The Wire's War on the War on Drugs

BloodyDiaper

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Thought this might spark a good discussion and deserves attention outside the show thread:

Wednesday, Mar. 05, 2008
The Wire's War on the Drug War
By Ed Burns, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Richard Price, David Simon

We write a television show. Measured against more thoughtful and meaningful occupations, this is not the best seat from which to argue public policy or social justice. Still, those viewers who followed The Wire — our HBO drama that tried to portray all sides of inner-city collapse, including the drug war, with as much detail and as little judgment as we could muster — tell us they've invested in the fates of our characters. They worry or grieve for Bubbles, Bodie or Wallace, certain that these characters are fictional yet knowing they are rooted in the reality of the other America, the one rarely acknowledged by anything so overt as a TV drama.

These viewers, admittedly a small shard of the TV universe, deluge us with one question: What can we do? If there are two Americas — separate and unequal — and if the drug war has helped produce a psychic chasm between them, how can well-meaning, well-intentioned people begin to bridge those worlds?

And for five seasons, we answered lamely, offering arguments about economic priorities or drug policy, debating theoreticals within our tangled little drama. We were storytellers, not advocates; we ducked the question as best we could.

Yet this war grinds on, flooding our prisons, devouring resources, turning city neighborhoods into free-fire zones. To what end? State and federal prisons are packed with victims of the drug conflict. A new report by the Pew Center shows that 1 of every 100 adults in the U.S. — and 1 in 15 black men over 18 — is currently incarcerated. That's the world's highest rate of imprisonment.

The drug war has ravaged law enforcement too. In cities where police agencies commit the most resources to arresting their way out of their drug problems, the arrest rates for violent crime — murder, ****, aggravated assault — have declined. In Baltimore, where we set The Wire, drug arrests have skyrocketed over the past three decades, yet in that same span, arrest rates for murder have gone from 80% and 90% to half that. Lost in an unwinnable drug war, a new generation of law officers is no longer capable of investigating crime properly, having learned only to make court pay by grabbing cheap, meaningless drug arrests off the nearest corner.

What the drugs themselves have not destroyed, the warfare against them has. And what once began, perhaps, as a battle against dangerous substances long ago transformed itself into a venal war on our underclass. Since declaring war on drugs nearly 40 years ago, we've been demonizing our most desperate citizens, isolating and incarcerating them and otherwise denying them a role in the American collective. All to no purpose. The prison population doubles and doubles again; the drugs remain.

Our leaders? There aren't any politicians — Democrat or Republican — willing to speak truth on this. Instead, politicians compete to prove themselves more draconian than thou, to embrace America's most profound and enduring policy failure.

"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right," wrote Thomas Paine when he called for civil disobedience against monarchy — the flawed national policy of his day. In a similar spirit, we offer a small idea that is, perhaps, no small idea. It will not solve the drug problem, nor will it heal all civic wounds. It does not yet address questions of how the resources spent warring with our poor over drug use might be better spent on treatment or education or job training, or anything else that might begin to restore those places in America where the only economic engine remaining is the illegal drug economy. It doesn't resolve the myriad complexities that a retreat from war to sanity will require. All it does is open a range of intricate, paradoxical issues. But this is what we can do — and what we will do.

If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.
Jury nullification is American dissent, as old and as heralded as the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, who was acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor of New York, and absent a government capable of repairing injustices, it is legitimate protest. If some few episodes of a television entertainment have caused others to reflect on the war zones we have created in our cities and the human beings stranded there, we ask that those people might also consider their conscience. And when the lawyers or the judge or your fellow jurors seek explanation, think for a moment on Bubbles or Bodie or Wallace. And remember that the lives being held in the balance aren't fictional.

The authors are all members of the writing staff of HBO's The Wire, which concludes its five-year run on March 9

Click to Print Find this article at:
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1719872,00.html
 

HummerTuesdays

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Apr 24, 2005
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#2
So his answer is to let non-violent druggies remain on the street? And what does he consider violent? If someone breaks into my home & steals my shit so they can get a fix, is that violent?

I'm all for letting them OD, as long as the doctors and hospitals don't have to revive them.
 

Budyzir

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Nov 12, 2004
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#3
Hell, I liked Major Colvin's idea in season 3, put all the drug dealers in one rotted out area and leave them alone as long as they stay there.
 

d0uche_n0zzle

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Sep 15, 2004
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#4
I'm all for letting them OD, as long as the doctors and hospitals don't have to revive them.
I concur.

However, they should all be 'legal' to use with one catch, you need to know WTF your doing with said drug. It amazes me that most people never read about what their taking. Those warnings can be helpful and prevent unnecessary OD's.
 

mendozathejew

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Mar 12, 2005
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#5
the bottom line is that they are for the legalization of drugs.

the show also looks at the decline of the working class unions in the country, political reform, the schools, and the media. but most fans like to focus on the drugs angle
 

Stormrider666

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Mar 19, 2005
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#6
the bottom line is that they are for the legalization of drugs.
Pretty much. The war on drugs is one of the biggest shams and failures in this nations history. It has solved nothing, so how about we try something new and just legalize them already. Reading this article, does give me more respect for the creators behind the Wire.
 

mendozathejew

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Pretty much. The war on drugs is one of the biggest shams and failures in this nations history. It has solved nothing, so how about we try something new and just legalize them already. Reading this article, does give me more respect for the creators behind the Wire.
and they dont argue that it was an evil "war." David Simon thinks it had the best intentions but spun out of control with no positive effects
 

Treat_Yourself

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Nov 17, 2006
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#8
So his answer is to let non-violent druggies remain on the street? And what does he consider violent? If someone breaks into my home & steals my shit so they can get a fix, is that violent?

I'm all for letting them OD, as long as the doctors and hospitals don't have to revive them.
Then they get locked up for burglary. Plenty of drug users don't steal anything. I used to smoke weed, snort cocaine and occasionally heroin, but I paid for my drugs by working for a living. My pay check goes a lot farther without that shit now.
 
Jun 2, 2005
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#9
So his answer is to let non-violent druggies remain on the street? And what does he consider violent? If someone breaks into my home & steals my shit so they can get a fix, is that violent?

I'm all for letting them OD, as long as the doctors and hospitals don't have to revive them.
I know a lot of prosecutors and cops who share the exact same opinion as the piece does.

It's a complicated idea, but if you really study it it makes sense across the board, and it absolutely is the way it should be both in the interest of public safety and health, and our economy.
 
Jun 2, 2005
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#10
the bottom line is that they are for the legalization of drugs.
Yes, but not because they want to use them or it's the cool thing to do.

I fucking hate it when people try to put a Maaaaan label on this idea. The people with this opinion are the only ones actually thinking about ways to fix the fucking drug problem, and people like you try to label them druggies who just wanna smoke in peace.

You do realize that the authors of this show, and this letter were cops, right? Didn't they say that on the show today?
 

mendozathejew

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Yes, but not because they want to use them or it's the cool thing to do.

I fucking hate it when people try to put a Maaaaan label on this idea. The people with this opinion are the only ones actually thinking about ways to fix the fucking drug problem, and people like you try to label them druggies who just wanna smoke in peace.

You do realize that the authors of this show, and this letter were cops, right? Didn't they say that on the show today?
I am about as hardcore a fan of the wire as they come.

I dont know how you interpreted a judgment from a simple post that David Simon is an advocate for the legalization of drugs. and Ed Burns is the only one of the group who was a cop. David Simon was a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun, and the other 3 are well known writers
 
Jun 2, 2005
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#12
I am about as hardcore a fan of the wire as they come.

I dont know how you interpreted a judgment from a simple post that David Simon is an advocate for the legalization of drugs.
Haha, the post wasn't about The Wire, it was a criticism on the War on Drugs written by the cast of the show.

Making the flat statement:

the bottom line is that they are for the legalization of drugs.
is like saying "Bottom line is, if you don't vote for Obama you don't want a black guy in the White House".
 

mendozathejew

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Haha, the post wasn't about The Wire, it was a criticism on the War on Drugs written by the cast of the show.

Making the flat statement:



is like saying "Bottom line is, if you don't vote for Obama you don't want a black guy in the White House".
bottom line, was that their point wasnt about what to do as a juror in a drug case, or what defines a non violent crime or drug crime, that wasnt the point of the article. but it was the one highlighted and discussed first.

and that isnt the point of the article, and the show. and its not even about drugs as much as its about what the war on drugs detracts from in social services, the economy, and city politics.
 
Jun 2, 2005
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#14
I know that...

My point was that saying, "Bottom line is they want to make drugs legal" is very simplistic, and implies that they wanna legalize pot so they can smoke it.
 

mendozathejew

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#15
I know that...

My point was that saying, "Bottom line is they want to make drugs legal" is very simplistic, and implies that they wanna legalize pot so they can smoke it.
no it implied that David Simon is an advocate for the abolishment of drug laws.

stop being presumptuous
 

dolemyte

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#16
I wouldve prayed for a Hamsterdam when i grew up in Bed Stuy during the crack years
 

LiddyRules

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#17
no it implied that David Simon is an advocate for the abolishment of drug laws.

stop being presumptuous
I thought he was mocking the presumptuous people. Like how anytime anyone brings up drug reform or drug laws in this country, people will discount them as some crazy hippie even though it is a real, legitimate issue in this country that has fallen by the wayside.

And, not to you mendoza, they aren't saying let violent drug offenders roam free but that non-violent people who use drugs or want drugs shouldn't be in prison and their entire lives ruined for these "offenses."

The War on Drugs has been a clusterfuck. It has contributed nothing (except those ad council commercials which you have to be stoned to understand), cost billions and has probably harmed far more people than it purports to help.
 
Jun 2, 2005
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#18
It has contributed nothing
Sure, it has! It's destroyed our economy, shredded the bill of rights, and ruined millions of lives while leaving far less resources to fight real crime!

Oh, don't forget, it's also given an exclusive supply contract to violent drug cartels.

The War on Drugs is great! Long live prohibition!

This post was obviously made by a doper. Disregard with the same naive mentality, as usual. Ron Paul's just a racist.
 

Zona992006

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#19
cant we all just get along?...no? ..ah fuck it then.
 

VMS

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#20
I'm not really for the legalization of drugs, but I do think it's a conversation worth having.

In particular, though, I'd like to see good numbers on the chemical addictiveness of various drugs (coke, heroin, etc.) vs the chemical addictiveness of alcohol and/or tobacco.

Anyone I know who smokes/smoked comments on how it's difficult to quit smoking because it is readily available and it is closely associated with certain activities (particularly bar hopping). If coke/heroin/whatever are more chemically addictive than tobacco, for instance, that means their legalization translates into a lot more use in public environments, which I'd have a pretty big problem with.

And then you get into the entire supply problems. I've got a pretty big problem with handing billions of CLEAN dollars to groups like FARC in return for legal coke. Billions of CLEAN dollars to Taliban assholes in exchange for their heroin (Congrats, heroin users! Those flight lessons were paid in part with your drug money!).
 

LiddyRules

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#21
(Congrats, heroin users! Those flight lessons were paid in part with your drug money!).
Thank you Nick. Or was it Norm?

And if it was legal, couldn't we grow/make it here so that money wouldn't necessarily have to go overseas?

What are your thoughts on pot legalization?
 

VMS

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Thank you Nick. Or was it Norm?

And if it was legal, couldn't we grow/make it here so that money wouldn't necessarily have to go overseas?
Would those plants actually grow here? Coke and heroin come from plants that mostly grow in equatorial climates, I thought.

What are your thoughts on pot legalization?
I'm neither for nor against. The supply question's not nearly as bad, though the same people growing pot in Kentucky are also pretty much the same people (maybe not in particulars, but as a "type") who are running illegal moonshine stills. But that's a government revenue issue that I don't really care about.

Like any drug, legal or otherwise, there are issues with them. Saying "this is where I draw the line" is the big question, and there're a LOT of arguments to be made to move that line one way or the other, IMO.

That's what I think a legalization debate boils down to: where to draw the line, and why draw the line there.

For me, supply is a pretty big deal. That's one of my "why"s, which results in the "where": I'm not a big fan of allowing coke or heroin. Pot doesn't fall within that "why", which means it reverts to my base view on drug legalization which is that I'm neither for nor against.

On a purely personal front, I smoke the very occasional cigar, have had maybe 6 alcoholic beverages since New Years (counting from 12 am of 1/1/08), and haven't had any pot since August of '02 (I was in Amsterdam. It's kind of mandatory). I avoid pills and drugs, but I'm not a prig about it.

On the other hand, I've been to Amsterdam. The crime rate there is a LOT higher than it is in the rest of the country, where the drugs generally aren't. Legalizing drugs doesn't get rid of the crime. I won't say it'll make the crime higher or lower, but it won't get rid of the crime.
 

BIV

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#23
I'm for legalization, but they need to do it slowly and start with pot. I'd like to see what the landscape looks like if all the money spent on fighting pot was spent in other areas of the "drug war". From there, take each drug on an individual basis.

I just can't see legalizing some of the drugs, however. There is a big difference between smoking a joint or dropping acid and doing meth. I'd also like to see if legalizing some drugs cuts down on the usage of others. Why would you risk doing meth or crack when you can head down to the "Drug Store" and get pot or coke legally?
 

VMS

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#24
I'd also like to see if legalizing some drugs cuts down on the usage of others. Why would you risk doing meth or crack when you can head down to the "Drug Store" and get pot or coke legally?
I don't know. For the kind of people that this sort of thing becomes a problem, trying to find the "next level" tends to be an issue.

Me, I'm good with a beer or some bourbon now and then. And not even all that often. Alcohol's legal- why don't people just stick with that?
 

LiddyRules

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Jun 1, 2005
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#25
Alcohol's legal- why don't people just stick with that?
Different effects. And I hate the effects of alcohol but love the effects of pot.

I don't know. For the kind of people that this sort of thing becomes a problem, trying to find the "next level" tends to be an issue.
The slippery slope/"gateway drug" is such bullshit. There are people I know who are fine with just pot and people who never touch pot but would go to harder drugs in an instant.

Me, I'm good with a beer or some bourbon now and then. And not even all that often.
Well sometimes people who drink want something more and something better. Trying to find the next level might be an issue for them.