Sunday, March 29, 2009


(Almost three years ago, I ran this photo with the following news story. Decriminalization of drugs is once again in the news, as President Obama gave an unqualified "no" to the town hall questioner who asked if he would consider decriminalizing marijuana- the #1 question on the online poll of questions to ask the President.)

“There’s nothing good about drug use. We know it. It destroys individuals. It destroys families. Drug use destroys societies. Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up. What this says to me is that too many whites are getting away with drug use. Too many whites are getting away with drug sales. Too many whites are getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity is not to start letting people out of jail because we’re not putting others in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too.”

- Rush Limbaugh, speaking on his syndicated radio talk show, Oct. 5, 1995.

“MIAMI, -- Talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh surrendered to authorities Friday on a charge of committing fraud to obtain prescription drugs, concluding an investigation that for more than two years has hovered over the law-and-order conservative.

The charge will be dropped in 18 months, said his attorney, Roy Black, provided that Limbaugh continues treatment for drug addiction, as he has for 2 ½ years. According to an agreement with the Palm Beach County state's attorney's office, Limbaugh also must pay $30,000 to defray the costs of the investigation, as well as $30 a month for his supervision.”

Washington Post, April 28, 2006.

Annual Causes of Death in the United States:

Tobacco 435,000
Poor Diet and Physical Inactivity 365,000
Alcohol 85,000
Microbial Agents 75,000
Toxic Agents 55,000
Motor Vehicle Crashes 26,347
Adverse Reactions to Prescription Drugs 32,000
Suicide 30,622
Incidents Involving Firearms 29,000
Homicide 20,308
Sexual Behaviors 20,000
All Illicit Drug Use, Direct and Indirect 17,000
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Such As Aspirin 7,600

Marijuana 0


If you want to provoke a conversation at a gathering, suggest that the best way to deal with the drug problem in America is to legalize drugs-- and give away the most addictive drugs for free. You’ll get a stunned gasp, an awkward silence, then a huge negative visceral reaction as if you have just suggested putting a drug dealer in every third grader’s classroom.

The sad truth is that we already have drug dealers in school classrooms. And on street corners. And in suburban homes. And in office buildings. And so forth.

Why? Because government has created the incentive- a huge incentive in most cases- to capitalist entrepreneurs willing to risk a few decades in the slammer for the privilege of selling a product for which the government has granted them a near monopoly status.

We have addicts who are prostituting themselves to get the money to buy crack or heroin. Addicts who will steal from their parents or other relatives, pawn the items, and use the few bucks to buy crack. Addicts who will burglarize homes or stores, shoplift, or mug pedestrians to get the money for drugs.

We have drug wars between gangs in inner cities. We have cartels and huge drug dealing criminal enterprises in the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia, in Afghanistan, in the plateaus of South America. Resurging Taliban in Afghanistan, previously wholly opposed to the poppy trade which put heroin in the veins of American addicts, are now financing their terrorist operations from the drug trade in that war torn country.

We have hundreds of thousand of American citizens locked up in our prisons, costing them their freedom and sometimes their lives, whose only crime is to fall prey to the inner demons of the chemical imbalances of their brains. We have AIDS and hepatitis being spread by shared needles of heroin users.

My solution? One that will destroy the drug cartels, end official corruption, free addicts from jail, free the rest of us from being victims of crimes ranging from check forgery to convenience store robbery, and save countless lives and tens of billions of tax dollars.

Legalize drugs. All of them. And give the addictive drugs away for free.

Yes, give away addictive drugs for free. But not in the way you might think at first blush.

Build a structure near the local hospital. The building will have a “Door A” and a “Door B.” Door A is the door an addict knocks on to get any addictive drug he or she desires. As much of it as he or she desires. But the drug has to be administered there (with clean needles and safe product) and used there, and the addict can’t leave while high. While high, he or she will have a room to sit or lie in, with movies or videos to watch. Or Music. Brownies. Whatever. And they can have all the dope they want- can overdose to death if they want. Because we can’t save addicts. Only they can try to save themselves.

Which is where Door B comes in. Door B is treatment. Rehab. Support groups. Al Anon and Narcotics Anonymous. The latest in techniques and technology to wean addicts away from addictive drugs like Crack and Heroin.

The money currently being wasted on locking up addicts, on police, on border security, on international military efforts in a futile effort to roll the rock back up the mountain- all of that will be redirected to buying up the poppies, the coca leaves, the prime cash crops in countries from Afghanistan) to Peru.

The result will be the end of the spread of diseases from illegal drug use and from prostitutes selling themselves to get drugs. The end of victimless crimes crowding our prisons and bankrupting our taxpayers. The end of drive by shootings by gangs to establish who has the right to wheel and deal drugs on city blocks. The end of hypocrisy as nicotine and alcohol abusing politicians bark about cracking down on drug related crime by ratcheting up punishments.

It’s a trip all right- a trip towards sanity.

And the non-addictive drugs? Ecstasy? Marijuana? We decriminalize them, tax them, sell them.

Oh yes. You’ve got to be 18 to be a drug user- same as with cigarettes. And I won’t be complaining if the age limit for all such toxic substances is raised to 21.

My proposal isn’t far fetched. It will work. And it will happen- guaranteed. Not this year, next year, or ten years from now. But 20, 50, 100, 500 years? At some point, sanity will prevail. No doubt about it. How much are we willing to pay until then?


(Following are two e-mails I received- names removed to protect their privacy- after a shorter version of the above ran in my hometown newspaper, Johnstown, Pa.'s Tribune-Democrat)

Dear Attorney Finkelstein,

Your op-ed piece in today's Tribune-Democrat is extremely well written and will hopefully prove enlightening to many readers. I share your views on legalizing drugs.

I would add one additional point to your argument. The Department of Defense's United States Southern Command (, which is based in Miami, is a regional combatant command engaged in counter-drug operations on a 24/7 basis. Our country has thousands of military men and women tied up in a losing battle, the so-called "War on Drugs." This war has yet to yield positive results, despite having squandered millions of precious man-hours and billions upon billions of dollars on the problem.

Keep up the fight!

Best Regards,

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret), U.S. Army
Johnstown, PA

Dear Mr. Finkelstein,

I read the article that you wrote, that was published in The Tribune-Democrat on April 2, and I wanted to take a moment to applaud you for making such a bold suggestion. For years, it has been my contention that the government could not only save a great deal of money, but possibly make a great deal of money, by decriminalizing drugs. Let's face, after spending billions, of tax payers dollars, on their war on drugs, there is still a major drug problem in this country. The government needs to wake up and realize that as long as there is a demand for illegal drugs, there are going to be people who are going to be willing to risk life and limb, and, as you noted, jail time, to fill that demand. What the government needs to stop and think about is: if they approached this situation correctly, they could make probably make a great deal of money for the sale of legalized drugs.

Hopefully, some of the politicians in Washington, and elsewhere, had the opportunity to read your article and will take heed of the advise that you offered. Personally, I think it's a damn good solution.



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