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  • Judge Jim Gray

Repeal the Deadly War on Drugs!

From my own observations as a criminal defense attorney in the Navy JAG Corps, a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles and a trial court judge in Orange County for 25 years, I have seen the deadly results of our nation’s failed war on drugs. Yes, these mind-altering and sometimes addicting drugs truly can be dangerous, and no reasonable parents want their children to take any of them, but there are demonstrably more dangers to us and our children by making these drugs illegal. What could such a change in approach look like? With the understanding that space is limited, and mostly to promote more dialogue on the subject, here is one approach: Strictly regulate and control marijuana like wine, and then bring the other substances under the control of our medical professionals. This approach would provide quality control, educational advice and healthcare counseling to the recipients, along with providing them with prescriptions for the substances that they would end up using. In addition, it would hold people accountable for their actions, but not for what they put into their bodies.

This would be a major step forward, because that bring people who are only causing harm to themselves closer to the medical professionals who could help them, instead of chasing them away. Plus, as I have said numerous times, the lack of quality control and the violence and corruption directly inflicted upon us from the illicit drug money are by far the most dangerous aspects of this entire situation! For example, these fentanyl deaths are not drug overdoses, they are drug poisonings, directly caused by an absence of quality control and truth in labeling. That problem also existed during alcohol prohibition, but it went away almost overnight when that failed approach was finally repealed. The same thing will happen when we (finally) come to our senses and repeal drug prohibition!

But now let’s talk more about drug money. I have seen during my time as a judge in Juvenile Court that juvenile street gangs openly use the sale of illicit drugs as a recruiting tool. “Hey man, you will never make as much money in your life as you can by selling drugs with our gang” is the approach – and it works! It also causes huge corruption not only here but all around the world. The November 15, 2022 edition of the Orange County Register on page A10 in an article entitled “DEA’s most-corrupt agent: Parties, sex amid an ‘unwinnable war’” detailed how a DEA agent named Jose Irizarry conspired with Colombian cartels to build a lavish lifestyle. As he put it: “We had free access to do whatever we wanted. We would generate money pickups in places we wanted to go. And once we got there it was about drinking and girls. All this revelry was rooted in a crushing realization among DEA agents that there’s nothing they can do to make a dent in the drug war anyway. You can’t win an unwinnable war. The drug war is a game (and) it was a very fun game that we were playing.” It has also made good politics for decades by getting many “tough on crime” politicians elected, but it has never been effective.

In addition, let’s also look at an article on page A12 of the January 7, 2023 Register entitled “Authorities give an account of violence after ‘Chapo’ son nabbed.” This article describes the violence brought by Mexican drug cartels against the police and military in retaliation for the government seizing the son of the main drug cartel leader in the northern city of Culiacan. The government described that nabbing as a tribute marking the upcoming visit of President Biden. (The son was described as the “biggest trafficker of fentanyl in the area.”) In this incident cartel gunmen in 25 vehicles, some of which included truck-mounted gun platforms, opened fire on police and army troops with half a dozen .50-caliber machine guns, which resulted in the killing of 10 and wounding of 52 police and military personnel. Then when the army attacked the cartel’s vehicles with Black Hawk helicopters, the cartel gunmen were able to shoot down two of those aircraft. And then the cartels sent “hordes” of gunmen to attack both military and civilian fixed-wing aircraft at the city’s international airport! In other words, with their drug money the cartels are able to hold their own in open combat, even against the police and the Mexican Army. And most of that money comes from our country, thanks to our failed policy of drug prohibition! So once again, and as I have been saying publicly since April of 1992, it is long since time for some deep reflection about repealing our country’s failed and deadly war on drugs! This article is a reprint of an original post published on Judge Jim Gray's site. The views expressed in it are those of the author and not necessarily the views of the Libertarian Party of Orange County.

James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, and presently works as a private mediator and arbitrator for ADR Services, Inc. He was also the 2012 vice presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, and can be contacted at, or through his website at

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