Pubdate: Mon, 02 Jul 2001
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2001 The Miami Herald
Author: John Chase


Re the June 26 article In Dade, Ashcroft touts river cocaine seizures: John 
Ashcroft is not the first U.S. attorney general to brag about driving up 
the price of illegal drugs in Miami.

In 1928 the then assistant U.S. attorney general, whose job was to enforce 
Prohibition, bragged how she had blockaded Rum Row -- the Florida and New 
Jersey coasts -- and caused the Miami price of a case of good liquor to 
climb to $125 from $35. She was Mabel Walker Willebrandt, writing in her 
1929 book The Inside of Prohibition. The title of Chapter 17 is ``Routing 
Rum Row.''

Her blockade made bootleggers so desperate to meet demand that they 
adulterated good liquor with wood alcohol and other solvents, thus 
triggering an epidemic of blindings, paralysis and death from adulterated 
liquor. This, in turn, eroded public support for Prohibition and 
contributed to its demise four years later.

Interdicting any popular drug makes it more dangerous. The higher price 
drives off casual users, who are no problem anyhow, and motivates abusers 
to commit property crimes to get their fix at the higher price, even if it 
means using a drug of unknown composition.

Ashcroft should tell us what is different about drug interdiction now that 
will make it succeed when the last time it was tried, in 1928, it failed.

Palm Harbor
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