James P. Gray

American judge

James Polin "Jim" Gray (born February 14, 1945) is an American jurist and writer. He was the presiding judge of the Superior Court of Orange County, California. Gray was the 2012 Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee, as well as the party’s 2004 candidate for the United States Senate in California.

James P. Gray in 2013


  • Since you [US “drug czar” McCaffrey] control a federal budget that has just been increased from $17.8 billion last year to $19.2 billion this year, is asking people like you if we should continue with our nation's current drug policy like a person asking a barber if one needs a haircut?
    • “Is Our Drug Policy Failing? Don't Ask,” The Los Angeles Times, Orange County edit. (March 29, 2000) [1]
  • Why don't we make distinctions between people who use drugs and people who abuse them? We automatically conclude that everyone who uses marijuana, for example, needs drug treatment. I agree that marijuana can have some harmful effects on the user, but, obviously, so can alcohol. I drink a glass of wine almost every night with dinner. Does that mean that I need an alcohol-treatment program?
    • Los Angeles Daily Journal (July 16, 2001) p. 8
  • There is no such thing as having both a free society, and a drug-free society. Put another way, dangerous as they are, these drugs are here to stay, and we should work to discover how best to reduce the harm they will cause in our communities.
    • California Lawyer, “Just Say No,” (April 2001) pp. 52-55
  • Sending Robert Downey, Jr. to prison for drug use makes no more sense than locking up Betty Ford for using alcohol. Now if it's Darryl Strawberry and he uses drugs while driving, that's a different matter; he should do time.
    • As quote in Coast Magazine, Jim Wood, “Interview—Judge James P. Gray—The Newport Beach resident talks about America's War on Drugs” (June 2001) Vol.10 No. 7
  • The war on drugs has done considerable damage to the fourth amendment and that something is very wrong indeed when a person gets a longer sentence for marijuana than for espionage.
    • Arnold S. Trebach, Fatal Distraction: The War on Drugs in the Age of Islamic Terrorism, Bloomington, Indiana, Unlimited Publishing LLC (2006) p. 74
  • The most widely used 'illegal' drug is marijuana, yet, by every measure, it is much less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. In my 30 adult years, this gross injustice has turned me very cynical toward the government.
    • “Transcript of Judge James P. Gray's Visit to the Drug Policy Forum,” The New York Times, (June 14, 2001)[2]
  • The drug prohibitionists must have marijuana illegal, because without that, the raw numbers of the users of all other illegal drugs combined do not come even close to justifying the prison/industrial complex that has been spawned to "combat" this drug menace.
    • “Transcript of Judge James P. Gray's Visit to the Drug Policy Forum,” The New York Times, (June 14, 2001)
  • Many medical and legal professionals believe that in many ways marijuana is actually less harmful than my drug of choice, alcohol. So if adults choose to use marijuana instead of alcohol, the governments, as a matter of freedom and liberty, should not be able to prohibit them from doing so.
    • “Regulate marijuana like wine,” April 10, 2011, 2012, Gray’s campaign website, [3]
  • So much money is wasted in the drug war. I've had two congressman, Orange County congressman, tell me that there are lots of people in Washington who now believe that the drug war is not winnable but that it is imminently fundable… Where President Eisenhower once talked about the Military-Industrial Complex, we now have the Prison-Industrial Complex. It's the same thing, the same disease.
    • “Hey, Wheres the Stoners, Druids and Ferret-Lovers?” O.C. Weekly (Feb. 24, 2004) [4]
  • The biggest oxymoron in our world today is the term ‘controlled substances.’ Why? Because as soon as you prohibit a substance, you give up control to the bad guys. That’s a huge problem we’ve inflicted upon ourselves.
    • As quoted in Kindland, Aimee Kuvadia, “Police and Weed: Do Ex-Cops Hold the Key to Sane Pot Policy?” (April 12, 2016)

Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs, 2011


Philadelphia, PA, Temple University Press (2011)

  • I had seen firsthand that we were wasting unimaginable amounts of our tax dollars, increasing crime and despair, and severely and unnecessarily harming people’s lives, particularly our children’s, by our failed drug policy. In short, I had seen that our drug laws were a failure, and I simply could not keep quiet about it any longer.
    • p. 1
  • [W]e will look back in astonishment that we allowed our former policy to persist for so long, much as we look back now at slavery, or Jim Crow laws, or the days when women were prohibited from voting.
    • p. 5
  • We have never been a drug-free society and we never will be. Recognizing this fact, and recognizing the fact that these harmful drugs are here to stay, we should try to employ an approach that will most effectively reduce the deaths, disease, crime, and misery caused by their presence in our communities.
    • p. 9
  • Similarly, when drug users are forced to steal or prostitute themselves in order to get money to buy artificially expensive illicit drugs from the criminal underworld, that is a Drug Prohibition problem more than it is a drug problem. So too is the diversion of billions of dollars from the prosecution of violent street crime and fraud to the prosecution of hundreds of thousands of non-violent drug sellers and millions of drug users a distinct problem of Drug Prohibition.
    • p. 10
  • ‘It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he does not want to hear.’ To that comment I offer a corollary: ‘Friends tell friends the truth.’ The real problem in this area actually is not the drugs themselves. The real problem is that our citizens and our leaders simply will not look at the evidence, even though it is all around us. Our present policy is exacerbating the problems and will not stand up to scrutiny. What we really need to do is to open the subject to rigorous public debate.
    • p. 15
  • Even high security prisoners like Charles Manson are testing positive in prison for illicit drugs… Our laws are not deterring many people from a life of drug abuse and drug trafficking, and if we cannot even keep these drug out of our prisons, how can we expect to keep them out of our communities?
    • p. 49
  • Ask your local high school or junior college students and they will tell you the same thing they tell me: that it is easier for our children and underage adults to get illicit drugs than it is for them to get alcohol.
    • p. 50
  • Every time the penalties for selling drugs are raised, adult drug traffickers have an extra incentive to recruit children for their drug transactions.
    • p. 53
  • Nothing in the history of the United States of America has eroded the protection of our Bill of Rights nearly as much as our government’s War on Drugs… Conventional wisdom says that the only way to stem the tide is to grant law enforcement agencies greater and greater powers and to let them intrude more and more completely into the private lives of our people.
    • p. 95
  • Not only have more and more people realized that alcoholism really is a disease, but the legal system has also stated clearly in the California Supreme Court case of Sundance v. Municipal Court that people who are addicted to alcohol cannot be punished merely for their addition… It remains a critical part of our zero-tolerance policy that people who use illegal drugs cannot be considered in human terms. They must be treated as demons and we must contrast ‘drug cultures,’ on the one hand, with ‘decent’ people, on the other.
    • pp. 124-125
  • The effect of our drug policy on the health of people who use illicit drugs stem from four basic problems: (1) a lack of information about medial hygiene, because our laws push drug users away from the medical professionals who can help them; (2) no quality control regarding either the strength or purity of illicit drugs; (3) the inability of many drug users to prepare and use injectable drugs under more medically hygienic conditions;… and (4) the enormous pressure on drug addicts to engage in dangerous criminal activity, such as prostitution, burglary and drug dealing, in order to get the money to purchase these artificially expensive drugs.
    • pp. 126-127
  • [I]t is much easier to control, regulate, and police a legal market than an illegal one.
    • p. 222

Quotes about Judge Gray

  • Gray first went public in 1992 as a critic of the nation's war on drugs because, he said, he had seen firsthand and up close how the drug laws have failed, how they waste tax dollars, increase crime and despair, and harm so many lives unnecessarily.
    • Thom Marshall, “Clarifying terms for drug war's end,” Houston Chronicle, (April 27, 2001) p. 27
  • Judge Gray's thorough and scholarly work, based as it is on his personal experience, should help considerably to improve our impossible drug laws. [His] book drives a stake through the heart of the failed War on Drugs and gives us options to hope for in the battles to come.
    • Walter Cronkite, book review Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs, Temple University Press (2011), endorsement page
Wikipedia has an article about: