jerry's-house

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Drug Policy

Drug Policy -- As I See It

by Jerry Thomas



31 March 1999

Our country is in critical condition. The United States of America has a drug problem, and the people of Galena can help to solve this problem. We are not addicted to a drug, but to an idea. As a Nation we are addicted to Prohibition.

Shortly after the repeal of the Prohibition of alcohol, we got our next “fix” by establishing the Prohibition of Marijuana. Our national addiction is just as destructive to our Nation as an individual junkie’s addiction is to that individual. The junkie will do ANYTHING -- lie, cheat, steal, and/or kill, just to get his next “fix.” The Drug Enforcement Administration is the nerve center of our collective problem; its behavior is precisely the same as the junkie’s. The Prohibition of Marijuana is fundamentally based on lies. The time has come for sober, reasonable, respectable citizens to educate themselves on this point and to take action to remedy our Nation’s affliction.

I feel duty bound and morally obligated to do my best to help the growing number of those who seek a rational solution to that problem. I believe that to do otherwise would be offensive to God and my Country. I sincerely hope that the readers of this article will join me in that belief.

Fifty-seven years ago when I joined the Boy Scouts of America I stood on the steps of the Galena Elks Club and took an oath. Raising my right hand making the Scout Sign, I swore: “On my Honor I will do my Best to do my Duty to God and my Country. ...”

Forgive me for quoting from the Bible, but Saint Paul’s advice to the Apostle Timothy (Second Timothy 1:6) seems relevant and appropriate. “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance,” wrote Paul, “that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”

One of the many gifts that God has given me is the ability to think, to speak, and to write. During my years of experience as a Teacher, Law-Enforcement Communications Specialist, and Sales Manager, I have picked up a few ideas that enhance those gifts of God. The time has come for me to “stir them up.”

Most of us law-abiding citizens feel far removed from the War On Drugs, yet when our nation is at War, all of us are involved, directly or indirectly. I became directly involved exactly one year ago. The War On Drugs became, for me, a very personal matter. Officer Ortiz, of the Colorado State Patrol, stopped me and decided to perform a thorough search of the vehicle I was driving.

Because I live in Hawaii and because I like to visit Galena, Kansas, my old home town, and because I really enjoy solitary long-distance driving, I feel especially blessed by my friendship with Ralph. Ralph lives in Reno, Nevada, where he is an auto mechanic and part-time used car dealer. Last April I flew to Reno, borrowed a white 1988 Olds Toronado from Ralph, and headed east. A mid-April snowstorm at Vail Pass in the Rocky Mountains had necessitated the imposition of the Chain Law by the Colorado State Patrol. Reluctant to use chains, I spent a couple of days and nights in Glenwood Springs, waiting. Early in the morning on April 13 Interstate 70 was open at Vail Pass. I zoomed up and over the Rockies, down through Denver, and out into the High Plains.

In the past ten years I have done considerable research into the history of Kansas. As I approached the Colorado-Kansas state line I was thinking of the tens of millions of buffalo that once lived on the Great Plains. Symbols of freedom. A natural resource that was harvested for a number of reasons -- hides for factory belts needed in the Industrial Revolution; bones for fertilizer; meat to feed the people back east and the construction crews building the Railroads. An unexpected consequence of the buffalo slaughter was the starvation of the Plains Indians, but that’s another story. I was about to leave my native state and enter the state where I spent my childhood. “Ah! Kansas!” I shouted. Then I saw the flashing lights in my rearview mirror.

“We stopped you because you were weaving,” said Officer Ortiz. “Thought you might be asleep.” Then he asked to see my Driver’s License (Hawaii) and Registration (Nevada).

Weaving? Well, perhaps I had been weaving. I felt safe in the watchful presence of the Police. Assuring Officer Ortiz that I was alive, fully awake, and alert, I handed him the documents. We discussed the ownership of the car and my friendship with Ralph. This is routine.

What happened then was not routine. “Do you have any drugs or weapons?”

“Nope.”

“Are you sure you don’t have any drugs or weapons?”

“I have no drugs and no weapons except this.” As I dug in my pocket for my Swiss Army Knife, I saw Officer Ortiz’s hand move toward his sidearm. But he smiled as I showed him my knife.

“Would you mind if we look the car over? Would you consent to a search?” I considered his question for a couple of seconds. The car belonged to someone else; how could I be absolutely sure?

“Sure,” I said. “Go ahead. I have nothing to hide.”

“Leave the keys in the seat and go with him,” said Officer Ortiz, pointing at his youthful partner. The Rookie took me away from the car. His lack of experience showed in such statements as, “You shouldn’t even have a driver’s license if you’re that deaf.” (The noise of the passing traffic, plus the wind whistling across my hearing aid had caused me to say, “WHAT?” several times). Then he said, “We stopped you because you fit a profile. Big old car, Nevada plates, traveling alone.” (Not to mention “weaving,” I thought).

“Profile of a tourist?”

“Profile of a drug and weapons runner.”

“Oh.”

“You look like an aging hippie, too,” he said, peering at my beard and my long hair. I noticed that I was trembling uncontrollably. The fifty-degree temperature, the strong wind, and the impressive idea of this personal assault by armed Drug War soldiers was taking its toll on my emotions. Part of my trembling was due to a growing anger.

Suddenly three more Colorado State Patrol cars arrived, all of their emergency lights flashing. I asked the Rookie what ... .. ?

“They just came to help with the search,” he said. Six more officers? AND their DOG ?

I watched them get out of their cars -- two Officers per car -- and I watched a pair of them struggling to control their eager Dog.

I had recently read an article about these modern police Dogs; I had learned that they are so well trained that they can detect a marijuana cigarette hidden in a bale of hot chili peppers.

The Dog, small, black, short-haired, was on a leash. The Officer let the Dog pull him toward the Toronado and removed the leash. Excitedly the Dog jumped into the car, leaped from front seat to back seat and back again, sniffing, probing, whining with excitement. Meanwhile, one pair of Officers raised the hood and checked the engine. Two more Officers were going under the car, probing. Two of them opened my large suitcase and dumped its entire contents on the back seat. The Dog kept on leaping and sniffing. It checked my suitcase and its contents thoroughly.

“That tall skinny guy is our supervisor,” said the Rookie. The Supervisor looked at me and grinned. Then I saw him reach into the car and bring out my long yellow notebook. I watched him slowly go through it, page by page. Apparently he found nothing incriminating in my notes on the much-neglected history of Cherokee County, Kansas.

They unlocked and opened the Toronado’s trunk. “Are your drugs and weapons in the trunk?” asked the Rookie.

“There’s nothing in the trunk but some auto parts,” I said.

“I guess it takes a lot of spare parts to keep an old clunker like that running,” the Rookie guessed.

Finally the show was over. The smiling Supervisor came to me and shook my hand and said, “Thank you for your time.”

Officer Ortiz shook my hand and said, “You’re clean. Have a good trip to Kansas.” The Officers -- and their Dog -- got into their respective Patrol cars, turned off their emergency lights, and went in search of another victim.

Thinking thoughts I could not utter, I headed for Kansas.

This incident was routine for the Officers and their Dog, but it was new to me. It sparked a personal interest in what I now refer to as our Nation’s Addiction.

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