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2016 Texas Republican Platform - Part 11, Crime & Drugs

Republican ElephantThis entry is part of a series taking a look at the latest Texas Republican Party Platform. For a list of all entries in this series, go to the Introduction. This entry will cover crime and drugs.

Capital Punishment- Properly applied capital punishment is legitimate, is an effective deterrent, and should be reasonably swift and unencumbered.

Carlos DeLuna. Richard Cantu. Larry Griffin. Joseph O'Dell. David Spence. Leo Jones. Gary Graham. Claude Jones. Cameron Willingham. Troy Davis. Lester Bower. Brian Terrell. Richard Masterson.

These are all men who were very probably innocent of the crimes they were accused of, yet were still killed by the state. There are many more questionable cases, and many more people who have, thankfully, hand their convictions overturned before they were killed. When punishments are irreversible, there's no possibility of correcting false convictions. And when the death penalty is 'swift and unencumbered', there's even less opportunity for these corrections, and more innocent people will be killed. And innocent people are convicted at an alarming rate. According to the article, How Many People Are Wrongly Convicted? Researchers Do the Math, the false conviction rate for death row inmates is around 4.1% (and that's not even looking at the larger prison population). One out of every twenty-five people. It would be horrific to execute that many innocent people.

Moreover, capital punishment is not an effective deterrent. According to an article from Columbia Law School, Capital Punishment: Deterrent Effects & Capital Costs, "When we apply contemporary social science standards, the new deterrence studies fall well short of this high scientific bar." A properly controlled study "finds no effects of execution and a significant effect of prison conditions on crime rates." From a study polling criminologists, "There is overwhelming consensus among America's top criminologists that the empirical research conducted on the deterrence question fails to support the threat or use of the death penalty."

Child Abuse- We recognize the family as a sovereign authority over which the state has no right to intervene, unless a parent or legal guardian has committed criminal abuse. Child abusers should be severely prosecuted. We oppose actions of social agencies to classify traditional methods of discipline, including corporal punishment, as child abuse. As a condition of funding, publicly funded agencies are to report all instances of abuse.

This is a little better than other parental authority planks I've already commented on, but it still goes too far. As I've said several times, now, in reviewing this platform, children are not the property of their parents. They're citizens, but especially vulnerable ones because they rely on their parents and have practically no autonomy of their own. Parents have a responsibility to raise their children, while the state has a responsibility for oversight to ensure that children are receiving the best upbringing possible, within reason. While this plank only calls out criminal abuse, neglect and negligence are other areas where the state should intervene. For example, even if it's not classified as abuse for parents to withhold a certain medical treatment from their children, the state should step in to save the child. And even if a parent decided that they didn't want to educate their child, or to provide them with a sub-par homeschool education*, the state should intervene to ensure that the child receives an adequate education.

*I don't mean to imply that all homeschool educations are sub-par, as I know first hand from personal acquaintances. I simply mean that if a parent does decide to homeschool their children, the education provided should be at least as good as a public school education.

Illicit Drugs- We oppose legalization of illicit and synthetic drugs. We also oppose any needle exchange programs. Faith based rehabilitation programs should be considered as a part of an overall rehabilitation program.

The current way we regulate recreational drugs is haphazard and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Alcohol is legal as long as you're over 21. Nicotine is legal as long as you're over 18. Caffeine is legal at any age. Nitrous oxide and cough syrup, although illegal to use recreationally, are legal to buy. A whole host of other recreational drugs are completely illegal. There really seems to be no rhyme or reason other than which drugs are socially acceptable.

Here are a few figures showing various ways of ranking drugs by the dangers they present. There's a good discussion at Vox about how the first of those graphs was done, pointing out how it leaves out a lot of the nuance and complexity.

The Most Dangerous Drugs

Source: Vox

Active/Lethal Dose Ratio and Dependence Potential of Psychoactive Drugs

Source: Wikipedia

Dependence vs. Physical Harm of Various Drugs

Source: Wikipedia

Notice that alcohol always ranks among the most dangerous, while currently illegal drugs like marijuana and LSD rank as far less dangerous. Sure, there's still a risk associated with them, but there's risk associated with all drugs, including caffeine.

This is especially hypocritical coming from the party that prides itself on freedom and liberty. As long as you understand the risks, why should the government be able to tell you what you can do to your own body? Even if you wanted to outlaw the most dangerous drugs, how can you justify making alcohol and tobacco legal, while outlawing less dangerous drugs like marijuana?

As far as needle exchange programs, I'm going to repeat verbatim something I wrote for the last platform. Needle exchange programs just make sense. A comprehensive 2004 study by the World Health Organization found that "There is compelling evidence that increasing the availability and utilization of sterile injecting equipment by IDUs reduces HIV infection substantially," along with, "There is no convincing evidence of any major, unintended negative consequences. Specifically and after almost two decades of extensive research, there is still no persuasive evidence that needle syringe programmes increase the initiation, duration or frequency of illicit drug use or drug injecting," and further, "Needle syringe programmes are cost-effective." So needle exchange programs reduce horrible diseases, don't increase drug use, and are cost effective. What possible reason could there be to oppose them, unless your goal is to punish people for having an addiction?

Compassionate Use Act - We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to prescribed patients.

I'm not sure if I've written about it on the blog, yet, but I've been saying for years now that medical marijuana is the wrong way to go about legalizing marijuana. If you want to use a drug medically, you should go through the proper channels that all legitimate drugs go through to be approved by the FDA. That means isolating the active ingredient, providing it in a form where the dosage can be carefully controlled, safety tests, double blind clinical trials, and everything else. If you want to see what that process looks like, read this article, GW Pharmaceutical Gets Closer To Forcing FDA On Cannabis, where GW Pharmaceuticals, a British biotech company, is doing exactly that, and has already gone through Phase 3 clinical trials for treating seizures with a drug derived from cannabis.

If marijuana becomes legal, and people want to use it the same way they use other questionable herbal remedies (some work, some don't - all have high variability of active ingredients), that's fine. But if your justification is primarily medicinal, then treat it like any other medicine, and get it FDA approved.

Continue to Part 12, Crippling the Federal Government / Taxes


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