The War on Drugs is extending at inexorable pace from Mexico south and threatens to link by land with the ongoing conflicts in Colombia and Peru. Costa Rica, an island of tranquility in an otherwise restless region, has seen its crime rate increase and all evidence points to drug traffic. Costa Rica has become part of the Drug Road. Costa Rica has had no army since the 1940’s.
Mexico is fighting what is nothing less than a civil war with the cartels. In Colombia, despite all the government efforts and U.S. aid, and regardless of sporadic victories against traffiquers and the leftist FARC, there is no end in sight to the conflict.
The United States, with barely 4% of the world population, has the dubious distinction of having the largest number of people incarcerated: 25% of the prisoners of the world are in American jails. The number nears 1% of the total population of the United States. Forget about China, North Korea, or anybody else. In that field we are truly number one. The Land of the Free holds more prisoners than anyone else.
Former Mexican president Vicente Fox has called for the legalization of drugs in Mexico. So does Ron Paul, the republican/libertarian candidate for president of the United States in 2012. I had originally included the legalization of marijuana in my program for New Jersey but such measure would run into frontal conflict with federal law. The legal sale of marijuana in New Jersey or anywhere in the U.S. is impossible until the federal authorities authorize it. We have seen how much trouble the medical marijuana program has stirred; even for people who are at the edge of death.
Thus I have opted for downgrading the my proposal to just decriminalizing the use or sale of marijuana in New Jersey. If I am elected governor in 2013, I will propose to our Legislature that our laws be changed so that our enforcement would take a passive posture toward the use and sale of marijuana and concentrate on other issues of more importance. Restrictions with regard to sale near schools would remain in effect. Legal age for consumption would be 18, as in with tobacco and similar to what I will propose with regard to alcohol. I would not be opposed to a popular referendum on the issue however the economic and political reforms must come first.
All laws regarding using motor vehicles or machinery which apply to alcohol would apply to marijuana as well. The Police of New Jersey would cease cooperating with the DEA or FBI in investigations regarding marijuana. Nonetheless, it should be clear that sale of marijuana would remain illegal in New Jersey, in U.S. authorities’ view. A vendor could still be arrested by federal authorities.
It is very likely that I would seriously consider pardon for a number of non-violent offenders convicted for marijuana use and possession now in New Jersey’s jails who have had no other convictions.
The main obstacle to the review of drug policy, both here and abroad, is the intransigent position of the United States. The Drug War fuels two industries: The illicit drug contraband and the lawful industry for its repression. Like in all wars, there are those who die and those who become rich. Nobody is winning this war. In fact, I do not believe we have the aim of winning but rather of being at war at infinitum.
Perhaps if New Jersey takes the initiatives I propose, we will start a dialogue on the drug issue in this country. I believe it is overdue.