tv The Stream Al Jazeera January 7, 2014 12:30pm-1:01pm EST
america. "the stream" is next. and check us out 24 hours aday, at aljazeera.com. hi i'm lisa fletcher, and you are in "the stream." was the time fit the crime when it comes to drugs? we look at changing policies versus sentencing realities. ♪ digital producer, wajahat ali is here, bringing in all of your feedback during the show. when we talk about policies there is always confuse between the difference between decriminalization and legalness, so i'm tapping into your formal attorney-ness.
and speaking about opinions, plenty on them in our community. >> so we'll work on separating the fact from the fiction over the next 30 minutes. colorado is the first state to legalize the recreational use of american. washington is right on its heels. but one state's freedom is a states. and while the feds can choose to honor some of these state laws, they don't have to, leaving a confusing patch work of what is okay, and what is not. nationwide attitudes are shifting but not necessarily to the degree that come advocates claim. about 52% of americans now support the legalization of marijuana. interestingly, though, a majority of americans believe punishment of first time possession of cocaine, crack, or
heroin could not include jail time. so with the country divided, how can americans settle these policy issues when drug laws are so different state to state. joining us is the executive director of the drug policy alliance, via skype, founder of coalition for a drug-free california, and beth curtis who's brother is serving a life sentence for conspiracy to distribute. so paul what is the starting point for a discussion about america's mixed up drug policies? >> yeah, thanks. my first recommendation would be let's stop calling it a war on drugs. let's call it a cancer. the other side calls it a war on
drugs, and that's pretty much damaging on the over all effect. we need to try to make the problem smaller. drug usage today is about half of what was a decade ago. so we have a lot of work to do, but i would say we have to treat the problem as a cancer to hopefully eliminate it if not make it much, much smaller. >> ethan your thoughts? >> the issue of drugs in our society is something to be managed. i think drugs are here to stay. people recognize that. so i think the question is how do we learn how to live with this fact, so it causes the least possible harm and in some cases the greatest possible benefit. what we are seeing around the country on the issue of marijuana is a remarkable change in opinion. the gallup polls jumped from 48%
in support last year, to 58 support this year. close to 60% support in many states in the east and northwest, and there have even been polls in texas, louisiana, florida, missouri, and indiana, all showing more people in favor of legally regulating marijuana. >> but across the country, we're seeing wildly different versions of these laws that restrict or don't restrict drug use. can you give us an example of the extremes. >> oh, lisa, i was just in louisiana last month where if you were convicted two or three times for possessioning just a joint of marijuana, you can land in state prison for years. you have similar policies in other parts of the south. and that doesn't count all of
the 5 million people under the supervision of the parole systems that are ending up in jail. we have 50 states, inevitably there will be different policies just as there are different policies on gun control and gay marriage. i think we'll see the trend on marijuana move more and more in the direction of colorado and washington. >> does this make it more or less difficult to deal with these issues? >> look, big marijuana is like big tobacco of the '80s. they have a lot of done fors contributing millions of dollars. and their nth state is overall drug legalization. and that's like boiling the frog in the water. i have been in law enforcement for 18 years, and worked in the prison system for three years,
and i never once came across a person in there for minor possession of marijuana. some of these crimes get pled down, and i also firmly believe in education and treatment. but look, hey, we have to put the hammer down on those trafficking across our communities, because i'm a dad, i don't want this stuffening up in our schools. if we look at what high school kids are saying, everybody knows somebody who is smoking pot, and the situation in colorado has made that a danger for our community and america. >> our community is weighing in a lot . . .
robert. >> do current policies match up with shifting public attitudes? absolutely not. the states of colorado and washington have it right. the public wants us to treat marijuana like alcohol, tax it, regulate, and make it available for adults to use in the privacy of their own home. the conversation is happening in various state legislators and with ballot initiatives across the country. >> okay. ethan, we go to you with this. 65% of millennials say they are in favor of legalizing marijuana. what do you think? >> when you looking at the gallup polls with 50% saying it is time to treat it like alcohol, but for most people the greater harm with marijuana is
winding up losing your job, your career, your freedom. if you are living in the south, i would say let's push forward on medical marijuana. but the time is come to legally regulate this. come 2016, a whole handful of other states will do the same thing. outside of the united states uruguay just voted to legalize marijuana. so at this point why wait? >> and paul, i want to put this to you, we're not talking exclusively about marijuana, we're talking about drugs more broodly. fewer than 1% of people incarcerated in the united states on drug charges are on soul possession charges -- >> lisa that's actually incorrect. point of fact, one third of all americans, you have large
numbers of people in local jails serving weeks, days, months -- >> right. and i'm talking about prison, nationally it's 1%. but paul you said we have to bring the hammer down, and if it feels like this so-called war on drugs, that the government has been trying to bring the hammer down for decades. we need a new hammer. what do we use? >> wonderful. i have my book out about drug trafficking organizations. we don't have a war on drug addicts. we have a war on drug cartels. we have to make a distinction. i would also like to go back to the taxation of this. in colorado they are putting a 27% tax on marijuana. after a little while, people are not going to pay the 27% tax, black market is going to come in as it always has to undercut that. and while washington and colorado approved marijuana legalization in the last
election cycle, oregon said no, and all four california cities that had a similar initiative said no. and in california we can't even keep carjackers in our local jails. we're letting felons out of our prisons left and right, you will not find pot smokers sitting behind bars in our state. >> julian says . . . and finally we asked the should drug laws be implemented more at the federal or state level? bennett says . . . >> yeah, and we want to get into the criminal justice system in a couple of minutes. coming up he served nearly 12 years in prison for some non-violent drug offense.
you will meet lawrence garrison, the break. ♪ al jazeera america gives you the total news experience anytime, anywhere. more on every screen. digital, mobile, social. visit aljazeera.com. follow @ajam on twitter. and like aljazeera america on facebook for more stories, more access, more conversations. so you don't just stay on top of the news, go deeper and get more perspectives on every issue. al jazeera america.
>> an america tonight exclusive. mortgage fraud. how one woman spoke up and made a difference. >> i had seen a couple of the girls making up documentation at a copier. welcome back. we're talking about the mish mash of drug policies in the u.s. and waj before the break we asked our community to weigh in on what this idea to an end of the war on drugs means -- >> yeah, and our community very critical carol says . . .
>> so ethan we hear that phrase thrown around quite a bit, by decriminalization advocates in particularening the war on drugs, but what does mean? >> if you imagine all of the laws, going okay. to at the other end the most free market, no-controls policy like we have had with cigarettes 30, 40 years ago, we're aiming to reduce the role of criminalization and the criminal justice system in drug control, to the maximum extent. and what does that boil down to? legalizing marijuana, and trying
to reduce america's problem with mass incarceration. we should aspire to make america average when it comes to locking up our fellow citizens. we should not be leading the incarceration. >> paul, came to you. >> yeah, four points, first off we need to look at -- we already have enough projects with the legitimate problems that are legal, alcohol, tobacco we can't contain that problem. also we're never going to win the so-called war on drugs, and we're never going to eliminate drugs on our streets, but that doesn't mean we give up. so i think what we need to look at is drug testing with youth in schools. i'm in the military. served in iraq, our military has a .5% drug use because we use
drug testing. lastly, i think the obama administration legacy will be their inaction of what is going on in colorado. the obama administration has basically said hands off on colorado, we're going to let them deal drugs and do everything else. it's a shameful legacy that i will be play out in some dramatic events in the future. >> ben says . . . lawrence same question to you. what will be the face of war on drugs in the future? what should we do? >> i don't see any short-term solution to the war on drugs. because the war on drugs basically has changed face as far as the amount of drugs, the type of drugs. we're dealing with marijuana now, but we have to go back and deal with crack and heroin. and deal with it fairly, but we also have the racial disparity,
we can't get past that, and that's why the war on drugs really will never end. because ray shall despairensy is just too wide. and i'm a direct proponent to that. i saw it firsthand. yes, you see some -- someone such as the young man that received two life sentences plus 20 years, yeah, that's very rare, but i saw young black men like myself being incarcerated for little or nothing of crack, conspiracy, no drugs. my brother and i we -- we were sentenced to a dry conspiracy. >> ten seconds left. >> it hurts me to see how people brush it off that it is going to end. it is so intertrained in our community. it's not going to end that way. >> thanks to all of our guests. have a good night.
>> announcer: this is al jazeera. ♪ and it is good to have you along for the al jazeera news hour, i'm david foster and this is what we have coming up in the next 60 minutes. the first batch of chemical weapons leaves syria under an international deal to see them destroyed. the battle for iraq's province, iraqi troops readying to storm fallujah to regain control from al-qaeda-linked troops. and the frenchic