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The politics of grouping pot, Adderall & LSD with PCP and fentanyl

Virginia criminal defense lawyer on the failed war on drugs

Fairfax Virginia criminal lawyer / drug defense attorney pursuing the best defense, since 1991

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The drug war is bankrupt. Federal, state and local governments have poured billions of dollars into the drug wars for over five decades, with little more to show for it than America’s failed trillion dollar years-long war in Vietnam.

Sun Tzu wisely advised against long drawn out wars — like the Vietnam war — but the United States has chosen to continue the drug wars if for no other reason than that few politicians want to be accused of being soft on crime.

Consequently, the drug wars eclipse good medicine and good public policy, throw countless presumed-innocent people in jail with no bail pending trial and then warehouse countless people in prison with mandatory minimum sentencing. Virginia law lumps together — as Schedule I and II drugs — Adderall (specifically its active ingredient amphetamine, whereby Adderall effectively treats attention deficit disorder) and LSD (a psychedelic drug that can counter alcohol addiction, anxiety and depression, and which was legal until a few years after then-Harvard undergraduate Andrew Weil, M.D. outed LSD researchers and proponents Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert) with phencyclidine/PCP (a highly dangerous dissociative drug) and fentanyl (a highly potent opioid coming from China and Mexico). Federal criminal law lumps marijuana in with PCP as a Schedule I drug, despite the widespread anecdotal evidence of marijuana’s excellent medicinal benefits, as made all the more plain in the many states that have legalized marijuana for medicine and for recreational amounts.

By now, we have a huge percentage of our population that — unlike my generation born in 1963 — grew up with the oversimplified “Just Say No” to drugs campaign and DARE campaign and for whom rampant drug testing seems normal for the workplace (even for retail jobs), sports, and probation and pretrial court supervision. That huge percentage is highly represented among police, prosecutors and jurors, and increasingly among judges. They may prove harder to convince to reverse the failed drug war, than people who remember the golden age before the drug war overtook our civil liberties so severely.

The drug wars will not easily be reversed and undone. The drug wars are an entrenched part of life in the United States, that keeps countless police, prosecutors, judges, probation agents, jailers and government contractors employed. The drug wars warp American foreign policy and give millions a false sense of security.

Praised be the drug policy activists who have patiently and doggedly stuck to their guns over the decades, finally making huge headway with medical and recreational marijuana, with narrowing the crack-to-powder cocaine sentencing ratios, and with convincing President Obama in his final two years in office to commute the sentences of many people convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

Drug law reform has for years made allies of both civil libertarians and economic conservatives to bring us closer to a government that answers to the people rather than working to control the populace, and to an economy that does not drain so many billions of dollars for the failed drug war.

In Virginia, the mere possession of even a small amount of a schedule I or II drug — even one pill of Adderall — is prosecuted as a Class 5 felony carrying up to ten years in prison. This is madness, drains court resources as well, and must end.

The drug wars have failed. They are more harmful than drugs themselves. It is time to redirect our scarce government and criminal justice dollars and resources to drug treatment and to important non-drug governmental endeavors.