by David Downs
Noted Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker Russ Jones — a Bay Area native and retired San Jose Police Department undercover narcotics detective — will be speaking in rotary clubs and colleges around the bay this week. Below, we continue our micro-interview: on the farce that is rehab, the clash of drug civilizations, and the cause of skyrocketing incarceration rates. (Read Part 1 of the Russ Jones interview here.)
Legalization Nation: I understand you taught courses at universities, government, and private organizations on rehabilitation after you retired from being a police officer?
Russ Jones: I developed a training program specifically for court-mandated drug rehabilitation.
Legalization Nation: That's a booming industry in California now.
Russ Jones: Tragically, the rehabilitation industry doesn't want to end the War on Drugs because that's where they get their clientele. People who have no business being in rehabilitation are being sent there, they're just passing through the doors and [rehab is] collecting money.
I did a study which unfortunately never reached a peer reviewed journal where thousands of people went through a program up in Alameda. I taught up in Oakland and down in San Jose, down in Gilroy literally with thousands of people from these programs and 80 to 85 percent of everyone in the program had absolutely no business being there. It would be the equivalent of you getting arrested going home with a bottle of wine in your bag of groceries and being sent to an alcoholism rehabilitation program.
Legalization Nation: But what about the 'clash of civilizations' argument? I hear it from smart friends, as well as Nixon, who say something along the lines of: 'Drugs make us weak as a culture and expose us to being overtaken by strong countries who make their citizenry abstain by force.' This idea that we'll lose the clash of civilizations if our government lets people pick their poison.
Russ Jones: That's not even worth a comment. That's the morals and ideology speaking instead of the facts and evidence. We already know that prohibition pushes people to the harder substances. Alcohol prohibition: everybody used to drink beer and wine, as soon as we had alcohol prohibition it drove users to very, hard ill-treated liquor and then when you could get it, you binged on it. Then when we ended prohibition everybody went back to beer and wine and if they drank liquor it was in a mixed drink. It's only that 10 to 15 percent who do straight shots. It's the same thing with drug prohibition. We force people to do much harder drugs. You go to La Paz, Bolivia and you can find people buying and chewing on coca leaf. They have gum with coca in it and that's what they prefer. They don't want to snort coke.
The reason American has cocaine is because it's much easier to smuggle. You can't smuggle a couple cases of leaf, but you can smuggle a small bindle of cocaine. We force people to harder drugs.
Legalization Nation: Incarceration rates in America have skyrocketed in the last two decades and we're now the worst in the globe. Are we as a society becoming more criminal, better at catching criminals or have we just gotten more cruel?
Russ Jones: We're actually getting worse at catching criminals — our clearance rate for murder is down 10 to 15 percent since the 1970s and robbery is the same way, burglary clearance rates have dropped from 20 percent to 15 percent. The only arrest percentage that has gone up is drug arrests. The cop has his butt in the air looking for that marijuana seed on the floorboard of the car while the robber drives by.
Legalization Nation: But isn't just a tiny, tiny fraction of those in jail in there for cannabis?
Russ Jones: No. We arrest 1.9 million people every year and almost half of those are for simple possession and 88 percent of those are for marijuana. We put a lot of people in jail. California doesn't have a clear picture of what's going on in the rest of the nation. I'm in Texas, if you get caught with marijuana here in Texas, you're going to jail. No ticket, no, you're going to jail.
Russ Jones speaks Today, Friday, April 30 at the Rotary of Pleasanton North followed by a talk Saturday May 1 at Cabrillo College's Annual Social Justice Conference. Monday, May 3, Jones speaks in Hayward and Palo Alto. The next micro-interview segment will run Monday on Legalization Nation.