Pubdate: Thu, 24 Jan 2002
Source: Albany Times Union (NY)
Copyright: 2002 Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation
Author: Robert Sharpe


In his Jan. 7 op-ed column, state Sen. Dale M. Volker defends the 
Rockefeller Drug Laws by raising the specter of neighborhoods "under siege 
from drug dealers.'' The drug war's collateral damage hardly justifies New 
York's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws

There is a clear historical precedent. Alcohol prohibition ended in 1933 
and with it the inflated illicit market profits that drove mobsters to kill 
one another in violent turf battles. The deadly poisons sold on the streets 
of New York are the modern day equivalent of the unregulated bathtub gin of 
the Prohibition era.

While U.S. politicians ignore the historical precedent, European countries 
are embracing harm reduction, a public health alternative based on the 
principle that both drug use and drug prohibition have the potential to 
cause harm.

Examples of harm reduction include needle-exchange programs to stop the 
spread of HIV, marijuana regulation aimed at separating the hard and soft 
drug markets, and a range of drug-treatment alternatives that do not 
require incarceration as a prerequisite.

The burden imposed on New York taxpayers by Rockefeller Drug Laws gets 
higher every year as a never-ending supply of drug dealers is added to the 
state prison system. New replacement dealers immediately step in to reap 
outrageous illicit market profits.

Throughout the nation, this vicious cycle has led to the creation of a 
massive prison-industrial complex -- the U.S. now has the highest 
incarceration rate in the world -- while failing miserably at preventing 
drug use.

Program Officer,
The Lindesmith Center,
Washington, D.C. 
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