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A Superior Court judge who is one of the nation's highest-profile critics of the War on Drugs has joined the Libertarian Party.
James Gray, 57, who presides over the Orange County, California Superior Court, became an LP member in mid February.
In a phone conversation with LP Political Director Ron Crickenberger, Gray said he joined because of the Libertarian Party's Drug War Focus Strategy, which seeks to end the War on Drugs at the federal level by 2010.
"Drug Prohibition is the most critical issue facing the world today, and the LP is the only party addressing it," said Gray. "I felt compelled to join."
Crickenberger said Gray's decision to join the LP is "exciting" news.
"Judge Gray isn't just a high-ranking and respected public official, he is one of the country's most articulate critics of Drug Prohibition," he said. "As a judge, he brings credibility, dignity, and insight to the drug law reform movement. It's wonderful and exciting news that he is now a Libertarian Party member."
In joining the LP, Gray "has become one of the party's highest-ranking elected officeholders," with about 2.9 million constituents in Orange County, said Crickenberger.
After joining the party, Gray spoke at the California LP state convention on February 16, and at an LP State Chair's conference in Houston, Texas on February 22-23.
In his speech to the California Libertarians -- and in conversation with Crickenberger -- Gray also said he is considering seeking the LP's 2004 presidential nomination.
"I want to do everything I can do to stop the needless tragedy resulting from our misplaced drug policies," he said.
Gray is the author of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs. Published in April 2001 by Temple University Press, the book expounds on Gray's premise that "drug policy reform [is] the most important issue facing this great country, and our so-called War on Drugs [is] our biggest failure."
In the book, Gray argues that the War on Drugs has not reduced the amount of illegal drugs available in the country; that it has eroded Americans' civil liberties; and that it makes drugs more dangerous.
As a solution, he advocates "realistic" education about the dangers of drugs, mandatory drug treatment, needle exchange programs, drug decriminalization, and the regulated sale of drugs.
Publishers Weekly said the book is "a scathing jeremiad against the war on drugs," and "provocative and topical."
The book's quality "and the sensible passion of Gray's conclusions will make this a crucial reference for politicians, voters, activists, and law enforcement agencies seeking to reform established policy," said the review.
Gray said he wrote Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It -- and is willing to publicly speak out against the War on Drugs -- because of the grave threat posed by the nation's drug policies.
"Drug Prohibition has failed from every standpoint imaginable: unnecessary prison growth, increased taxes, increased crime and corruption here and abroad, loss of civil liberties, decreased health, [and] diversion of resources," he said.
"I could go on and on. Much of what I see as a judge brings a tear to my eye. The drug war is destroying the fabric of society."
Gray acknowledged that drugs are dangerous, but said, "Many things in our society are dangerous, but making them illegal is not the answer. Does anyone really believe that making tobacco illegal would reduce the harm it causes? What about glue, gasoline, chain saws, and high-cholesterol foods?"
In fact, Gray said he took his anti-drug war position not because he advocates using drugs -- but because he is so opposed to them.
"I hate drugs so much that I want to change our policy so that we can reduce drug usage and the other harms these dangerous drugs are causing," he said. "These drugs could not be made more available than they are under our present system. We can't even keep them out of our prisons, much less off our streets."
Gray was appointed to the Orange County Superior Court by Governor George Deukmejian in 1983, and was re-elected in 1990, 1996, and 2002. Previously, he had served as a judge on the Santa Ana Municipal Court.
He was the winner of the "Judge of the Year" award in 1992 from the Business Litigation Section of the Orange County Bar Association.
In 1998, Gray was a candidate for U.S. House in the Republican primary, losing to former Congressman Robert Dornan.
Outside of court, Gray has worked with the "Stay In School" program; is a co-founder of BLAST (Bert Bylevens Leagues, After School Time) which offers after-school athletic programs for children; and is a co-founder of the Association of Former U.S. Attorneys.
A U.S. Navy veteran, Gray also served in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica for two years and worked as an adjunct professor at Chapman University. He received an undergraduate degree from UCLA in 1966 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Southern California in 1971.
www.lp.org i just registered to vote, with them as my party.
Libertarianism is simplicity itself. It proceeds from a single, quite beautiful, concept of the primacy of individual liberty that, in turn, infuses notions of free markets, limited government, and the importance of property rights.
In terms of public policy, these notions translate into free trade, free immigration, voluntary military service, and user fees instead of taxes. Libertarians argue for legalizing drugs; they are in favor of abortion and against the government prohibition of sex practices among consenting adults. They abhor censorship.
Libertarian thought, with its fluid cultural matrix, offers a better response to some of the knottiest problems of society. It is, especially when contrasted with the conservative cultural matrix, a postmodern attitude.
In fact, it is precisely this postmodernism that enrages conservatives who are uncomfortable with a radical acceptance that, in turn, promotes change and unfamiliarity. Yet no matter how scary (or irritating), libertarian tolerance provides a more efficient mechanism in dealing with those places where economics, politics, and culture clash so intimately.
-- Susan Lee, The Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2003
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