Round two voting is still open

The opposition to the California marijuana legalization measure has a new website, called Public Safety First.

It would more appropriately be called the Prison Industrial Complex Profit Protection Racket, because they are the same outfit who organized against California’s Prop 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act of 2008.  The deceptive advertising that brought that measure down was financed to the tune of almost $2 million by the Prison Guard’s union, who were afraid that passage would negatively impact their business.

If Public Safety First wants to have a conversation about safety, let’s have one. Here’s what LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, has to say about the impact that the “war on drugs” has had on safety:

During nearly four decades the U.S. has fueled its policy of a war on drugs with over a trillion tax dollars and increasingly punitive policies. We have made more than 39 million arrests for nonviolent drug offenses. Our incarcerated population quadrupled over a 20-year period making building prisons this nation’s fastest growing industry. More than 2.3 million of our citizens are currently in prison or jail far more per capita than any country in the world. The United States has 4.6 percent of the population of the world but 22.5 percent of the worlds prisoners. Every year we choose to continue this war will cost the United States another 70 billion dollars. Despite all the lives we have destroyed and all the money so ill spent, today illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and much easier to access than they were 39 years ago at the beginning of the war on drugs. Meanwhile, people continue dying in our streets while drug barons and terrorists continue to grow richer than ever before.

Not one of the stated U.S. drug policy goals of lessening the incidents of crime, drug addiction, and juvenile drug use, while stemming the flow of illegal drugs into this country, has been achieved. Fighting a war on drugs has magnified our problems many fold creating a self-perpetuating, ever-expanding policy of destruction but the U.S. still insists on continuing the war and pressuring other governments to perpetuate these same unworkable policies. This scenario is the very definition of a failed public policy. This madness must cease!

With this in mind, current and former members of law enforcement have created a drug-policy-reform group called LEAP. The membership of LEAP believe that to save lives and lower the rates of disease, crime and addiction, as well as to conserve tax dollars, we must end drug prohibition. LEAP believes a system of regulation and control is far more effective than one of prohibition.

The average California prison guard makes over $100,000 a year with overtime, and the drug war makes sure incarceration rates stay high and business is good.  It’s hard to imagine what makes prison guards any more or less “safe” when people are thrown in jail for smoking or growing pot — but money flowing through an illegal system to international drug cartels unquestionably puts guns in the hands of violent offenders, enriching those cartels and putting the lives of law enforcement officers at more risk.

If Public Safety First wants to enter the debate about legalization, they should “first” stop demagoguing “safety” and get honest about where their money is coming from — those who make big bucks off the overflowing prison industrial complex.

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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