James Webb on Drugs
Democratic Sr Senator
We need smarter ways of dealing with people at apprehension. We need to consider the types of courts drug offenders go into--drug courts, as opposed to regular courts-- how long you sentence them, and how you get them ready to return home. It is a sickness and we have got to treat it that way. We must treat the people who need to be treated and incarcerate the people who need to be incarcerated.
Looking at the interaction among the various agencies that tackle the drug problem is essential, the senator said. In 1980, he said, there were 40,000 people jailed on drug charges. Today, that number has grown to 500,000. "We have to find a better way to deal with the problem," Webb said. "It's a sickness and we've got to treat the sickness."
"The expansion of Appalachia HIDTA into these Virginia communities would extend the reach and efficiency of HIDTA, allowing it to effectively combat and eradicate, rather than merely geographically relocate, these systemic drug trafficking and production networks," Webb wrote to the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Webb said he had been working toward getting all southwestern Virginia counties included in the Appalachia HIDTA facilitates cooperation between drug control organizations and helps federal, state and local law enforcement organizations invest in infrastructure and joint initiatives to confront drug traffickers.
"There's got to be a balance of enforcement," Webb said, adding that Virginia has suffered from the spill-over of drug problems from Tennessee and Kentucky.
What about legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana? Webb paused. "I think they should do a very careful examination of all aspects of drug policy. I've done a couple of very extensive hearings on this, so we'll wait to see what they say about that," he said. So it's on the table? Webb flashed a wry grin, laughing mischievously. The last government study group to look at drug policy, the 1972 Shafer Commission, recommended that Pres. Nixon decriminalize marijuana. He didn't. This commission will have a broader mandate, said Webb.
Webb cited "the exponential growth of incarceration since 1980," saying that "a huge percentage of that growth has been nonviolent crimes associated with drugs."
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