Pubdate: Fri, 01 Jun 2001
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2001 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: Marshall Frank


This is for all you folks who think criminal statutes are a deterrent to 
drug use.

The annual teen survey conducted by the National Center on Addiction and 
Substance Abuse, at Columbia University, released their findings, most of 
which surprised no one.

Sixty-one percent of kids 12 to 17 are at moderate to high risk of drug abuse.

More than 60 percent say that drugs are readily available in schools. Ho hum.

Thirty-one percent said the reason they do not use drugs is because they 
"can ruin your life and cause harm."

But, there was one little revelation that slipped by, almost unnoticed.

Only two percent of kids surveyed said they were concerned about the 
illegality of drugs. Translated, that means barely 20 kids in 1,000 give a 
hoot about criminality. There are many reasons to stay clear of drugs, they 
say, but the law isn't one of them.

So much for the law.

I can hear the fist-pumpers now. "We need tougher laws, jails, longer 
prison terms, more cops. That'll teach 'em."

Today, there are 2 million inmates incarcerated in our nation's prisons. 
With only five percent of the world's people, we make up 25 percent of the 
global inmate population.

How much tougher can we be?

In the federal system alone, we dedicate over $17 billion in tax funds a 
year fighting the losing war on drugs, unwilling to accept the stone-cold 
fact that it's the users, and not the suppliers, who are creating the problem.

We dedicate another $36 billion in tax funds a year administering jails and 
prisons where three-fourths of inmates are, directly or indirectly, 
convicted of crimes connected to the problem of drug abuse. Millions more 
are on parole or probation.

We have young people, some in their teens, who, because of errors in 
judgement, will languish in prison... FOR LIFE. Wasted lives. Broken 
families. Exorbitant costs to the taxpayers. Billions more in welfare 
expenditures for families of inmates, not to mention the psychological 
effects on ten million kids growing up in shattered homes. Ergo, more 

Steve Rich, of Haywood County, mows yards for a living. His wife and two 
small children await his return from prison where he's spending four years 
in a cell for growing marijuana plants.

Meanwhile, middle class criminals like Lee and Rose Prince never spent a 
day in jail for burning an entire restaurant to the ground in Maggie 
Valley, plus trying to defraud the insurance company for a half million 

You heard me right. They walked, with a slap on the wrist, thanks to a 
benevolent judge named Loto Caviness.

Studies are showing that all this wasted money would be better spent on 
treatment and education programs that are now underfunded, understaffed or 
don't exist at all.

More and more politicians, journalists, professors and other prominent 
citizens are urging a second look at the drug laws, convinced that the war 
is lost, just as the Viet Nam war was lost and people were afraid to admit 
it. Just like then, lives are being wasted every day.

Drug addiction is an illness, not a crime. And the sooner we begin treating 
it as an illness, the sooner we will reduce the number of addicts and 
users. That, my friends, is the key to the war on drugs, not guns and 

The criminals love it, because the illegality of it all fuels the criminal 
cartel which thrives on the black market created by the law. From there, 
it's domino crime, down to the streets.

During the 1920's prohibition era, no one gave a hoot about criminalizing 

The demand generated the supply. As a result, organized crime rooted in, 
thanks to the black market spawned by idealists who thought anything nasty 
should be illegal.

We're spinning our wheels, folks. There is another way to approach this 
horrendous problem.

What's more, the kids are losing respect for the law, because the law 
doesn't work. We prove that every day.

Listen to the kids. They are telling us, we need to change our attitudes.

Yes. We. You and me.

It's not too late.

Readers may write to Marshall Frank in care of the Asheville Citizen-Times, 
P.O. Box 2090, Asheville, N.C. 28802.
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