(Toledo, OH) Our nation has been on a crusade against intoxicating substances since the nineteenth century. Etched into our national character seems to be a Prohibitionist itch that cannot be satisfied, no matter how often we scratch it.
Before progressing further, let me make a confession - I do not drink, smoke, or use drugs, save those prescribed by my physician. I say this not out of pride but rather for people who might make judgments about me being some sort of caricature of a pot-smoking hippie.
I did, in my wilder days, travel down the road of inebriation, but that is altogether another story.
Loretta Nall is a Libertarian candidate for governor in Alabama. Her campaign itself is intriguing, and her website details many of her proposals; some I wholeheartedly support, and there are others with which I disagree.
This is not an essay about Nall's "Vote Nall Y'all ... It's Just Common Sense" campaign.
Nall's decision to run for governor is based upon a series of life-changing events in which she became ensnared in the American jihad against intoxicants. Read her bio on her Nall for Governor website for a more detailed chronology of her bizarre ordeal.
The drama began when she saw a helicopter flying over her Alabama house looking for marijuana plants. Nall says that she never grew any plants, and did not think much of the flyover at first, although she videotaped the chopper when it began to circle her house.
Things got a little strange, though, when in her words, "7 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies roared up the driveway in big black trucks with tinted windows and loaded ATV trailers." The entourage left when Nall demanded to see a search warrant.
Gripped with a sense of righteous indignation, Nall fired off a letter to the editor of the Birmingham News. She believed that she had performed her civic duty, and thought that she was merely standing up for the constitutional rights of American citizens.
However, Nall inadvertantly marked herself with the dangerous label of "activist" when her letter was printed.
Police returned with a search warrant based upon her letter to the editor, and thus a 3-year odyssey of judicial horror began. The police claim to have found a letter addressed to Nall in her home that contained .87 grams of marijuana in the form of a couple of seeds and a charred piece of rolling paper.
Nall was arrested, had her children temporarily removed from her home by children's services, and ultimately paid a $250 fine after being convicted of a misdemeanor.
The state of Alabama spent several hundred thousand dollars investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating this case.
In Loretta's words: "Thus began my counter-attack, what has become a life consuming, all out frontal assault on U.S. drug policy."
There exists in this country a prison-industrial complex that is dependent upon the steady influx of drug offenders to maintain both its existence and continued profitability. Millions of Americans have been herded through the nation's prisons in a failing effort to eliminate drug abuse and addiction-related crime.
It is time to change what we are doing.
Over 80 percent of property crimes are committed by drug users seeking to support an expensive, illegal habit. The War on Drugs has accomplished little, except to drive the price of illegal intoxicants to stratospheric levels.
Our efforts to outlaw alcohol in the 1920s and 1930s were a complete failure. Alcohol use actually increased during Prohibition, and the trade in illegal alcohol fueled the rise of organized crime.
There are people who will habitually seek a state of intoxication irrespective of the laws. My father, a retired police officer, told me that the poorest panhandlers would steal products like mouthwash or shoe polish for their alcohol content when booze was not available.
The most sensible direction that we could embark on would be to decriminalize drugs, tax them, and focus our energies on educating people about the dangers of the hazardous intoxicants. Rather than a criminal issue, drug abuse should be a health care issue.
Of course, the times that we as a nation opted first for common sense are far fewer than those in which we became swept up with the mania of Prohibitionist zeal.