It is a shocking statistic and one that should spur us to action. In 2006, 4,800 Americans lost their lives in the search for illicit pleasure. Most were young people under the age of 35 and there were thousands of others who were injured, some permanently in pursuit of kicks and cheap thrills.
If we follow the same model as our war on drugs our path is clear, we must outlaw the motorcycle. We must jail it purveyors and those who would facilitate their parts or repair, those who would sell these dangerous vehicles to our children. Brutal and heartless corporate cabals, who don't care whether your children live or die or are seriously injured, these heartless dealers who only want their money.
But how is it that our children can behave so recklessly, images from the media no doubt. Glorifying the motorcycle without ever showing the heartache that they can cause. Movies and television glamorize this reckless behavior to our youth with subliminal messages of how much fun they can have. Motorcross races and shows taunt children into imitating these dangerous behaviors.
The motorcycle is usually the last stop in a long downward spiral of dangerous behavior. Let us look at the many ways that our children can be lured into risking their lives and health for brief fleeting exhilarating highs. The feeling of being in control and of their blood coursing through their veins risking all for a momentary rush. Children do not simply climb on motorcycles so we must look at the gateway entertainment, the mini-bike, the bicycle and the tricycle.
Of course I'm being facetious, motorcycles can be dangerous but the most dangerous part on the motorcycle is the person behind the throttle and the traffic around them. The idea that we as a society would lock people up for behaving dangerously with their own bodies is absurd. Jet Skis or as they prefer to be called personal watercraft make up 19% of vehicles on the water yet account for 45% of all injuries. Most of those injured have little or no experience before operating these powerful machines. They let their guard down because it's on water and not asphalt so they behave dangerously but when injured they blame the machine.
For tens of thousands of years mankind has treated themselves with drugs and potions for every imaginable reason. Only in our modern western societies has such behavior become a criminal activity. Ancient Egyptians consumed the blue water lily and native Americans consumed peyote because of a religious belief that it's effects brought them closer to their gods. Chinese medical books predating the time of Christ by a thousand years prescribe marijuana for headaches, menstrual complaints, constipation and host of other remedies. The Aztecs passed out coca leaves for their slaves to chew; it lightened their burdens and made them easier to work with.
The basis for the criminalizing of spirits and drugs in America comes from our early religious settlements. The Puritans saw alcohol as a necessary evil and drunkenness as the doorway for the devil to take your soul. In 1657 the colony of Massachusetts made the sale of strong liquor a crime. The process ebbed and flowed for the next 275 years but when as a nation we enacted a nationwide prohibition of alcohol a new industry was born. Up until that time there was always access to alcohol in the next town or county.
In America's early days a farmer might manage forty acres of corn with one wagon and one mule or horse. How was that remote farmer to transport and sell all that corn? By distilling the crop it becomes, portable, storable and sellable. So the Whiskey rebellion becomes our first war on drugs, farmers saw it as a tax leveled at their expense while the merchant class wasn't correspondingly taxed.
Since America's earliest days it has been a seesaw battle between America's religious puritans and America's European immigrants who offered a more moderate view of alcohol use. The patent medicine industry went almost unnoticed, as many temperance leaders who railed against alcohol use by day would consume patent medicine laced with opium or cocaine at night. The two were seen as different not by their effect but by their purpose. One was sin, the other was medicine. In the 19th century many notables claimed that alcohol carried medicinal properties.
Little old ladies drank to ward off rheumatism or arthritis and Mark Twain maintained that he drank only as a preventative for a toothache. "Forty years and I've never had a tooth ache and I'm not about to start taking any chances now."- There was a division in society between those that drank publicly and those who didn't drink or didn't drink in public. Prohibition destroyed that fault line as the sources dried up for one and all. It created a cache in drinking, of knowing a guy and knowing where a speak easy was located.
It created a criminal class and a near criminal class, landlords that knew what their properties were being used for and a cough medicine maker named Hadacol noticed that their sales soared during prohibition. They discovered that if you mixed it with Coca-Cola it tasted a lot like a Manhattan cocktail. Al Capone owned a brewery that manufactured legal non-alcoholic beer; the alcohol was injected by syringe after the barrel had left the brewery.
Because it was illegal the profits were huge and society developed new terms, bad hooch and blind drunk for people poisoned by poorly manufactured alcohol. The jails filled with delivery people, bartenders and even musicians who worked in the speak easys while the racketeers and kingpins escaped prosecution through corruption and pay offs. Prohibition by criminalizing alcohol created a criminal underclass that was subverting all aspects of society, a judge who took pay offs to let bootleggers go free then had to do the same when they high jacked a truck or he might be exposed.
It was during alcohol prohibition that marijuana first became illegal in the United States. Suddenly the same law enforcement agencies prosecuting boot leggers became aware of this new recreational drug. Far more dangerous than alcohol it was alleged, a dangerous gateway drug. Or so were the claims of a young J. Edgar Hoover who modeled his career after Anthony Comstock who seized on moral issues as crusades of self-promotion and aggrandizement. While Comstock went after pornography and birth control, Hoover focused on marijuana and other scary "Dangerous"- drugs.
Hoover took the Bureau of Investigation with less than 700 employees and made it his own, becoming the founding director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Building it to the largest intelligence agency in the country and the anti marijuana rhetoric and propaganda became unquestioned fact. Lives and careers were ruined over any association with marijuana. Gene Krupa, the leading drummer of the big band era, was arrested by narcotics agents in 1943 for possession of marijuana and his career never recovered.
It's always been there--it's just how public it's use has been, Like 19th century alcohol use, marijuana use was viewed as a lower class activity, used mainly by minorities--and through such lenses and racism harsh sentences seemed only fair. But the counter culture gave marijuana the underground cache of prohibition. Politicians from Nelson Rockefeller to Ronald Reagan seized upon the issue as the great moral crusade of our times.
Beatniks and flower children have grown older as psychedelic music and Kerouac verse have faded away. Yet marijuana has stayed with us. One by one the stereotypes of users have faded away but the prohibition of recreational drugs has created more cost to society than its use. Entire law enforcement industries have sprung up. 40% of all drug arrests are for simple possession of marijuana, lawyers must be hired and jailers employed along with judges, bailiffs and court reporters.
Once convicted, the "Criminal"- must either serve a sentence or attend classes to rehabilitate themselves from their crimes. They must pay for these classes and take whiz quizzes to make sure they remain on the path of righteousness and not recidivate back into the dangerous world of marijuana abuse. If President Obama were to wave his hand and issue an executive order decriminalizing marijuana, courthouses and jails would become empty shells. Lawyers and drug awareness instructors might starve.
On the flip side, drug smugglers would struggle as well if users could grow a few plants legally. Then no one in their right mind would shell out the prices dealers earn today. It is the prohibition that generates the profit; the more law enforcement spends to enforce the prohibition the larger the profits grow.
On Hillary Clinton's first day on the job as Secretary of State, she was criticized for calling Afghanistan a failed narco state. How could she make such an error? They're only failed narco states when they are not our allies. Colombia receives over a billion dollars a year in US aid to end the narcotics traffic. Colombia's President Uribe is the son of a convicted drug trafficker and was forced himself to resign jobs as head of Colombia's aviation administration and mayor of Medellin because of his close affiliations with Pablo Escobar.
The DEA and Colombia point the crooked finger of blame at Venezuela who receives no money from US coffers as responsible, although estimates say no more than 10% of the cocaine that reaches the United States is transited through Venezuela. It's not what you do it's who your friends are. Afghanistan is the Wal-Mart of opium production since the Taliban were ejected, and it is no small coincidence that wherever American foreign policy goes drug production follows. During the Vietnam War the CIA cooperated in moving heroin from the Burma triangle and America's city streets were soon awash in cheap heroin.
During the 1980's the Reagan administration pursued a clandestine war in Central America, and America's city streets were soon awash in cheap cocaine. During the Clinton administration licenses, were required to purchase ephedrine the main ingredient used to make methamphetimine. Today it is manufactured primarily in Mexico where licenses aren't needed or ignored. Who provides the acetone needed to process the cocaine made in Central America? Why, Chevron does.
Joey Black, a Mafia hit man, once wrote, "The Mafia has no salespeople, they will never come to your door and ask, do you want to buy some drugs? Or prostitution or gamble? The Mafia only supplies the things that your government says that you can't have."-
The people of the United States have come of age; there are few people of any age left among who haven't had some experience with marijuana. Only the government is left to be convinced--the government and those who stand to lose monetarily in any decriminalization of marijuana laws. Number one is the pharmaceutical industry with hundreds of anti nausea medications, pain medications, anti depressants. Decriminalization could cost them billions of dollars. Billions of dollars to an industry with lots of friends in Congress and a new century rematch of those who don't imbibe versus those who don't imbibe publicly.
Here in Georgia, a marijuana bust can cost $5,000 in legal and court fees with almost 30,000 arrests per yea--that's $500,000,000. A huge government sponsored industry of prohibition. What lawyer or prosecutor would cut his own throat? These busts are the keys to the future of prosecutors who dream of a bigger future. In Alabama, Charlie Gradick ran for Governor on his get-tough policy on drugs. He claimed a 97% conviction rate and all looked well until it was discovered that he let a suspect driving a tractor trailer full of marijuana plead guilty to simple possession for the half of what the police found in his sock.
It begins to boggle the mind that here in the land of the free we arrest, and fine, and jail our people for engaging in an activity arguably less dangerous than riding a motorcycle or skateboarding. Herbals stores dot the landscape full of herbal teas and diet supplements of questionable value yet the one herbal supplement known for thousands of years as a helpful remedy is absent because of it's prohibition. The TV airwaves promote pharmaceutical remedies for minor aliments with the most horrendous side effects and yet a drug known since the time of the pharaohs to be safe and effective is denied to us. Denied to us because of a secret fear that the devil might take our souls if we open that door to him.
It's not a war on drugs, but a war on whose drugs and a war on common sense.