By Diane Goldstein | Mother and LEAP Speaker
You might not expect a mom and former police officer to advocate legalizing marijuana but that’s just what I would like our elected officials to think about.
On mother’s day each year I reflect back on my obligation as a mom and what it means to me, my son and to our communities.
Thoreau stated “Aim above morality, be not simply good, be good for something.”
As I have successfully launched my son into the world I realized that my obligation to him continues by making a better society for his future and for his children’s future as well.
I know that those that favor the current drug policy will view this as harmful, but as mothers helped end the devastation of alcohol prohibition, it is now time for mothers to end the drug war as well.
I spent 21 years in law enforcement supporting the goals of trying to achieve a “drug-free America.” During my career I saw the damage of both legal and illicit drug abuse in our communities, but I also saw that the cost of this policy has caused more harm then good.
Our fiscal issues have clearly moved us to a position where we have to ask the question: is what we are doing effective? My experience tells me no.
And although Proposition 19 lost this last election cycle, 47% of the electorate voted yes. This clearly shows that the time to honestly debate legalization of marijuana has come. Our founding fathers created a government that was based on freedom of religion, liberty and personal responsibility.
The dream of a “drug-free America” is unachievable in a free society based on this vision. Those calling for reform are no longer just hippies or other groups that have been marginalized in the past, but also such notable conservatives as Rand and Ron Paul, The Pew Center on States, and the conservative group called “Right on Crime” who believe we have over-criminalized our society resulting in an inefficient use of our fiscal resources.
Since the start of the drug war we have spent one trillion dollars.
Our viewpoint on drugs has helped make the United States the world leader in the incarceration of its own citizens.This has caused the diversion of critical funding from other programs such as education, infrastructure, and job creation.
Our leaders have failed to examine the risks and impact of our current national drug policy on the macro and the micro level. They fail to evaluate alternatives that include legalized regulation and decriminalization based on harm reduction strategies, despite studies that show that treatment reduces drug selling and is more cost-effective than enforcement.
Reports by the RAND Corporation and SAMHSA showed that treatment reduces drug selling and arrests for any crime. After one year, welfare declined while employment increased. Medical and mental health in-patient visits related to substance abuse decreased by more than one half. The RAND report analyzed enforcement “source control,” “domestic law enforcement” and “interdiction” as compared to “treatment” to determine what was the best policy for controlling drugs.
The study demonstrated that “treatment is 7 times more cost-effective than domestic law enforcement effort, 10 times more effective than interdiction, and 23 times more effective than ‘source control’ methods.”
Yet we continue to under-fund treatment, devoting only half as many resources to it as we earmark for law enforcement, despite not only these reports, but also other reports through the years that validate the same results.
Instead we fund a $50 billion a year war, not on enemy combatants, but on our families, our neighbors and our friends. It is time to shift the paradigm from a punitive model to a rehabilitative model where incarceration is the last tool, not the only one.
Diane Goldstein is a 21-year veteran of law enforcement and retired as a Lieutenant from the Redondo Beach Police Department, (CA). During her career she worked and managed a variety of tactical and investigative unit’s including the department’s Gang Enforcement Team (GET), The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), South Bay Platoon and the Crisis Negotiations Team (CNT).
In 1996, as a member of the GET Team, she and other officers received The Herman Goldstein Excellence in Problem Solving Team Award by The Police Executive Research Foundation for their work on combating gang crime in the city. She additionally taught in-service courses for the South Bay Reserve Academy, testified in front of the California Council on Criminal Justice at the request of former Governor Pete Wilson, and is recognized as a subject matter expert and trainer in the area of crisis negotiations and critical incident management.