Pubdate: Sun, 01 Dec 2002
Source: Juneau Empire (AK)
Copyright: 2002 Southeastern Newspaper Corp
Author: Alvin Anders
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Racial Issues)


The real reason certain drugs are illegal is not because some are more 
harmful than others. If that were true, then alcohol and tobacco would be 
illegal. Alcohol kills more people in a year than all illicit drugs 
combined kill in a decade. And tobacco kills four times as many as alcohol.

No, the real reason is that during the Great Depression, a time when many 
Americans feared losing their jobs, our ancestors passed laws making 
illegal those drugs used by recent immigrants, foreigners with strange 
habits and customs. Alcohol prohibition was aimed at the mostly Catholic 
Irish, German and Italian immigrants. Marijuana and cocaine prohibition was 
aimed at Mexican and Latin Americans. Opium prohibition was aimed at the 

Alcohol prohibition ended because our white European ancestors could see it 
was a disaster. So the drug of choice of European immigrants was made legal 
and prohibition continued for the drugs of choice for all other races and 
ethnic groups.

In the 1970s, heroin and marijuana use spread to Americans fighting in 
Vietnam. As these soldiers came home, so did their new drug choices. As 
marijuana use spread to the "counter culture," those opposed to Nixon and 
his policies, Nixon and his advisors saw that by declaring a "war on drugs" 
he could not only ride to electoral victory on the tried and true "tough on 
crime" issue but could also use the new "drug war" laws as a tool to arrest 
and harass those who opposed his policies.

Every president since has continued this same "war on drugs" lest they be 
accused of being "soft on crime" There is another solution. One that will 
not only save taxpayers' money, but that will also reduce the violence 
while encouraging addicts to get treatment. I'm advocating the same 
approach that we used for the first 150 years in this country. That 
approach is to treat all drugs the same.

Ask yourself, if you could walk into any drug store and buy any drug you 
wanted, how much more heroin, cocaine, alcohol or tobacco would you buy 
today than yesterday? What makes you think your neighbor is any different 
than yourself? Meanwhile, after 30 years of this "drug war," drug use is as 
prevalent as ever, drugs are as cheap as ever, violent crime is rampant 
and, instead of building colleges, we build prisons. Isn't it time we said 

Alvin Anders, Juneau
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