Tag Archives: Jim Kenney

Safe injection sites and the ‘War on Drugs’

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There has been a great deal of controversy in recent weeks here in my hometown of Philadelphia regarding a proposal by some local politicians to open so-called safe injection sites.

The position of Mayor Jim Kenney and others is that such sites would help combat the exploding opioid crisis.

This would be accomplished by providing a safe place for drug abusers, but also by providing them with counseling.

Kenney was quoted by Aubrey Whelan for Philly.com just last week:

“We don’t want dying on the street and we want to have a place to administer Narcan if necessary. We also want an opportunity to speak to people about their future and getting their lives straight. They can’t do that under a train bridge or on a train track.”

Almost immediately, various members of Philadelphia City Council tried to apply the brakes. Per a piece by Claudia Vargas and Holly Otterbein for Philly.com, those concerns were summed up by Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez: “There’s no plan,” Sánchez said, adding that the city’s official presentation on the proposal looked “like an intern gave it to them.”

I have a number of problems with the idea. Concerns over exactly where any facilities would be located, issues involving liability for the city involving death and injuries at the facilities, and many others.

However, perhaps my biggest problem with the idea is even more basic and controversial. This is especially so coming from me, as I spent most of the last three decades as a Philadelphia Police Officer, Detective, and Sergeant. That included a decade in the Training Bureau teaching officers, supervisors, and commanders.

My biggest problem is that the city would be basically endorsing and supporting folks who are breaking the law. Possession and use of illicit drugs such as heroin is a crime. Addiction is not a valid defense.

Now that statement is factual, so my problem may not seem immediately apparent. Until I reveal why I feel that it is a problem. It’s a problem because the city is supporting an illegal activity. But it is an activity that I do not believe should be illegal in the first place.

That’s right – I do not support laws against the sale, possession, or consumption of narcotics. And if you do, I want to hear the reasons. The real reasons.

Those reasons cannot have to do with health concerns for the individuals involved in that usage, or their families, or for the community. Not unless you also support criminalizing the use of tobacco products and alcohol.

The cost of alcohol addiction to the U.S. economy has been estimated at nearly $250 billion annually. This includes lost productivity, health care expenses, law and other justice costs, and motor vehicle crashes.

More than 40% of that cost, over $100 billion, is drained from government. In other words, you and I pay for it with our taxes. Another $3.5 billion in costs is incurred by individual states, who of course also get their money from we the taxpayers.

Even with all of the education regarding tobacco abuse and the decline in its use over recent decades, its use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in America today.

More than 55 million Americans continue to smoke cigarettes. Another 12.4 million smoke cigars regularly, 8.8 million use smokeless tobacco, and there are 2.3 million pipe smokers. These were the figures presented by the American Cancer Society as of just five years ago.

A 2014 study at Georgia State University revealed that cigarette smoking alone generates as much as $170 billion in health care spending annually here in the United States.

This doesn’t include the simple economic cost of smoking to the user. An average pack of generic cigarettes costs more than $5, with many brands costing even more. Most smokers go through at least a pack per day, so that’s at least $150 per month in basic costs.

Use a pack and half per day, you’re up to $225 per month. Smoke an $8 per pack brand or product? That same pack and a half is now $360 per month. What could consumers and their families do with $360 per month if they were not addicted?

President Richard Nixon first formally declared a “War on Drugs” in June of 1971. The basic cost to the U.S. government to fight that “war” had risen to $1 trillion per a piece by Richard Branson for CNN back in 2012.

And the fact is, we are losing the war. How many times have you seen a local news story in which federal, state, or local law enforcement displays some vast amount of narcotics, cash, and weapons recovered from a drug operation? Was that the last one you would ever see? No. These stories continue to come, month after month, year after year. You’ll likely see another on your local news any day now.

It’s obviously not that law enforcement isn’t doing anything about the problem. Brave police officers at all levels of government are working hard every single day and night trying to enforce the law. In this “war”, some of those brave officers have even lost their lives.

But just as with the prohibition against alcohol a century ago, the prohibition against and war on drugs is a losing proposition.

Throughout the 1920’s and into the early 1930’s, a great deal of law enforcement manpower, time, and financial resources were expended enforcing prohibition against the evil and illegal scourge of alcohol. Officers died enforcing those laws as well.

And then, alcohol prohibition was repealed in 1933. It was all for nothing. Police did their jobs, as they are doing them today. It wasn’t law enforcement that was the problem. It was the law itself. It is long past time to revamp and even repeal many drug laws.

In November 2016, Elevations Health published a piece on the financial costs to the U.S. taxpayer to continue fighting this war. The piece included this summation of those financial costs:

“In 2015 alone $36 billion was spent on the war on drugs, but that number was just for law enforcement and some social services, and does not take into account the cost of incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders once they are arrested and sentenced to jail. Roughly $80 billion is spent each year on incarcerating American prisoners and since 50% of our prison population is serving time for drug-related crimes that means that an additional $40 billion needs to be added to $36 billion price tag for the war on drugs, bringing the grand total to $76 billion.”

The fact is that human beings have used and abused substances almost since the beginning of our existence as a species. Many of the substances now considered illegal were not so at a previous time. The same can be said for other vice crimes such as prostitution.

It is my position that not only would cost to taxpayers go down with decriminalization, but in some cases we might find revenue streams. This is already happening today with the widespread and growing trends involving marijuana.

Can you imagine the decrease in violence which is currently perpetuated in the trafficking of illicit narcotics by cartels and street gangs? What kind of impact would the loss of that violence have on our neighborhoods?

If we continue on, trying to fight this losing battle, we will never find out. We will simply continue with the status quo. And trust me, there are many who are just fine with that status quo. Their own livelihoods depend on it.

More importantly, if we can get to decriminalization we can begin to treat this as what it really is, a health problem. Focus dollars instead on education, prevention, and treatment.

So called “Safe injection sites” might then become some piece of a viable treatment opportunity for folks who were fighting this particular addiction.

Want to argue that the abuse of heroin and the current opioid crisis is killing people every day, while cigarettes and alcohol are not? Seriously? Now who is being naive?

The CDC estimates that cigarette smoking accounts for 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. Do the math. That’s 1,315 people dying every single day.

Per the NHTSA, in the year 2016 in the United States there were 10,497 people killed in car crashes involving drunk driving. These were crashes where a driver had a BAC of .08 or greater. Again, do the math. That’s roughly 29 folks every single day.

There are some who are going to question my conservative bona fides after this piece. There are many in law enforcement who are going to think that I have either lost my mind or gone over to some “other side” now that I am in retirement from the profession.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is something that most people are unwilling to deal with. The truth is that this isn’t a war that we are losing – it’s a war that we lost a long time ago. It’s one that we should have never begun fighting, in fact.

There will always be a criminal aspect to drug abuse. If drug users and abusers commit some crime while high, they will pay for that crime, just as drunk drivers and others who commit crimes while intoxicated on alcohol have to pay for their crimes.

In his CNN piece, Branson quoted H.L. Mencken, one of the most influential writers of the early 20th century. On the issue of prohibition, Menchen had this to say. The same sentiment can be applied to the war against drugs:

“Prohibition has not only failed in its promises but actually created additional serious and disturbing social problems throughout society.”

“There is not less drunkenness in the Republic but more. There is not less crime, but more. … The cost of government is not smaller, but vastly greater. Respect for law has not increased, but diminished.”

Tell me why this is a criminal issue rather than strictly a health issue. I’ll wait. Meanwhile, safe injection sites are not the answer as long as drugs remain illegal.

Dealing with that bigger issue is what has a chance to make a real, significant difference in the lives of individuals and communities in the long run.

Dems keep throwing curves, Trump keeps taking them deep

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Democrats have tried nearly everything within their power during 2017 to discredit President Donald J. Trump. Still obviously butt-hurt after Hillary Clinton’s stunning (to them) defeat last November, they have refused to simply play the role of gallant opposition party.

The Dems could have decided to put forth their own agenda, their own vision for the future, pushing those programs into the public consciousness through their media cohorts.

They could have chosen to work with the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress to gain something, no matter how small, for their own constituents until the next opportunity to win control for themselves at the ballot box.

Instead, they chose a MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) scorched Earth policy of no-holds barred, relentless attacks against the Trump administration.

They did so in some cases knowing full well that it would mean some of their own stars would fall, such as U.S. Senator Al Franken. It has been a year of nothing else but “take down Trump, at all costs” for the liberal progressive Democratic Party.

They have pulled one trick pitch after another out of their arsenal. Trump collusion with the Russians helped enable the November 2016 election upset. Trump’s anti-immigration goals would prove reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930’s.

His reversal of Barack Obama regulations, as well as ill-conceived tax reform, would benefit the wealthy while hurting the “little guy” and prove devastating to both the economy and the environment.

Relentless attacks on Trump on these and many other issues, all aided by their liberal media sycophants, were sure to eventually wear down the President. There would be a major slip-up, some irreversible damage would occur. This would lead to a Democratic Party takeover of the U.S. Senate and Congress in 2018, and then the White House in 2020.

Heck, perhaps the inevitable Trump gaffe would be so major that it would lead to impeachment, and a Nixonian resignation. Then a weakened Pence administration would be dominated by the new Dem-controlled congress over the next couple of years.

That was the plan as inning after inning, the Dems took turns on the mound making their pitch, tossing curve balls and spit balls at the President and his team.

Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jimmy Kimmel. CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post. Much of their pitch financed by deep-pocketed ownership in the person of George Soros, along with other wealthy liberals.

And yet here we are, more than a year after that election, and Donald J. Trump is still standing, perhaps stronger than ever. Nearly every exaggerated curve tossed by the Dems to date, every fabricated spitter that has slipped from their grip, has been taken deep by POTUS.

Russian collusion on the election? About as big a nothing burger as has been offered up on the liberal menu in decades. When the liberal progressives couldn’t nail Trump with that one, they went after his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Then his son, Donald Trump Jr. The result? Two more wild pitches in the dirt.

Immigration? There is still no wall, even though the President continues to tout it’s inevitability. Big city liberal mayors such as Philly’s Jim Kenney continue to thumb their noses at federal immigration law by establishing their municipalities as “sanctuary cities” while taunting the President with vitriolic rhetoric. But there have also been huge wins.

An empowered and emboldened ICE made more than 143,000 arrests, with a 92% “win” rate. The proportion of removals resulting from ICE arrests rose from just 27% in FY2016 under Obama to 36% in FY2017 under Trump.

ICE has taken down hundreds of members of the notorious MS-13 gang. The CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Patrol) has stated that due to President Trump, we have seen a “historic shift” in attempted illegal border crossings. Also, SCOTUS just upheld President Trump’s travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries. All of these moves are helping make America more secure.

The economy? Come on now. The DOW and NASDAQ break records almost daily. Unemployment and jobs figures consistently reveal the success of this President. He has returned the U.S. economy to basic capitalist principles from Obama-era socialist policies. Both the Keystone and Dakota XL pipelines have been fast-tracked by President Trump.

Unburden private industry from the yoke of government over-regulation and taxation, and business will blossom, expand, and hire. Real business owners in their actual hiring practices and stock market speculators betting on the future of the American economy under Trump continue to react favorably.

Justice Neil Gorsuch has been seated on the U.S. Supreme Court, and 10 more judges have been appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Still another half-dozen judges have been appointed to the U.S. district courts. And there is more to come, as 42 more Trump court nominees are awaiting Senate action. Over 150 more judicial slots are up for appointment during President Trump’s first term.

It hasn’t been all home runs for POTUS. His Twitter feed continues to be a frustrating mix, even for his most ardent supporters. There are clever retorts and tough responses to political and media challenges, as we saw play successfully in the campaign.

However, he also chooses to engage for too frequently on social media with negative commentary and insults that are unnecessary, and which occasionally take focus away from more important issues.

Still, as 2017 draws to a close, this has clearly been a strong season for the rookie politician. And it could get even better if tax reform is actually finalized before Christmas, as the President has stated he hopes.

Even if those tax reform negotiations flip over into early 2018, Trump continues to swing from the heels, connecting with the liberal flutter-balls for a rising number of policy and appointment home runs.