Winning drug war, or blowing a lot of hot air?

Jonathan Septer

America has been “winning the war on drugs” since before most of you were born. I, however, was among the first group of DARE kids.

I learned one thing from DARE (Drug Awareness Resistance Education), and it wasn’t even something I was supposed to learn. It was merely a recess joke, but it was the only truth I took from America’s test-run in early childhood propaganda programming: Drugs Are Really Expensive. But just how expensive are they? reported this week that in Dandridge, Tenn., 10-year-old Austin Shands was playing baseball. His game ended in slaughter. Austin’s paternal grandparents, Ellen Shands, 62, and Jerry Shands, 63, and maternal grandfather, Samuel Noe, 61, are dead. Austin’s father, Jerry Shands, 39, is seriously wounded.

Police will not speculate what happened, but apparently a gunfight erupted over a bitter custody suit. The suit came about because the boy’s mother, Diane Shands Robbins, was arrested and remanded to federal prison for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. She didn’t sell it. She didn’t smoke it. She was either aware that marijuana was being sold, or she gave someone marijuana. Because of this, a boy’s mother is in prison awaiting sentencing because she can’t afford bail, three of his grandparents are dead and his father is in the hospital.

Last year in Akron, as reported by the Akron Beacon Journal, Charles Plinton, a graduate student at the University of Akron, was accused of selling marijuana by a university-sanctioned police snitch living in his dorm. This man was paid $50 for every finger he pointed.

Plinton was acquitted by a jury. Summit County sheriffs bungled the investigation, and Plinton provided a witness, a doctoral assistant who testified Plinton was working across campus at the time of the sale he was accused of participating in.

Once he was acquitted, Plinton appeared in front of the University of Akron judicial board for what he thought would be a routine readmission to his classes and his home. The board voted 2-3 to deny Plinton access to his master’s degree and his campus housing.

Dejected, Plinton returned home and tried to crawl out from under the legal fees he accrued while proving his innocence. In December, Plinton bought a shotgun, called his mother in New Jersey one last time and ended his pain.

One of the first things George W. Bush did when he took the presidential office was change the federal laws associated with student funding for college and drug charges. If you receive a charge of possession, even something as small as a single joint, you will lose your funding for a brief time. If you jump through the right hoops (rehabilitation, endless forms and, of course, money), you can come back to school unless it happens more than once. Three convictions and you’re done. Three joints can end your college career.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you that marijuana will kill you. Marijuana has no recorded fatalities. You will pass out long before you poison yourself. The drug laws, they might kill you. They also might leave you nearly orphaned or so tired of life you have to give up. Smoke ’em if you got ’em. Just be quiet and smoke quick.

Jonathan D. Septer is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].