It was evident before he was appointed Attorney General that Jefferson Sessions’ drug policies are ill-informed and wrong. It took watching his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last Tuesday to understand just how this is the case. I had a “eureka” moment. He closed his statement with a self-serving peroration that had no relation to why he had been called before the Committee: “… Just last week, it was reported that overdose deaths in this country are rising faster than ever recorded. The murder rate is up over 10 percent—the largest increase since 1968. Together, we are telling the gangs, the cartels, the fraudsters, and the terrorists—we are coming after you. Every one of our citizens, no matter who they are or where they live, has the right to be safe in their homes and communities.”
In the previous post, former police officer Brian Gaughan describes why he resigned after 11 years rather than perpetuate the War on Drugs. Here Executive Director Rev. Alexander Sharp reflects on what his experience might tell us about law enforcement in the future. Several years ago I asked a distinguished Illinois suburban police chief whether he might support medical marijuana. I still remember the hiss in his voice as he replied: “It’s not medicine, it’s just a weed.” Since that day, 29 states including Illinois, covering over half the U.S. population, have legalized medical marijuana. The same thing is happening with other drug laws: 21 states have either decriminalized or legalized marijuana. The decriminalization of all drugs was introduced in one state legislature this year.
How did I shift from being “pro-drug war” to realizing that it was totally wrong? I watched people who were addicts being arrested, taken into custody for mere possession of an “illegal” drug, when in reality, they were being put into a cage for possessing something they may or may not be addicted to and were doing no one any harm, except perhaps their own self. I struggled with the idea that I was part of an organization that was punishing people, often times severely, for being addicted to something. Not only would we put them in a cage, we would oftentimes financially ruin them. Their cars were towed, they needed to find bond money to post if possible. More times than not, they would lose their jobs for not being able to show up at work, they had to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for legal representation, families were split up, homes were lost. It slowly began to weigh on my mind.
Among the relentless flow of President Trump’s executive orders over the past two weeks, the one instructing Congress to move toward repeal of the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, received comparatively little attention. Perhaps this is because, unlike banning immigrants from entering the country, it was far less obvious that revising health care eligibility for millions could happen with the stroke of a pen. But the debate in Congress will heat up soon enough, presumably with the confirmation of a Secretary of Human Services. When it does, we should all, especially clergy, enter the fray — and not just for the obvious reasons.
January 31, 2017 The Honorable Bruce Rauner Governor, State of Illinois 207 State House Springfield, IL 62706 Dear Governor Rauner: As you are aware, Republican leaders in Congress have begun the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without enacting a simultaneous replacement plan. Nationwide, this strategy threatens to disrupt our entire healthcare system—subjecting patients, providers, hospitals, and insurers to chaos. As Governor of our state, we seek your input on how to improve our health care system and urge you to stand on the side of Illinoisans in opposing any action that would reduce coverage, increase costs, reduce the quality of health care, burden our providers, or harm our state’s economy.