Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There's a proposition on the ballot in this next election to make medical marijuana legal. Because of my position as director of our recovery program a few people ask me what I think of it. When I say I'm going to vote for it they seem surprised.

"Don't you run a recovery program?" one asked.

"I do," I replied. "But I don't believe there's a strong connection between legalization and drug use."

I used Prohibition as an example. I've never seen evidence that alcoholism increased or decreased because of the passing or repeal of the 33rd amendment to the constitution. I believe that there is a disconnect between our laws and the amount of drugs or alcohol people use.

In any event our drug laws seem to have little effect on availability. One can go in any direction in our city and purchase drugs. I can't remember a time in the past 50 years when our so-called war on drugs has reduced availability for long. Police trumpet the seizure of tons of marijuana or cocaine, but the supply on the streets never seems to diminish for more than a moment. In other words, in our country we have de facto legalization.

On top of that our laws have created a huge enforcement and incarceration industry. Probably more than half, depending upon whose statistics you accept, of the people in state and federal prisons are there for drug-related offenses. Our neighbors to the South are fighting an ongoing battle with cartels that are funded by drug markets in our country. In Mexico over 25,000 people have died in the past four years due to government enforcement efforts.

Much of this drug traffic would cease immediately if drugs were legalized. I believe that moralists object to the idea of legalizing drugs because it would seem like we're condoning drug use. This is hypocrisy, a head in the sand position that ignores the reality that drugs are readily available today.

Some ask about the economic impact of replacing enforcement personnel. Likely the same number of people who work in the incarceration and enforcement fields could be retrained to work in the recovery field. It takes a lot of effort and skill to counsel people and help them change their lives.

I believe that a benevolent society that cares about its citizens will try to help them get to the root of their problems. Laws and punishment are political “feel-good” responses to an uninformed and misguided moral majority.

But for some reason up to this point the moralists have held sway