Share

Policy: Law

The 'War on Drugs' isn't worth the collateral damage

|
Opinion,Gregory Kane,Columnists,Colorado,Marijuana,Drug Legalization,War on Drugs,Law

For a while there, I was wondering if Darren Austin and his son Tyler Austin had smoked one joint too many.

On Jan. 1, a new law went into effect in Colorado: Residents of the state and those visiting from other states can now buy marijuana for other than medical reasons.

That means lifelong potheads can buy marijuana in Colorado just for the purpose of getting stoned.

News stories about the lines of people that queued up — in inclement weather — waiting to buy pot abounded. One story was about a father and son who drove their truck from Georgia to Colorado so they could buy pot legally.

“Out of their darned minds,” I thought, but, figuring there might be more to the story, I did some Googling.

Darren Austin is the dad. He’s 44 years old. Tyler, the son, is 21.

A New York Times story says one of the Austins drove from Georgia to Colorado and the other from North Carolina to Colorado “a few months ago ... and decided to stay.”

Yet another news story said both Austins drove from either Decatur or Augusta, Ga., to Colorado.

Whenever they got there — and where in Georgia they drove from — is up for debate. The bottom line is that both Austins were in Colorado on Jan. 1, ready and eager to talk to the media.

It’s a good thing they did, because I suspect quite a few folks were wondering if they’d lost their darned minds.

I did some more Googling. The distance from Georgia to Colorado is 1,625 miles. The drive takes 23 hours, 49 minutes.

Out-of-state visitors to Colorado can buy only a quarter-ounce of marijuana.

So here’s what some — perhaps many — people were thinking about the Austins: two clueless potheads decide to drive nearly 2,000 miles to buy a quarter ounce of marijuana each, that they can’t transport across state lines back to Georgia.

It was Darren Austin, more so than Tyler, who cleared up why they had made the long drive. And Daddy Austin swears it was about more than the pot.

“It’s a historical event,” Darren Austin said of being able to legally buy marijuana in Colorado. “Everyone should be here. This is going to be a turning point in the drug war, a beginning of the peace.”

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But I’m as soured on the “War on Drugs” as Darren Austin is. (Yes, I’m afraid I’m one of those types of conservatives.)

What drove the nail in the coffin for me about the “War on Drugs” was an incident that occurred in Prince George’s County back in 2008. Some readers might recall it.

Cheye Calvo was the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Md. One summer day, a county SWAT team kicked in the door of his home, fatally shot the family’s two black Labrador retrievers and forced Calvo and his terrified mother-in-law to lie flat on the floor.

Yes, it was a drug raid, but subsequent investigation revealed that the Calvos had nothing to do with the package of marijuana that had been mailed to their home.

It transpired that the parties responsible for the criminality had a scheme going: One would mail packages of drugs to a certain address, and another would retrieve it.

What was in the package that was sent to the Calvos’ home with neither their knowledge nor consent? You guessed it: marijuana.

I concluded then that the “War on Drugs” had become downright ludicrous. The mayor of a town and his mother-in-law terrorized not by criminals, but by law enforcement. Their two dogs shot dead.

All this to keep a package of marijuana off the streets.

Here’s what’s so absurd about the Calvo case: Everybody in Berwyn Heights, in Prince George’s County, in the state of Maryland and, indeed, in the entire nation who wanted to smoke a joint that night, smoked a joint that night!

I wouldn’t drive around the block to commemorate the legalization of pot, much less drive nearly 2,000 miles. But I’ll be downright giddy if what happened to the Calvos never happens to another citizen of the United States.

GREGORY KANE, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

View article comments Leave a comment