"Regulate and control all drugs and address the problems as public health issues"
After four years of service in the Air Force, Wes Johnson began a diverse career in law enforcement, juvenile offender casework, alcohol and drug counseling, emergency medicine, and investigative work. At the same time, Johnson continued his education, earning a doctorate in law.
In 1977 Wes began his current career as a trial lawyer. He has tried federal and state drug cases, as well as civil rights, product liability, malpractice, and first-degree murder cases. In 31 years of practice, Johnson has established an impressive record, winning a large majority of his cases.
Throughout his career, drug prohibition has been continually on Johnson's mind. As both a police officer and as an attorney, Wes wondered about the hypocrisy of a war on some drugs; especially why the most dangerous drugs, nicotine and alcohol, were given legal status while far less dangerous drugs were designated as illicit. Instead of treating some drug use as a criminal justice issue, he mused, why not regulate and control all drugs and address the problems elicited by any of those drugs as public health issues? He is also deeply concerned about the damage done to officers by the pressure to do whatever it takes to obtain convictions, even if that means breaking the rules.
The issue wore on him so much that he made taking this anti-prohibition message to civic groups, college and high school students, and church congregations throughout Tulsa a personal crusade. Indeed, Johnson's testimony before the 2001 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly received overwhelming support, setting the stage for that international congregation to accept ending the war on drugs as a major platform for their efforts in social policy work.
In the Sooner State, Wes's Oklahoma home, the Department of Corrections received $219 million dollars from the state's 2002 budget to expand its already outrageously huge prison system. The money had to come from somewhere, so 2000 teachers lost their jobs, causing Wes to wonder, "Would any economist in the world endorse such a bizarre trade-off in public funds?" Wes also pointed out, "Oklahoma leads not only the United States but every single country in the world for incarceration of women." He asks, "Is this what Oklahomans want to be known for?"Interestingly, the Oklahoma DOC budget has ballooned to $535 million - and all just in 6 years.
Wes Johnson is a dynamic speaker who offers a unique view of the US policy of a war on drugs.