Talk set on illegal drug regulation |

Talk set on illegal drug regulation

Would regulating illegal drugs eradicate California’s drug problem?

Libertarian Judge James Gray, who will give a presentation on the topic tonight, says such a move could not only reach that elusive law-enforcement goal, but also save the state billions of dollars.

Gray, a sitting Orange County Superior Court judge who is currently seeking a seat in the Senate, will give his talk, “Why our drug laws have failed and what we can do about it,” tonight at the Miners Foundry.

“We are putting people who are addicted in jail,” Gray said Tuesday. “We cannot incarcerate our way out of this. We have proved jail doesn’t work.”

His answer to the drug problem is to distinguish between drug uses. If someone does drugs and gets behind the wheel, it is a crime; if he does drugs and then goes to sleep, it is not, under Gray’s favored approach.

“If they don’t put our safety at risk, it’s a medical problem,” Gray said. “Hold people accountable for what they do.”

Last year, the judge publicly switched from the Republican to the Libertarian Party. One of the reasons for his shift was his stance on decreasing drug abuse, he said.

“If you’re going to expect either the Republicans or the Democrats to do anything positive … to change the hopeless war on drugs, you will be disappointed,” he said.

A Superior Court judge since 1989, Gray also worked as a prosecutor and municipal court judge. He said he convicted many for drug crimes but realized in 1992 that sending people to jail does not work. That’s when he started speaking against prosecuting drug offenders.

“By getting tough on drug crimes, we’re getting soft on everything else,” he said.

However, Gray is careful to point out the difference between legalization and regulation.

“I would not legalize any of these drugs,” he said. “But I would have a program of decriminalization.”

This means regulating drugs for adults without using big brands or advertising and taking them out of the hands of illegal dealers.

“We would make it as boring as possible,” he said.

Gray said he wants to start with the decriminalization of marijuana first.

“Then we will see what happens,” he said.

If decriminalization of marijuana is done right, he said, there would be three positive outcomes right away.

The state would save $1 billion of tax payers’ money by not prosecuting petty drug abusers. Another $2 billion would be raised by taxing the drug. Finally, marijuana would become less available to youth because it would be sold through licensed dealers in the same way alcohol is sold.

Many people take Gray’s views to be outrageous.

“We have a major drug problem in Nevada County,” said Tony Gilchrease, chairman of the Nevada County Republican Party. “What this county doesn’t need is a bigger problem.”

Gilchrease said making drugs legal or regulated for adults would make it more accessible to youth, not more difficult to get a hold of.

“Are cigarettes not available today?” he said. “All you have to do is walk down the street to see 14- and 15-year-olds smoking. That argument has a whole bunch of holes in it.

“That would destroy the youth of this nation.”

The event is sponsored by Nevada County Citizens for Sensible Drug Policy, a local group headed by Lance Brown, chairman of the county’s Libertarian Party.

But the presentation will not be directly related to Gray’s Senate bid or a Libertarian fund-raiser, Gray and Brown said.

“It’s not for Libertarians,” Brown said. “It’s for everybody.”



What: “Why our drug laws have failed and what we can do about it,” a presentation by Judge James Gray.

Where: Miners Foundry in Nevada City.

When: Doors open at 6 p.m. for a reception. Presentation starts at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 at the door, $8 for students or low-income individuals. Tickets on sale at Book Seller, BriarPatch, Harmony Books and Odyssey Books.

Information: or 274-2474.

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