“If prison-building is a national goal, then I suppose that would be a good reason to leave our drug use laws as they are; As a taxpayer and a professional, it is certainly not a goal of mine.”
Richard Van Wickler knows about incarceration. For over 20 years he has worked in law enforcement, the last 15 as superintendent for the Cheshire County (NH) Department of Corrections. "I have learned a great deal about the current `war on drugs' and have experienced an awakening with respect to public policy and sanctioning practices in our criminal-justice system," he relates. "After four decades of effort, a trillion dollars spent, and too many deaths fighting the `war,' the result is racial disparity in the application of the law, nonviolent offenders incarcerated when it isn't necessary-and none of the drug war's goals have been met. Illegal drugs are in greater supply, more potent, and less expensive than ever. It is a failed policy and should be considered a national crisis demanding immediate reform."
Richard also teaches Justice Studies and Corrections Operations at two New Hampshire colleges, so he is up on his statistics. "We are a country that every two weeks is building 900 new jail beds and hires 150 new correctional officers," he reports, "while spending on education and building new universities is in retrograde.
This is at a time when violent crime in this country is at a 30-year low."
As much as Richard opposes prohibition as a civil servant, he opposes it with equal fervor as an American who has served in his country's military for 26 years. "When I think of `America' and `war' in the same paragraph, it should equal an act of protection, patriotism, or liberty. The `War on Drugs' has achieved none of these."
In early 2008, Richard testified to New Hampshire House of Representatives in favor of a proposed marijuana-decriminalization bill. "Some of our laws are needlessly harmful to good people of all ages, education levels, and backgrounds," he stated. "Many of our societal laws are based on misinformation."
Watch Richard Van Wickler testify on HB 492, a 2013 marijuana legalization measure in New Hampshire: click here »