Thank you for the note. I worked hard on the book with the hope that it would increase a full, open and honest discussion of this critical area.
When I became a trial court judge at the end of 1983, I had no particular thoughts about drug laws one way or the other, except to enforce them. That is what I had done as a Navy JAG attorney, and that is what I did as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles.
Then the thing that struck me first in this area when I was on the bench was that alcohol-related offenses were the largest problem area that we faced, and we were doing almost nothing about it. So I helped to establish what was probably the first Drug Court in the country. We screened every drinking driver that came into our
courts to determine who were the alcoholics (We called them “High Risk Problem Drinkers,” but they knew what we meant.), and then placed them onto a program
that required total abstinance from alcohol. We were successful in keeping 65 % of these people off alcohol for 8 months, which was as long as I was able to keep
statistics. We also received letters from, for example, wives that told us they were going to divorce their husbands because of their drinking. But now that they were
on our program, thank you, because you have given me my husband back. We didn’t need to receive too many of these letters to know that we were on to something
So with this experience, it did not take me long to realize that we were facing similar problems with the other mind-altering, sometimes addicting drugs. And that jail and prison was not the answer. What worked was four things: education, prevention and treatment, positive economic incentives to do what was socially acceptable, and individual responsibility for one’s actions. But trying to control what people put into their bodies was not working. And along the way, the drug money problems were dwarfing the actual drug problems.
So, being a fairly clean-cut, conservative judge in a conservative county who had never used any form of illicit drug, I decided that few people could cause others to listen to the message more than I could. (It certainly was not a “career-enhancing” thing to do.) So in April of 2001, I actually held a press conference, and I spoke out about my conclusions as publicly as I could. And I continue to do so today.
So please use whatever your personal experiences and observations are, and help us to discuss this critically important issue. The beheadings in Mexico have almost nothing to do with drugs: they are all about drug money. And so are a large number of other problems with violence, corruption, disregard for the law, supporting terrorism, and directly leading our children into a lifestyle of drug usage and drug selling. Drug money is the major problem, and still we refuse even to discuss the issue.
And I would be interested in your thoughts, both in general, and about my book.
Thank you again for the note, and Good Luck to us all.
Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)