Proposing measures to create a “second chance society,” Governor Malloy this week got more relevant than ever to life as it is actually lived in Connecticut.
Essentially the governor proposed more or less decriminalizing all drugs and recognizing the drug problem as a medical rather than a criminal one. Possession of currently illegal drugs would remain illegal but such charges would be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors if there was no proof of selling or intent to sell.
Such lack of intent to sell would be largely a fiction, since nearly all drug users sell to friends at some point, if only by sharing their drugs and taking reimbursement, and since no one can buy drugs without intending that someone should sell them. But the bigger fiction would be the misdemeanor charges.
For few police officers, prosecutors, and judges will hassle drug users when only misdemeanor charges can result. Many if not most ordinary drug possession charges, including felonies, already escape prosecution through plea bargaining and probation. If the maximum charge for drug possession is a mere misdemeanor, nearly every drug law violator will qualify for the pre-trial probation called “accelerated rehabilitation,” the receptacle for all of Connecticut’s criminal trivia. And with the penalty for drug possession having become so light, police and prosecutors will lose most leverage to induce buyers to inform against sellers.
Connecticut then could pretend that drugs were still illegal but as a practical matter its “war on drugs” would be over — and it would be about time.
For the “war on drugs,” like the war about which Orwell wrote in his novel “1984,” is not meant to be won but rather to be waged, to be continuous, as economic stimulus for the government class — to be a war by that class against its own subjects to preserve the hierarchical structure of society.
With this war Connecticut has given criminal records to tens of thousands of underclass people — records that, as the governor noted this week, forever disqualify most of them from more than menial employment and thus induce them to pursue a career of crime. The governor would mitigate this catastrophe by expediting paroles and pardons for nonviolent offenders and — most important but awaiting detail and appropriations — ensure that prison inmates gain basic education and learn honest trades before their release so they may be assured honest jobs and basic housing, assured an alternative to crime when they are released, as most will be.