Monday, July 6, 2009

More on Jim Webb's Bill

I don't have much by way of commentary today, just a link to a solid Washington Post story on Jim Webb's National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 that I wrote about here.

This bill needs to be getting more attention than it is already. It is the greatest weapon for those of us who want drug law reform simply because there is a United States Senator pushing for it. The Post notes (like myself) that the most attention grabbing part of Webb's legislation is about the reform of our drug laws and yet he refuses to discuss that aspect much, perhaps weary of the negative press that a legalize marijuana commision might face. They write:

it is commission duty No. 6 that keeps drawing attention, making Webb's proposal an eye-catcher in the sea of congressional proposals that might or might not go all the way: "Restructure the approach to criminalization of, and incarceration as the result of, the possession or use of illegal drugs, decreasing the demand for illicit drugs, and improving the treatment for addiction."

For once, Webb's mastery of the English language doesn't sound so masterful. This reads as arched-eyebrow intriguing, but gimme-a-break murky.

Is he saying that drugs should be decriminalized, or what?

In the Richmond interview, Webb clearly doesn't like where this line of questioning is going. (After our meeting, his press rep sends an e-mail, saying how uncomfortable they were and noting that the tension was "palpable.") Webb scans for tripwires, parsing each question tossed at him. Once, he says, a journalist tried to trick him into hoisting a grenade to get some color for a piece. He didn't fall for it.

The senator grumbles that no one should fall into the easy assumption that his interest in drug policy might be inspired in some way by his time in Vietnam, a war so often depicted on the big screen through a gauzy haze of pot smoke.

"I saw far more drugs at Georgetown Law Center than I ever saw in the military," says Webb, who earned a law degree at Georgetown in 1975.


But what about commission duty No. 6? This one looks like it could be big. Does this mean he'd support decriminalizing or legalizing drugs?

"Everything should be on the table," Webb says.

And there it is -- damn the consequences!

This is why, even as editorialists in the mainstream media applaud his efforts to reform the overall criminal justice system, he's also racking up headlines in High Times magazine and getting shout-outs from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws for his "candor and political courage."

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, better known by the acronym LEAP -- a group of current and former law enforcement officers -- is running a petition on its Internet site in support of Webb's commission. The petition and a video of Webb appear beneath the group's signature pitch: photos of Al Capone ("Alcohol Smuggler") and Pablo Escobar ("Drug Cartel"), accompanied by the line, "Same problem . . . same solution. Repeal Prohibition Now!"

LEAP's Norman Stamper, a former chief of police in Seattle, praises Webb as "a tough guy" and says "the hope is that an honest, very critical examination of drug laws will lead to the conclusion that prohibition doesn't work."

I love reading this stuff.

Stay High,

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