Pubdate: Wed, 18 Sep 2002
Source: Beaufort Gazette, The (SC)
Copyright: 2002 The Beaufort Gazette
Author: Robert Sharpe
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)


Regarding the Sept. 4 article on the seizure of $22,000 by Ridgeland police 
after a traffic stop, in which no drugs were found, the financial 
incentives created by civil asset forfeiture laws create a very dangerous 
precedent. Police can legally confiscate cars, cash and homes without even 
bothering to charge owners with a crime. This is a clear abuse of power. 
Vague allegations of drug trafficking hardly justify the risk of turning 
protectors of the peace into predators. The drug war threatens the 
integrity of a country founded on the concept of limited government. The 
steady rise in police searches on public transit, drug-sniffing dogs in 
schools, and suspicionless drug testing have led to a loss of civil 
liberties in America, while failing miserably at preventing drug use. Based 
on findings that criminal records are inappropriate as health interventions 
and ineffective as deterrents, a majority of European Union countries have 
decriminalized marijuana. Despite marijuana prohibition and perhaps because 
of forbidden fruit appeal, lifetime use of marijuana is higher in the U.S. 
than any European country. The United States now has the highest 
incarceration rate in the world, in large part because of the war on some 
drugs. At an average cost of $25,071 per inmate annually, maintaining the 
world's largest prison system can hardly be considered fiscally 
conservative. It's not possible to wage a moralistic war against consensual 
vices unless privacy is completely eliminated, along with the Constitution. 
America can either be a free country or a "drug-free" country, but not both.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A., program officer

Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, D.C.
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