I attended a play Margaret wrote when she was at UCSD a few years back, and when I found out about an event she was organizing at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, I thought I’d crash it. My friend said, “An event at a school? It sounds boring.” I explained that I’m fascinated by law...and that there’d be free pizza.
I parked near Kelly’s Pub outside Old Town and walked over to the school. As I arrived, I overheard one guy say that the judge who would be speaking was in Kelly’s having a drink.
Margaret is part of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, and Judge James Gray from Orange County was there to speak on U.S. drug policies. As I arrived, I overheard some students saying to one another, “Hey, can we get some drugs here?” One person responded to this by rattling off a list of drugs he could get him and then laughed.
Some of the attendees were wearing suits and acting professional. Others were wearing jeans and faded T-shirts (one a Pink Floyd T).
I saw posters on the walls for “Diversity Celebration” and one for a Monte Carlo Night. Several of the posters advertised a “date auction,” where students had a picture of themselves and reasons why you should bid on them. There was a picture of a woman named Monica holding a bowling ball. A guy named Jordan was lying in bed and trying to look sexy. His picture stated that he’d cook dinner for you. It reminded me of high school and the posters people made when they ran for student body.
A Middle-Eastern guy wrote that he’d take the winner out for dinner and hookah, but that there were “no smoke and mirrors here, ladies.”
One student wrote something about how after seeing the movie 21 he’d be able to clean up playing blackjack.
The Black Law Students Association would be hosting a jazz night.
I spotted Judge Gray as he walked up because, like his name, he’s gray. Everyone filed into the room in which he would speak. There were five boxes of pizza set out and cans of Coke and Sprite; with the starving students devouring the pies, I decided I’d grab a sandwich next door.
The judge opened up with a joke about how most of the students were probably there for the free pizza.
He mentioned that Charles Manson sold drugs from prison...even while he was in solitary confinement. He listed five reasons why pot should be made legal (something I’ve said for years, and I don’t even smoke it). Those things included saving a billion dollars each year on the cost of incarceration and police and making another billion on taxing it.
I started reading some of the paperwork and discovered that Judge Gray has a book out on how drug laws have failed. I read that this drug policy group isn’t an “official” student group of the school because they have to exist there for at least two years.
I remembered that when I saw the play Margaret had written, it had a lot of partying and drug references. I asked her how she became associated with this group.
“My inspiration for starting Students for Sensible Drug Policy rests on the notion that our government is spending money in all the wrong places. A report commissioned by the state’s legislative leaders last year concluded that California needs to invest up to $25 billion more a year in education. In most cases, physical education is the first to go. Then the schools are forced to start laying off their teachers.”
When she talked about the percentage of drug offenders being Hispanic and African American, I didn’t challenge her. Margaret’s Asian, and whenever I’ve argued race issues with people, it always seems to get ugly, with them insisting the “system” is out to get their race.
As the judge talked, one student yelled, “Will you run for president?” Another time, when he said, “All of you probably know where to find drugs if you wanted [them].” One person yelled, “O.B.!”
For the most part, the students sat quietly fascinated when the judge discussed how Switzerland handled its heroin problem — by giving addicts heroin in a hospital setting. Crime rates went down, he claimed, and most users sought treatment.
I asked Loren, president of the Federalist Society on campus, his opinion of Judge Gray’s views on drug policies in the U.S. “I was very skeptical about his thesis, but the judge succeeded in making a concise and passionate case for legalization of drugs. He made a number of very interesting points, especially to...political conservatives, which would certainly cause other conservatives to step back and consider.”
Judge Gray talked about several groups who are winning the war on drugs — the big time drug dealers. He mentioned law enforcement and politicians who get elected by talking tough but doing little. He mentioned the private sector, in terms of building prisons, selling home security systems, and he also brought up terrorists, who he suggests get their primary funding from drug sales.
He said that making drugs legal wouldn’t result in people rushing out to buy them. “You can get marijuana now, if you want it.” He asked for a show of hands of people who knew where to score dope. Most of the audience raised their hands.
A guy walked in and started messing with the air conditioning unit with a gunlike device. The judge joked about being shot.
When the judge talked about the disproportionate amount of minorities being jailed, it was the only thing I disagreed with. But, he spoke so fast, it left little time for raising a hand to call him on anything. I planned to ask Judge Gray a few things when he finished.
I read that he was appointed to the Santa Ana Municipal Court in 1983 by Governor George Deukmejian and, in ‘89, to the Superior Court. He helped form a MADD panel in the mid ‘80s that had defendants of DUIs listen to victims tell their hearbreaking stories.