Monday, September 21, 2015


Gray            For all of our nation’s time, efforts and treasure being spent in pursuing our policy of Drug Prohibition, I have never heard anyone who supports the status quo address what our goals actually are in that pursuit. So, with the understanding that we are all on the same side of this issue, namely we all want to reduce drug abuse and all of the harm and misery that accompanies it, I have made a list of the top ten goals that I think we are trying to accomplish, in order of importance. See if you agree. They are:

  1. Reduce the exposure of drugs to and usage of drugs by children.
  2. Stop or materially reduce the violence that accompanies the manufacture and distribution of drugs, especially to police officers and innocent by-standers.
  3. Stop or materially reduce the corruption of public officials, individual people and companies – and especially children – that accompanies the distribution of drugs.
  4. Stop or materially reduce crime both by people trying to get money to purchase drugs and by those under their influence.
  5. Stop or materially reduce the flow of drugs into our country.
  6. Reduce health risks to people who use drugs.
  7. Maintain and reaffirm our civil liberties.
  8. Reduce the overall number of people being put into our jails and prisons.
  9. Stop or materially reduce the flow of guns out of our country and into countries south of our border.
  10. Increase respect for our laws and institutions.

You might want to replace one of these goals with another, or readjust the order, but I anticipate that most people would basically agree with those top ten goals. Please give it some thought.

Now please give the subject some further thought, because I genuinely believe that treating the manufacture and sale of these drugs just like we treat alcohol – for adults – will actually soon accomplish each of those goals, and that pursuing our present policy of Drug Prohibition will never accomplish any of them. The last part of that comment has already been proved, because we have been actively pursuing our present policy since the early 1970s, and throughout that entire time, the entire situation has demonstrably only gotten worse.

If we were to allow these drugs to be manufactured by reputable pharmaceutical or tobacco companies on low bid contract with the government, and then sold to adults at government package stores in brown packaging without any trade names or any advertising whatsoever, and at prices that are about half of what they are being sold for today out on the streets, the drugs would be less available for children. Ask our young people yourselves, and they will tell you what they tell me, that it is easier for them today to get marijuana, or any other drug, if they want to, than it is alcohol. Why? Because today’s illegal drug dealers don’t ask for i.d.!

It would also almost completely stop the crime in the manufacture and distribution of drugs, just as the repeal of Alcohol Prohibition put the Al Capones of this world out of business. Today if Budweiser has distribution problems with Coors, they don’t put thugs with guns onto the streets to resolve them. Instead they file a complaint in court, and have it peacefully adjudicated by judges like me.

In a similar fashion, the corruption caused by the huge amounts of available cash in today’s illegal distribution of drugs would virtually disappear. Why? Since the price of the drugs would be cut in half, and it would still be illegal to buy, use, sell, or possess drugs not purchased from the government outlets, illegal dealers would lose a great deal of their present market. That would run most of them out of business. (And if cutting the price in half would not be sufficient, the price could always be reduced further.) That would also seriously reduce the flow of drugs into our country because there would not be a market for them. Furthermore, since drug dealers would no longer be making obscene profits from the sale of illicit drugs, they would not have the money to purchase guns here, and smuggle them into countries south of our border.

Most of the health risks of the usage of these drugs today are caused by the unknown strength and unknown purity of the drugs, and things like the AIDS virus and hepatitis are transmitted by using unclean needles. These are relatively easy problems to resolve. In fact the FDA resolved virtually all of these problems with over-the-counter and prescription drugs years ago. Similarly, the repeal of Alcohol Prohibition virtually eliminated the “bathtub gin” impurities problems.

Since most of the losses of our civil liberties have come from cases involving drug offenses, that trend would be discontinued, thus reducing the erosion of our civil liberties. And since we would not have the illicit drug dealers in business so much any more, and drug users would not automatically be criminals, that would materially reduce the numbers of people we would be forced to incarcerate. Furthermore, since we would no longer be doing things like arresting sick people for the use of medical marijuana, or seeing people openly selling drugs on street corners in our towns and cities, or trying to enforce laws that make literally millions of people in our country automatic criminals for smoking marijuana, that would increase respect for our nation’s laws, as well as the agencies that are attempting to enforce them.

The last goal to address would be the issue of crimes committed by drug users, both to get money to purchase the drugs, and crimes committed while under their influence. I could suggest that with the price cut in half, drug addicted people would only need to steal half as much to get their drugs. But many would argue that, since the price was reduced, many of those people would simply use more drugs – and they might be right. But several countries such as Holland and Portugal have found that the act of decriminalizing drugs has made drug addicted people much less fearful of their own government.   That has resulted in them being much more likely to come forward and seek drug treatment. Furthermore, now that those governments are saving the money they previously spent to investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate drug users, more money is available to pay for drug treatment. In addition, they found that when drug addiction is treated as a medical issue, the usage of drugs is deglamorized, to the extent that younger people are not nearly as likely to go down that road. So for all of those reasons, drug crimes and drug abuse in those countries have been materially reduced.

Regarding crimes committed by people under the influence of drugs, those would still be prosecuted, just like we do today with alcohol-related offenses. Holding people accountable for their actions, instead of what they put into their bodies, is what the criminal justice system was designed for, and that is a truly legitimate criminal justice function. What is the difference? Because when someone drives a motor vehicle under the influence of any of these mind-altering and sometimes addicting drugs, etc., they are putting our safety at risk. And they should continue to be prosecuted vigorously for those acts.

So if you really want to achieve the goals of our nation’s drug policy, help us to repeal the policy of Drug Prohibition, which has led us down the wrong path for decades. And that is not even to mention the large amounts of revenue the governments can generate by taxing these sales. So that one act will make the world a safer and more prosperous place for us, and for our children. What do you think?

James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, works as a private mediator for ADR Services, Inc., is the author of “A Voter’s Handbook: Effective Solutions to America’s Problems (The Forum Press, 2010), and can be contacted at or through his website at

Please forward this on to your circle of friends for their consideration.  And by the way, now I am on Facebook at Facebook at, LinkedIn at, and Twitter with username as @JudgeJimGrayOAI, or  Please visit these sites, and pass them along to your social world.

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judge-jim-grey2            Do you want to have a disturbing experience? Then read the book “This Is for the Mara Salvatrucha: Inside the MS-13, America’s Most Violent Gang” by Samuel Logan (Hyperion, 2009). The word “mara” is Spanish for “gang,” and the word Salvatrucha in El Salvador is slang for “street smart.”

This juvenile gang was formed in the 1980s in Los Angeles by immigrants who were fleeing the civil war in El Salvador. But since many of the founders were former guerilla fighters, they brought with them a cavalier attitude toward life and death. This in turn facilitated their use of extreme violence that even shocked other gangs in the area. But it also enabled MS-13 eventually to take control of large amounts of gang territory.

By 1996, the U.S. government adopted a policy of deporting MS-13 members back to their countries of origin, in many cases after serving jail or prison sentences here. Unfortunately in many ways that strategy backfired, because it resulted in the deportees using their knowledge, experiences and prison connections to form similar MS-13 gangs all around the world.

Today there are estimated to be somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 members of MS-13 in the United States and the rest of the world. They range all over our country from Alaska to New York, with strongholds in the DC area, Nashville, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Knoxville, in addition to Los Angeles, and they are also found in El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and even Spain. All of this makes MS-13 almost as organized and all-pervasive as the Mafia.

The initiation process conveys the depths to which the members of this gang have descended. Males mostly go through the initiation process of receiving the brutality of a full-on assault with unrestrained punches and kicks from the gang members for 13 seconds. The females, who make up about one percent of the membership, can either be initiated in the same way as the males, or they can be “sexed-in,” which means that an initiate girl is repeatedly raped by all of the males present until the males are satisfied. But this process also gives those young women almost sub-human status in the eyes of the other members.

The MS-13 makes its money the same way most other criminal gangs do, which is by being involved in extortion and dealing in human, arms and drug trafficking. But due to their reputation for gruesome violence, MS-13 members are also often hired by other gangs as contract killers.

The story of the book centers around a personable and bright young lady named Brenda Paz, who was sent by her parents from Honduras to live with her uncle in Texas. But since this uncle had little time or inclination to treat this “additional mouth to feed” with any affection or caring, she soon sought her “family support” elsewhere, which happened to be with the MS-13 gang.

The book told us that Brenda was present when numbers of various crimes were committed, including a time when her boyfriend first beat severely and then killed a boy who was a casual friend of hers. Eventually Brenda was arrested by the FBI and questioned about the murder, and after awhile she decided to become a government informant against the gang.

Unfortunately, it was obvious to everyone but Brenda that being an informant was an ultra hazardous thing to do. So even though she was thoroughly warned, given a new identity and placed in safe quarters in a different state, she went back to her “friends” in the gang because of boredom and loneliness. But once the gang learned of her cooperation with the government, they lured her out to a lonely place, and brutally knifed her to death, notwithstanding the fact that she was pregnant.

Why am I using this column to discuss things like this with you? Because gangs like this can only thrive, or even exist, by default, which is to say that they fill the void when we don’t show enough caring to provide positive role models for all of our children. The truth is that someone will always mentor our children, and if it is not people like parents, basketball coaches, boys and girls’ club leaders, or school teachers, children will be mentored by people like Charles Manson or gangs like MS-13. These malignant people are always out there recruiting, and when they get hold of children it doesn’t take long to get them into a “Lord of the Flies” mentality, which can quickly result in the brutalities and initiation rites used by MS-13.

With this understanding, when I see in the news that people have rallied to raise enough money to preserve the “Hollywood” sign, but positive programs for youth mentoring and employment like Homeboy Industries instituted in gang territories in Los Angeles by Father Gregory Boyle die for lack of funding, I really get frustrated.

So particularly we in the legal profession should address and be pro-active with these problems right now, because ignoring them will result in them becoming more severe. Thus if you want seriously to reduce human tragedies in our communities, as well as crimes and the costs of putting so many people in prison, help to support programs that provide positive mentoring to all of our children.   You know where these programs are, and most of them desperately need our help.

James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, works as a private mediator for ADR Services, Inc., is the author of “A Voter’s Handbook: Effective Solutions to America’s Problems (The Forum Press, 2010), and can be contacted at or through his website at

Please forward this on to your circle of friends for their consideration.  And by the way, now I am on Facebook at Facebook at, LinkedIn at, and Twitter with username as @JudgeJimGrayOAI, or  Please visit these sites, and pass them along to your social world.

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rsz_judgegrayWhat is the most important thing in life? Obviously there could be many answers to that question. But to me, the best thing in life is gratification. Many other things, such as love, power, wealth, prestige and appreciation, etc. can lead to that feeling of gratification, but they are not real ends in themselves. So here are my Top Ten approaches to receiving gratification, which would allow us to live our lives to the fullest.

  1. Live a life of integrity. People with integrity live their lives the same way whether other people are watching or not. This is a hard standard to live up to, but whether others see that you act with integrity or not, you will know, and that should be your guide. A variation on that theme in the business world is always to give honest value to those who purchase your goods or services. Not only will you probably always have a job, you will be gratified in your work as well.
  2. The best thing that can happen to people. For me the best thing that can happen to people is to see their children grow up to be happy, successful and well-adjusted. So time and efforts spent in helping your children to that result are deeply gratifying.
  3. Savor your family and friends. Candidly, for many years I felt a certain ridicule toward the more laid-back cultures, feeling that many of them were lazy. But now I believe that many of those people actually live life the right way because many of them savor their nice long meals and other experiences with their families and friends. The work eventually gets done, but they enjoy their lives more fully along the way. Or at least there should be more of a balance.
  4. Mentor children. While I was a judge in juvenile court I quickly learned that mentoring children was one of the most gratifying things that a person could do – and also one of the most important. It is a basic fact that someone will mentor our children. And if it is not done by people like parents, teachers, basketball coaches or scout leaders, it will be done by juvenile gangs, drug dealers, etc. Unfortunately, people like Charles Manson are always lurking around, and, say what you will, he was brilliant at mentoring his so-called family. So we cannot give him the chance. (And along the way I found a great mentoring tool to be to ask high school students what they want their lives to look like ten years from now. Then ask them what they are doing now to accomplish the worthwhile goals they tell you about. As we know, but most of them do not, those ten years will pass quickly.)
  5. A rut is a grave without end. What is it that really interests you? Focus on the answer to that question, and then find a way of supporting yourself that is in your area of interest. Obviously, there are not many Michael Jordans or Kobe Bryants in this world. But if, for example, your interest is in sports, you can work in fields related to sports like broadcasting, newspaper reporting, advertising or sports medicine. Or if you like automobiles, you can work as a mechanic or in an auto parts store, etc. Money is a false god, and the “My yacht is bigger than your yacht” syndrome is a recipe for unhappiness. You will probably spend more time working for a living than you will spend with your friends or family, so persist in your efforts to work in an area that you enjoy.
  6. Engage in random acts of kindness. Giving unexpected gifts or doing good deeds bring a great deal of pleasure to others, and gratification to the giver and doer.
  7. Show appreciation when other people do nice things for you. It took me a long time to learn this, but when someone pays you a compliment or does something nice for you, simply respond by saying thank you. We have a disturbing trend in our society today to say “No problem” when someone thanks us for doing something. Of course, that implies that if the good deed would have been a problem, the person would not have done it. I know that the words for “you’re welcome” in Spanish are “de nada,” which literally means “it was nothing.” But let’s start a countermovement and express meaningful appreciation when someone does us a good deed. And that can be started by saying you’re welcome.
  8. Record the recollections of your elders. To my gratification, I tape recorded both of my parents as they told me about the experiences of their lives, sang some childhood songs, and recited some of their favorite jokes and poems. Once they are gone, your ancestors will take their recollections with them, unless you take the initiative to record them. And record your own as well.
  9. Broaden yourself by traveling and reading. Like nothing else you can do, this will expose your to other places and life styles. In addition, ask people who have traveled a fair amount the question “Where is the most fascinating place you have ever been?” Then note the answers, and even make attempts to go those places. (In case you are wondering, the most popular answer when I have asked that question is to see the big animals in Africa.) And in reading, we can live anyone’s life in history, non-fiction or fiction. For example, it took me reading about 20 pages into the book “Watership Down” to realize that the subjects of the story were rabbits. What a broadening experience it is to see the world from other perspectives.
  10. Make the System Work. No matter what our station in life, all of us have an opportunity to make the system work. For example, it is not the job of criminal defense attorneys to prove their clients are innocent, or even not guilty. Instead it is their job to make the system work by requiring the prosecutors to present competent evidence to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to twelve jurors. If the defense attorneys do this, they are making the system work. All of us in various ways are in the same position. And taking this responsibility seriously will bring you a great deal of gratification in knowing that you are doing your part as a citizen to make the greatest country in the world even a little bit better.

So those are my thoughts about how we can live our lives to the fullest by obtaining gratification. What do you think? Life is short, so we should do our best to live our lives while we have them.

James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Orange County Superior Court, works as a private mediator for ADR Services, Inc., is the author of “A Voter’s Handbook: Effective Solutions to America’s Problems (The Forum Press, 2010), and can be contacted at or through his website at

Please forward this on to your circle of friends for their consideration.  And by the way, now I am on Facebook at Facebook at, LinkedIn at, and Twitter with username as @JudgeJimGrayOAI, or  Please visit these sites, and pass them along to your social world.

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