and our failure to contain drug trafficking, must be critically reviewed. In that light, we should study whether the decriminalization of marijuana would be justified.

When those words echoed back here in Zion, state Democratic Chairwoman Meghan Holbrook and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Orton went apoplectic. Orton fired off a press release denouncing Anderson and distancing himself from the wacky thought of decriminalizing marijuana. For her part, Holbrook said that Anderson doesn’t speak for Utah Democrats.

Well, no foolin’. Who said Anderson was speaking for anyone but himself?

Each year in this country, we spend billions of dollars on the War on Drugs. Right now, there are more than a half-million people locked up on drug charges. But they aren’t the so-called kingpins—they are only the little fish. On top of that, “get-tough” politicians have instituted mandatory minimum sentences, so offenders of all ages are doing 10 and 20 years behind bars. That practically guarantees they will never again become mainstream citizens.

Meanwhile, drugs flow into this country like never before. But rather than approach the epidemic as a public health issue—like alcoholism—we have “get-tough” politicians like Democrat Bill Orton and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch shaking the bogeyman at parents to ensure we stay on this utterly ridiculous path. At the same time, prevention measures are lackluster—consider the D.A.R.E. program that has been shown to be completely ineffective. While taxpayers shell out $30,000 to keep one inmate locked up for one year, we invest almost nothing in education and prevention.

Every once in a while, someone like Rocky Anderson shows up with the courage to tell like it is. But there are always people like Bill Orton to shout them down for political gain. Backward thinking, politicking and scare tactics are the rule of the day. That is why the misguided and expensive War on Drugs will continue.

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More by Christopher Smart

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