Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Turn pill-poppers into hardened criminals: Proposition 301

Proposition 301: Mandatory prison time for methamphetamine users

Hysteria about the recreational use of methamphetamine--known to the rabble as "meth" or "crystal meth" and to your local pharmacist or psychiatrist as Desoxyn--has swept Arizona. So far its affect has been limited to distorting police priorities and moving cold medicine behind the counter, but it now threatens to undo the gains brought about by 1996's Proposition 200.

Under that law, those convicted for the first time of simple possession of drugs are entitled, if they want it, to probation and treatment. Proposition 301, proposed by the legislature, would override the 1996 citizens' intitiative when the drug in question is methamphetamine.

Why methamphetamine and not amphetamines in general? From a purely scientific or medical perspective, singling it out makes no sense. The public has been made to think that "meth" is scary; they largely don't know what amphetamines are. Prop. 301 is a cynical means for legislators to score points with an ignorant and fearful public.

The main opposition to Prop. 301 has been the empty heads at Meth Free AZ. To quote:

The physical effects of the addiction are irreversible. It disfigures your teeth, increases the possibilities of stroke, liver damage, and an increased possibility of HIV, or hepatitis. It affects your brain through the destruction of tissue that is responsible for memory and emotion. It has a psychotic toll that includes paranoia and hallucinations. Repeated use destroys the brain cell receptors for dopamine, causing the brain to be unable to process the natural chemical, thus making the drug user feel less natural enjoyment when not using drugs.
That addiction per se is a behavioral symptom and doesn't cause "physical effects" aside, to hear it you wouldn't think that this is a legitimate and potentially safe prescription medication--the best known treatment for ADHD--that only damages the liver, disfigures the teeth, or causes hallucinations when taken in improper form and dosage.

Amphetamines are so socially harmful largely because they're illegal. 1996's Prop. 200, establishing treatment as the standard response to use, was the next best thing to legalization; treatment mitigates social harm. And it's been shown to work; Arizona's program has been considered a model nationwide.

Mandatory prison time, on the other hand, amplifies it, tearing pill-poppers away from their jobs, disrupting their families, and providing them the prison experience known to harden criminals. Vengeance and spite--the roots of the punitive mentality--have no place in the justice system of a free society. Conviction of behavior that at most is self-harm cannot justify imprisonment, and such imprisonment cannot be beneficial to society. It costs more than treatment and returns its victim to the streets more damaged than when they went in.

Vote "no" on Proposition 301.

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