Pubdate: Wed, 13 Dec 2000
Source: Post-Standard, The (NY)
Copyright: 2000, Syracuse Post-Standard
Contact:  P.O. Box 4915, Syracuse, N.Y. 13221-4915
Author: Nicolas Eyle

To the editors:

That the city will be getting a "facelift" as a result of the efforts
of the Syracuse Neighborhood Initiative is good news but we need to
remember that facelifts don't do much to cure a cancer. Our problems
are more than skin-deep.

Our city, like others around the country, is suffering from violence,
lack of regard of human life, the break-up of families, poverty,
unemployable youth, and a long list of other serious problems, most of
which can be traced back to drug prohibition. Americans suffered
through the same problems during alcohol prohibition earlier in the
20th century until we realized the harms caused by prohibition were
far worse than the harms caused by alcohol itself. It's important to
remember that alcohol prohibition didn't end because Americans wanted
to drink. Those who wanted to drink could do so all through
prohibition just as those who choose to use drugs can do so now. We
ended it because we wanted to end the crime on our streets, the
soaring homicide rate, the drive-by shootings and corruption of our
police and government. As soon as prohibition was repealed the crime
and homicide rates went down to pre-prohibition levels.

After so many years of ignoring history and wishing our current drug
policy would work, I can understand how hard it is to abandon it.
Blame is assigned to everything but the root cause. Yet another
shooting ? It must be the fault of the bar owner, the gun
manufacturer, poverty, racism, the schools, kids with bad attitudes...
anything but prohibition. Well, we've had bars, available guns,
poverty, racism, inner-city schools and kids with bad attitudes for
over a hundred years. What has changed ?

Thanks in large part to our country's policy of drug prohibition we
now have some 2 million kids with one or both parents in prison.
Thanks entirely to prohibition, we now have drug business related
disputes and shootings in our streets, overwhelmed police trying
desperately to do an impossible job, and an overburdened court system
that puts people in prison for marijuana offenses for 15 years to life
while releasing murderers and rapists after serving five. The
overwhelming majority of drug users in the state are white yet the
prison population is a stunning 94% Black or Hispanic! And we expect
the kids to respect the law and understand something we call justice ?
  No wonder things are breaking down.

Don't get me wrong. Facelifts are good. They can make a person or a
city feel better about themselves. But if your insides are being eaten
away by cancer they're not enough. America needs to start the 21st.
century more intelligently than we ended the 20th.  We need to
reconsider our drug policy if we're going to make it to the 22ond.

Nicolas Eyle, executive director,
ReconsiDer: Forum On Drug Policy
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