Krystal Ball calls on Sanders to follow Yang's lead on war on drugs

Opinion by: Krystal Ball

Yesterday in my exclusive interview with Andrew YangAndrew YangSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate The great AI debate: What candidates are (finally) saying about artificial intelligence Poll: Biden leads Democratic field, Warren drops to third place MORE, he broke news in a big way on one of the major crises of our time. Let me explain.

So it's no secret to frequent viewers of this program that I believe our country is literally disintegrating before our eyes due to a lack of political courage by our so-called leaders. An obvious example of their failings has been the bipartisan war consensus that has led us to endless regime change wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now pushing us towards war in Iran. One of the reasons of course I admire Senator Sanders is that he had the courage and foresight to stand against this consensus even when it was not popular.

But there's another endless war that has killed far more Americans and destabilized the world. We have lost 800,000 people in this war in the past thirty years alone. And it's cost more every year than offering free childcare to every family in America.

In my exclusive interview with Andrew Yang, he became the first candidate in 2020 to take an unequivocal stand in favor of ending this war.

That's right. Andrew Yang has committed to ending the pointless and cruel War on Drugs in favor of the Portugal model. In Portugal, simple possession of any drug, including heroin and cocaine, is not a criminal offense. They don't send people to jail for being addicts, even if the drug they possess is heroin. Instead, they offer treatment, they offer jobs, they offer methadone and other medically based treatment. Portugal's response to catching someone with a 10-day supply of heroin is to offer them help, not jail. And how's that working for them? Well, Portugal saw its overdose death rate drop 85% since decriminalization. Where we lost nearly 70,000 people to opioid overdoses last year alone, Portugal lost 20 people.

When I sat down recently with Senator Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate The media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Steyer rolls out 5B plan to invest in historically black colleges MORE, I asked a very similar question but received a very different answer.

Now, I understand his hesitation. We have been subjected to so much propaganda about the War on Drugs, that it's hard to accept the truth that prohibition has only pushed people into addiction, putting power into the worst kind of murderous thugs. Nor do I think that Senator Sander's position is from a lack of political courage. I mean, no man who would advocate allowing currently incarcerated felons to vote is lacking in political courage. Let's just say letting murderers vote isn't exactly a poll tested position, even though it is in fact the right thing to do.

So I wanted to lay out a few of the facts on the War on Drugs in hopes that he and others may be inspired by Andrew Yang's courage and knowledge, and evolve to the smart and just position on this issue.

First of all, if you believe that addiction is a public health issue, why are we putting people in jail when they should be receiving treatment? Keep in mind, heroin was invented by none other than good old Bayer, purveyors of Bayer Aspirin.

It was actually originally marketed to soothe babies and children nearly 100 years ago, and when it was widely available over the counter, we were not overrun by a nation of zombie heroin addicts. In fact, there were many stable, job holding middle-class people who had a mild, manageable heroin addiction. That is certainly not ideal, but it also wasn't killing more Americans than both World Wars combined. We criminalized alcohol, heroin and other drugs in this country early in the last century. Somehow while we seemed to recognize that locking people up during alcohol prohibition was a massive failure that only enriched gangsters and led to grotesque violence, we’ve yet to learn that lesson about other drugs.

In fact, what we did instead was allow Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family to make billions weaponizing a synthetic opioid, oxycontin. But guess what, when your doctor cuts you off of your oxy prescription after that back injury and you've become addicted, what happens? Many people start buying heroin. Their heroin dealer has no interest in getting them treatment. In fact, he wants to push the biggest dose, that’s why fentanyl has become so prolific, and the most addiction that he can. So we drive people into the arms of these merchants of death rather than offering them the help they need. This leads to a downward spiral of increasing addiction and criminality to feed their habit. There are about 500,000 people in this country incarcerated today for non-violent drug offenses, disproportionately of course, people of color. 500,000 families destroyed. We could have these citizens back and give them the help they need.

But even if you don't care about the moral case for decriminalization, remember: if we decriminalized drugs, the Northern Triangle destruction by drug gangs in Honduras and elsewhere would be curtailed. No drug money, no gangs. Nothing could do more to make those countries livable for their citizens, ending the heartbreaking trail of desperate families seeking refuge here. There'd be no narco-gang dollars to destabilize Mexico. We wouldn't be funding the Taliban through their shipments of opium poppy heroin.

We have been attempting to end drug use through prohibition for more than 100 years, and yet here we are, with the worst addiction crisis in our nation's history. It is time to admit this policy has failed. And while full decriminalization may seem radical, what's truly insane is staying the course. So, Senator Sanders, please, follow the lead of Andrew Yang and bring your voice of courage and moral clarity to end the biggest endless war of them all, the War on Drugs. We must not let another 800,000 people die needlessly out of propaganda, fear, and Big Pharma greed.