On Tuesday, it came to light that Representative Trey Radel, a Republican in Florida, is now a victim of the same $40 billion drug enforcement industry that he's a part of helping to create. Apparently, Rep. Radel has been missing votes this week and the Associated Press, citing unnamed sources, is reporting that he bought cocaine in Dupont Circle from a dealer who was an undercover agent.
On the night of his arrest, he received a visit from authorities who informed him that he would be facing charges. I can just imagine how that conversation went, “Hey Mr. Congressman, you know that coke you bought? Well....” Queue freak out.
I'm actually not all that mad at the guy. But what this is, among other things, is a reminder of how frustratingly stupid and uneven our current approach to drug enforcement is. We take an intensely punitive approach to restricting the drug market, that lacks almost any basis in evidence, rather than focusing on treatment. We spend money chasing after offenders and locking people up for weed or some coke, and yet address alcoholism (which apparently Radel is afflicted with) as this thing that needs to be treated by a doctor, while everything else (everyone else) is apparently treated better by a jail cell.
The congressman's explanation for the drugs is that he struggles “with the disease of alcoholism, and this led to an extremely irresponsible choice.”
So, a member of the Republican Party, which is known for its harsh stance on drug enforcement, is now entrapped by it. Kind of ironic for someone who voted for a food stamp bill that requires drug testing of food stamp recipients. I mean, there are 1.5 million people being arrested every year for drug-related incidents, and they all deserve the same medical treatment, not punishment, that Radel will likely receive for his alcoholism and potential other issues.
Radel's statement went on: "However, this unfortunate event does have a positive side. It offers me an opportunity to seek treatment and counseling.... I know I have a problem and will do whatever is necessary to overcome it, hopefully setting an example for others struggling with this disease."
I hope the congressman gets the help he needs. I also hope he has the integrity, after this is over, to stand up and say the War on Drugs is out of control and he’s going to stray from the pack and support reform — to treat substance abuse, all substance abuse, as a medical issue and not a penal one.
He may lose his office for doing so, but if he doesn’t, then he doesn’t deserve his office in the first place, because his integrity will be gone. Every congressperson needs to take notice: it's time for reform.