On Monday, as the 90-day session of the Maryland General Assembly came to an end, lawmakers agreed to make sweeping changes to their criminal justice policies. In particular, they voted to end mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.
This is a huge victory in the war on drugs.
Mixed in with a slew of tax legislation were two components that are nothing short of revolutionary in the way the state handles non-violent drug users. Instead of categorizing drug users, whose only crime is using an arbitrary substance deemed illegal by the state, as criminals, the state of Maryland will help them.
In Maryland, the prisons have been filling up with individuals who have been kidnapped by police for possessing certain substances. While many of these people are legitimate addicts, some of them are responsible users who just so happen to cross paths with police. Either way, they all rot in a jail cell which only serves to prolong any previous problems — and, in fact, leads to non-criminals turning into criminals because of influences on the inside.
The cost to treat an addict versus locking one in a cage is stark in contrast. The price of treating someone for their problem instead of kidnapping and caging them is less than half. When costs are reduced so dramatically, police can actually tend to real crime instead of filling prisons with drug users.
The other facet to this revolutionary legislation is that it will allow non-violent offenders locked up for drugs and other petty crimes to be released from prison far earlier. This is incredible news for family members who’ve lost brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers to the state’s incessant war on substances.
Maryland now becomes one of nearly two dozen other states to realize the Draconian nature of mandatory minimum sentences, and as more people wake up, more states will follow suit.
In a surprising addition, lawmakers also negotiated details in a police accountability package that would let citizens participate in officer disciplinary boards, set tougher training standards and encourage law enforcement agencies across the state to develop better relationships with the communities they police, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Naturally, the police union was outspoken about the potential for their officers to face the consequences of their actions and voiced their ‘concern’ during negotiations. Unfortunately, this limited the scope of the accountability measures.
The legislation passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 122-19, with the opponents being highly outspoken.
As the Journal reports, Del. Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore County, who was among the lawmakers who voted against the legislation, said he was concerned about a lack of treatment slots for those who would be directed to rehabilitation under the bill. He also questioned whether the measure would truly improve public safety as intended.
“If this bill is flawed, we are going to pay in bloodshed,” McDonough said as if to imply all drug users are somehow violent or holding police accountable means that people die. “We’re talking about putting more people in a safety net that doesn’t exist.”
The good news is that this vote shows that people like McDonough are a dying breed. While most politicians want to continue prohibition, they are finding the economic and scientific implications for ending it hard to ignore. Slowly but surely, dinosaur politicians are waking up to the immoral and ineffective atrocities of waging a war on drugs.
There is zero justification for kidnapping someone and locking them in a cage for choosing to partake in an arbitrary substance deemed “illegal” by the state. Locking people in prison, even for non-crimes such as drug possession, guarantees a drastic increase in that person’s chances of ending up in the criminal justice system again.
This vicious cycle is so well known that it has its own word: recidivism.
Written by Mark Agorist – Activist Post