Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Drug laws create major social injustice
If prohibition is a false and failed instrument -- and this blog shows there is a very strong case for that proposition -- then all the people arrested, jailed, injured or killed in its name are the victims of a social injustice that ranks with any of the more visible progressive causes.
Concerned and caring people fight for the rights of minorities oppressed because of their race, gender or religion etc, but the victims of prohibition remain a relatively unseen class, even though their numbers overlap hugely with the more readily identified oppressed groups.
This is explained carefully in an article by Harry G. Levine, author and professor of sociology at Queens College, City University of New York. He shows how the 430,000 arrests in New York for possession of small amounts of cannabis since 1997 are often carried out under false pretenses by police, who also discriminate heavily against blacks and hispanics.
This is happening even though the possession of less than one ounce of marihuana is explicitly decriminalised in New York State.
And the same is happening here. While we don't seem to have professors doing the research, it's obvious enough on the streets of Kings Cross. Here police routinely stop people they don't like the look of, demand ID without legal grounds to do so, publicly search people and target particular people with sniffer dogs, while pulling the dogs off others who have been indicated.
These are not wild accusations -- I have photographs of this happening. Pictured above is a policeman clearly pulling a sniffer dog on a tight leash to a Koori man in Springfield Plaza. The man was unconcerned and the dog did not indicate. I also have photographs of several police with two sniffer dogs running down a man who was walking along the street, before putting the dogs onto him. No drugs were found, as usual.
I took this up with a previous local commander who surprised me by claiming that this was legal procedure. I had naïvely thought that the dogs operated like random breath testing for alcohol, simply trotting around until they smelt drugs on someone. But no, it seems they are an active tool of discrimination.
No-one in progressive politics seems to care about this except to a small extent The Greens who, unfortunately, have retreated from their previous policy of regulated supply in the pursuit of more middle class votes. Tough luck for the oppressed minorities, I guess.
PS 18 Aug 09: Here's a fiery talk from Ethan Nadelmann, founder of the Drug Policy Alliance in the US, speaking at an NAACP conference on prohibition as an instrument of racial oppression.