Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My Vote on Proposition 5

I thought long and hard about Prop 5, which increases mandatory treatment and decreases jailtime for drug offenders. At first I was excited that we finally had a statewide ballot measure about drug policy. But I voted no. I agree with the ultimate goal of the measure (principally sponsored by everyone's favorite billionaire George Soros), but not the means.

As a Libertarian, I strongly favor sensible decriminalization of drugs. For example: not only is marijuana less dangerous than alcohol, it's on DEA Schedule I, which contains drugs supposedly having no known benefit and for which the penalties are most severe. Furthermore, I strongly believe that state-initiated decriminalization is the way to approach the issue (because at the Federal level this issue is political poison), and in the western US this has been producing actual results - here's one example where it's been legalized for a while, without the end of civilization occurring.

The problems with Prop 5 are:

a) Putting people in jail is expensive; giving them rehab the way this initiative proposes is even more expensive. If you're convicted of a crime, the costs should be on you. At the end of the day a drunk driver in CA pays about $10,000; I fail to see what other drug convicts should be able to bill taxpayers instead.

b) The authority of judges in the way they sentence offenders is severely limited by this initiative. There is a difference between someone caught with a dimebag of weed in their car and a guy with a meth lab and connections to international traffickers, and judges should be able to rule on that basis.

c) Prop 5 is a thirty-odd page initiative that no one (including me) can wade through. Not a good way to pass laws about complex issues.

d) Prop 5 draws no distinction is made between drugs. This is key. Meth is not alcohol is not marijuana. Honestly, does someone caught with a joint need rehab? And will treatment benefit someone caught with a meth lab in the midst of other criminal behavior that pre-dates their meth use? There must be some kind of schedule or system for biologically active substances, psychoactive or otherwise – that's the basis of prescription drug control and a legal drinking age. Our current system happens to be completely divorced from the medical reality of these substances, which is why it badly needs to be reformed. At the very least, the ultimate goal must be reorganization of the DEA schedule so it makes more medical sense, which will result in Schedule I substances being removed.

That's why I voted against Prop 5.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

I am disappointed that you voted against Prop 5 -- a modest and sensible reform.

Treatment does NOT cost more than incarceration -- far from it. Treatment costs in the neighborhood of $5,000 per offender per year, whereas incarceration costs $46,000 per year. Do the math. And if you think that we, the taxpayers, are not on the hook for that price tag, think again. Californians pay $10 billion per year on our broken prison system.

If Prop. 5 does not pass, the price tag will just get higher: three federal judges are threatening to take over the entire prison system, and a federally appointed receiver has already demanded $8 billion just to get our prison medical care up to constitutionally required minimum standards. If Prop. 5 doesn;t pass, in other words, the federal government is going to drive a dumptruck up tot he state treasury and raid it -- with us left holding the bill.

Prop. 5 is the only ballot measure that will SAVE money -- $2.5 billion according to the Legislative Analyst -- because we won't have to build new prisons.

Lastly, under Prop. 5 judges are the gatekeepers: judges have the power to decide if someone gets treatment and will only do so if it will be in the best interests of public safety.

Don't believe the hype. Vote YES on Prop. 5!!