Pubdate: Sun, 04 Mar 2001
Source: Ogdensburg Journal/Advance News (NY)
Copyright: 2001 St. Lawrence County Newspapers Corp
Address: P.O. Box 409, Ogdensburg, New York 13669
Authors: Nicolas Eyle, Larry Seguin, Russell Nelson, Mary Monnet, Joanne 
Monnet, Lee Monnet, Philip Green, Kelli Hogan (8 PUB LTEs)
NOTE: Accepts LTEs by mail only! Must be signed w/phone#


To the editor;

District Attorney Richards said, in his letter to your paper, that he 
understands that our drug policy may be in need of a little " fine tuning " 
and that those who are in favor of more serious reforms are either " on 
drugs or looking to make money from drugs." Then he leaves it to the 
readers to decide. I'd like to make a couple of comments to help those 
readers decide.

ReconsiDer believes that the laws governing our drug policy are in need of 
substantially more than "fine tuning". We have been "fine tuning" this 
policy for some thirty years now with diasterous results. Our prisons hold 
more people than those of any other country in the world. Vast sums of our 
tax dollars fund anti-drug programs that have been proven to be 
inneffective instead of doing things Americans truly need.

Our cities are crumbling around us with neighborhood after neighborhood 
being negatively affected by the war on drugs. US troops are getting 
involved in a war in Columbia. And, most importantly, drugs are purer, 
cheaper, and more available than ever all over the streets of America. If 
the management of a private company reported results like that to the 
stockholders they'd be out of office so fast their shoes would still be 
under the table!

The DA goes on to say "Drug offenders are almost always involved in other 
crimes besides drug offenses. Violent crime is a direct and natural result 
of illegal drug possession and selling. Illegal drug users commit crimes of 
violence and theft to support their habit. Illegal drug sellers use 
violence as a means of enforcement to protect their business territory, to 
collect their illegal debts and intimidate witnesses into not testifying 
against them." He is exactly right. The illegal drug selling business 
brings with it, a culture of violence that does great harm to our society.

This is the reason Americans voted to repeal prohibition in the 1930's. 
People were still getting all the alcohol they wanted but the crime was 
more than anyone would put up with . They legalized booze, regulated it, 
and now if the Miller salesman has an argument with the Bud salesman over 
shelf space at the supermarket they take it to court. The violence around 
the illegal alcohol market stopped almost overnight.

As to the DA's other comment that those who favor something more than "fine 
tuning" are "either on drugs or looking to make money from drugs." are you 
aware, Mr. District Attorney, that among those you include in your 
statement are United States federal judges, police chiefs of major cities, 
governors of states, as well as millions of other solid citizens and 
concerned parents who have taken the time to look just a little deeper into 
the America's drug problem and do not believe a little "tuning up" is the 
answer. They are neither on drugs nor looking to make money selling them 
Mr. District Attorney. If they wanted to make money selling them they would 
be supporting you in your efforts to keep in place a system that lets drug 
dealers earn 17,000 percent profit from cocoa leaf to street sale!

It's clear to anyone who looks at it that America's "drug problem" is worse 
now than it was thirty years ago, before we started this failed policy. 
Where is the harm in questioning some of the things we've been doing all 
that time that have produced such miserable results?

Nicolas Eyle, executive director ReconsiDer: forum on drug policy Syracuse, 
New York


To The Editor;

The state District Attorneys Association has launched an aggressive 
campaign to prevent any reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Every year 
they bring out the same old arguments These people are not nonviolent. If 
you change the laws, crime will rise. We'll lose the best tool we have for 
fighting drug trafficking. Hey, our conviction rates are high, why would 
you want to mess that up?

Of the 70,000 inmates in state prison, 21,000 are in for selling or 
possessing drugs. Forty-two hundred of them are first-time offenders. 
Although study after study has shown that the majority of drug users are 
white, 95 percent of New York's drug prisoners are Hispanic or black.

Under the current scheme, prosecutors set sentences by deciding charges and 
accepting plea bargains. Unlike sentences set by judges, however, 
prosecutors' decisions are unreviewable, and the criminal-justice system 
lacks mechanisms to hold prosecutors accountable for their choices. In a 
regime of harsh mandatory sentences, prosecutors have even greater leverage 
in plea bargaining than in most criminal cases. Defendants have little 
choice but to give up their right to trial and plead guilty.

The real concern from DA's is in the past year or so, the reformers have 
developed broad support from citizens and in the mainstream of New York 
politics. People see what is happening concerning drug laws!

Laurie Hiett sends $700,000 of illegal drugs to New York City ( 5 pounds of 
herion ) She is prosecuted in New York. Because of her connection To 
General Barry McCaffrey who was head of the Office of National Drug Control 
Policy at the time, the mandatory sentencing or Rockefeller drug laws were 
waved. She will only do three years!

Closer to home, State Senator Ronald B. Stafford's son had his illegal drug 
charged dropped!

A good example of being tough on crime was in the Ogdensburg Journal Tues. 
6 Feb. 2001. 33 year old women sentenced two to four years in prison for 
cocaine, a non violent crime, a personal use crime. Same day, same court. 
21 year old man sentenced to maximum six months in county jail for " sexual 
contact for his sexual gratification with a female under 11 years old". I 
do not see bragging rights for taking a mother from her child with no 
indication of abuse and than slapping the hand of a person that has abused 
a child!

Larry Seguin, Lisbon, New York


To the Editor:

Jerry Richards, being on the front line of the War on Drugs, has his facts 
correct. I must disagree with his interpretation of them, however. When he 
puts a murderer in jail, he has removed a dangerous person from society. 
When he puts a drug dealer in jail, he has created a job opening. This is 
not an effective way to deal with the large drug profits created by the War 
on Drugs.

As Jerry correctly points out, "Violent crime is a direct and natural 
result of illegal drug possession and selling." However, this is not an 
intrinsic part of drug possession and sale. Ask your local pharmacist how 
much violent crime he has seen in his profession! The violent crime 
associated with illegal drugs exists solely because they have no legal 
"means of enforcement to protect their business territory, to collect their 
illegal debts", as Jerry says. If these drugs were legal, then pharmacists 
would be selling them peacefully.

Jerry thinks that "legalization or even decriminalizing drugs will not stop 
them from committing the crimes which provide them with the funds to pay 
for their habit." But the drugs only cost that much because the War on 
Drugs pushes the price up. By making drugs more expensive, they hope that 
fewer people will use them. This is a good theory, but instead of paying 
police and prosecutors to make drugs illegal, shouldn't we be taxing these 
same drugs to pay for drug treatment, as we do with alcohol and tobacco?

A further problem that Jerry did not explain is that drug purity and dosage 
are not well-controlled when drugs are illegal. This leads to accidental 
overdosages. Further, because the War on Drugs makes it hard to buy and 
sell illegal drugs, this drives drug dealers to create more powerful, 
potent, and compact drugs, so they can sell them less often and more 
easily. This drives drug users further into a habit which might otherwise 
be casual.

Jerry implies that people who want to legalize drugs have a personal 
interest, either to use the drugs legally, or to profit from drugs. This is 
a baseless accusation. An equally ridiculous accusation would be to accuse 
Jerry of profiting from the War on Drugs because his office has more 
employees and higher funding.

Innuendo is so ugly. Perhaps we could refrain from further accusations of 
personal interest and cut to the chase. A society without illegal drugs 
will be a less violent society. And what's wrong with that?

Russel Nelson, Potsdam, NY


Dear Editor;

Mr. Richards DA., in response to your letter dated 2/25/01. I am a 74 year 
old citizen and also a strong advocate for legalizing marijuana. By doing 
this it can be controlled and used for medical purposes. This has been 
proven many times. You are wrong in stating that if one believes in 
legalizing marijuana that they are on drugs or making money from it. I do 
neither and I resent the implication and you insult my integrity. There are 
many more people my age that feel the same as I do about legalization. It 
surprises me that a man in your position would make such a remark.

Disappointed, Mary Monnet, Ogdensburg, New York


Dear Editor;

I respect D.A. Richards for having the courage to publicly write out for 
what he believes in. Although, I do take exception to his statement that 
those in favor of legalization are either on drugs or looking to make money 
from drugs. That is exactly the mindset that prohibits change in our 
society. There are a lot of people whether local or nationwide who believe 
it is time for policy change. I feel if DA Richards had shown up for the 
debate in March 2000 hosted by Clarkson University he would have left with 
more of an idea what policy reformers want. DA Richards and all 61 other 
attorneys can try to stop the movement but when you have governors, judges, 
police officers, and informed parents come out against the war on drugs 
their efforts in the end will be out numbered

Joanne Monnet, Ogdensburg, New York


Dear Editor;

District Attorney Jerry Richards 02/25/01 letter to the editor (DA s War on 
Drugs) astonished me. The harsh words he used toward drug law reformers 
contradicted two previous statements he made. On January 14, 1997 in the 
Watertown Daily Times article ( Drug Dealing and Turf Wars on Rise, Deputy 
tells Legislators). Mr. Richards said "There are a significant number of 
people in this country, this state, and this county who casually use 
marijuana and hold jobs just like the people in this room and are otherwise 
law-abiding citizens." On February 11, 1997 in the Ogdensburg Journal 
article (Legislature vote No on Drug Deputies) he said "I may be in a 
little political trouble, but that s OK. in my mind I d rather see these 
kids smoke a pound of marijuana because that kid would be alive today."

Why is the DA new lashing out against people who don t embrace the current 
drug policies? The drug war has allowed prosecutors to wield substantial 
power in sentencing offenders. If, the punitive drug laws are reformed they 
face the possibility of having to relinquish some of the control they have 
over drug offenders. For example, a person looking at life behind bars for 
drug possession can become and informant for the DA for a reduced sentence 
or an outright dismissal of charges. A serious flaw with this is that many 
of these people have little integrity and often fabricate accusations 
against others in order to save their own hides. A St. Lawrence County drug 
task force deputy sheriff summed it all up in the same 01/04/97 Watertown 
Daily Times article when he said "The informants you deal with are often 
just as bad as the people you re going after. You have to pretend you trust 
them when you really don t."

Mr. Richards, you may label us drug users or drug profiteers but the fact 
of the matter is we are people who are speaking out against police 
corruption caused by the huge profits from drugs, innocent people being 
killed in botched drug raids, terminally ill people being denied medical 
marijuana, people serving more time for drug possession than would a 
burglar, child molester, or rapist, and most of all the erosion of the Bill 
of Rights which, has suffered terribly in the last 30 years of this insane 
war on drugs.

Lee Monnet, Ogdensburg, NY


To The Editor;

In a letter to the editor Sun. 25 Feb. 2001 St. Lawrence County District 
Attorney stated, "Those in favor of legalization are either on drugs or 
looking to make money from drugs."

The "people in favor of decriminalizing illegal drugs" will not have any 
opportunity to make money! Profit hungry corporations will move into place. 
Pfizer, Warner-Lambert, Parke-Davis, followed by Walmart, Kinney's, P& C. 
The Domino effect will go right down to the local gas-convenience store. 
Lets not forget taxes for the city, county, state, and federal governments. 
That would make the $17 billion he refers to, a tax gain instead of a tax 
drain on the state of New York.

The "people in favor of decriminalizing illegal drugs are on drugs"! That's 
even harder to believe. Decriminalization has been recommended by a few! 
Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico. US National Academy of Sciences. Dr. John 
Morgan, head of Pharmacology at CUNY Medical School, and Dr. Lynn Zimmer, 
of Queens College. William F. Buckley Jr. The New England Journal of 
Medicine. The British Medical Journal, and The Lancet. Dr. Louis Lasangna, 
author of 1982 National Academy of Sciences report on marijuana. In the 
1970s the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association and 
the National Council of Churches all endorsed the decriminalization of 
marijuana along with President Jimmy Carter.

Marijuana has been decriminalized in Netherlands, Belgium, France, 
Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

The War on Drugs today is mostly about marijuana. Marijuana arrests, 
convictions, incarcerations, and the seizure of property in marijuana cases 
constitute the great majority of "drug-war incidents." Without marijuana 
prohibition, the War on Drugs and its bloated budgets would simply not be 
justifiable, nor the DEA, nor foreign intervention, nor political anti-drug 
posturing; without marijuana prohibition the whole War on Drugs would soon 
fall apart.

Philip Green, Lisbon, New York


To The Editor,

In response to DA Richards letter....The people who are in favor of 
decriminalization and legalization are gaining momentum and aren't going to 
be slowed downed for lack of a North Country DA's validation.

Not all convicted felons are in prison because the were dealing heavily or 
caught with large amounts.Quite the opposite and the reason for my 
opposition of harsh drug laws. If caught with even a gram of marijuana you 
will go to jail lose your car and pay ridiculously heavy fines.Contrary to 
the DA's statement they don't offer marijuana rehabilitation..before they 
send you to jail.So this venue isn't even approached its just jail. Now why 
would the DA want to mislead the publics trust in such a deliberate way 
..sounds like politics to me.

I'd like to know what harm to society he thinks marijuana would cause if he 
didn't get these dangerous potheads off the street? Are our streets really 
any safer now that ol' uncle Joe is in the big house? This is as archaic as 
the Reefer madness film .

The D A wants to link marijuana to the reasons people steal and commit 
violent crimes,more fabricating. People who are violent do violent acts 
..people who have larceny in their hearts ..steal...They may drink coffee 
and smoke cigarettes too but we shouldn't shift the blame to the scapegoat.

Also I would like to comment on the D A accusing all those involved in 
fighting for just laws and personal freedoms..of being users and 
dealers.Now if Mr. Richards were inclined to be a contemplating man he 
would realize that the dealers have the most to lose, if marijuana were 
legal they wouldn't have a black market would they? Prohibition has never 
worked and still isn't working.

Kelli Hogan, Potsdam , New York
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