Al Gore III's mug shot appeared in newspapers across the country today thanks to his arrest on Wednesday for possession of marijuana and prescription pills.
An Orange County sheriff's deputy pulled over Al Gore III for driving his Toyota Prius at 100 miles per hour. The officer said the car smelled of marijuana. A search found marijuana and prescription pills Vicodin, Valium, Xanax and Adderall.
Here are five observations following Mr. Gore's arrest.
1) Don't Speed if You're Holding Weed.
If your car reeks of marijuana and you're holding a bunch of different prescription pills, you probably don't want to be driving 100 miles per hour. Don't speed (especially if you're holding weed).
2) Don't Get in the Car If You Are Drunk or High!
Don't drink and drive! Don't drive if you are impaired! I don't know if Gore was high when he was pulled over. He was not charged with driving under the influence. But it should be clear to all that there is never an excuse to drive while high. Not only are you putting your own life at risk, you are risking the lives of innocent people.
3) Drug Use Doesn't Discriminate, but our Drug Policies Do.
Al Gore III, Noelle Bush and Patrick Kennedy remind us that drug use does not discriminate. Unfortunately, our drug policies do. Just one of numerous examples is in New York. Ninety-three percent of the people incarcerated under New York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws are black or Latino, which is grossly disproportionate to their share of the population or involvement in illegal drug use and sales. Too often treatment is reserved for the privileged, jail for the poor.
4) Everyone Facing a Drug Problem Deserves Treatment.
Al Gore III may not have a drug problem but if he does then, like all people struggling with addiction, he should be offered treatment and not a jail cell. If Gore III does not have a drug problem he should not be forced into treatment. There are too many people filling up much needed treatment slots because they were only given two options: treatment or jail time and a permanent record. If someone is busted with marijuana or another drug but they are not hurting anyone else then they should not automatically be considered to have a drug problem. Leaving them alone may be better than forcing them into treatment and is clearly better than locking them up in a cage at tax-payer expense.
5) Thanks to Prop. 36, Californians Are Offered Treatment instead of Jail for the First Two Nonviolent Drug Offenses.
Gore III and all people who are busted in California on simple, nonviolent drug offenses should thank California's voters. Thanks to the voter-approved Proposition 36, passed in 2000, all first- and second-time nonviolent drug offenders, rich and poor, black and white receive treatment instead of jail. Thanks to this law, tens of thousands of Californians have received treatment, put their lives back together, and saved the state over a billion dollars by not wasting $30,000 a year to lock someone up in jail.
Drugs and the drug war touch most families, including the Gores. Almost every family in America has to deal with drug addiction or the consequences of the war on drugs. Millions of people have a loved one behind bars on drug charges. Many millions more have struggled themselves or have a loved one who has dealt with addiction to illegal or legal drugs. Hopefully, one day, we will offer all families compassion and treatment, not a jail cell and judgment when dealing with the problem of drugs.
Tony Newman is the communications director at the Drug Policy Alliance