Pubdate: Sat,  2 Mar 2002
Source: Clarksdale Press Register (MS)
Copyright: 2002, Clarksdale Press Register
Author: Robert Sharpe


Dear Editor: The work of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics is no doubt 
well-intended but ultimately counterproductive ("Area police departments 
coordinate war on drugs," Wednesday, Feb. 20). Attempts to limit the supply 
of illegal drugs while demand remains constant only increases the 
profitability of drug trafficking. In terms of addictive drugs like heroin, 
a rise in street prices leads desperate addicts to increase criminal 
activity to feed desperate habits. The drug war doesn't fight crime; it 
fuels crime. The drug war's burden on taxpayers gets higher every year as 
ever more drug users and dealers are imprisoned for consensual vices. Drug 
use continues unabated as new dealers immediately step in to reap inflated 
illicit market profits. And let's not kid ourselves about protecting 
children. Illegal drug dealers don't ID for age, but they do recruit minors 
immune to adult sentences. Taxing and regulating marijuana, the most 
popular illicit drug, is a cost-effective alternative to the $50 billion 
drug war. There is a big difference between condoning marijuana use and 
protecting children from drugs. Decriminalization acknowledges the social 
reality of marijuana use and frees users from the stigma of life-shattering 
criminal records. What's really needed is a regulated market with age 
controls. Right now kids have an easier time buying pot than beer. 
Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical. Marijuana may be 
relatively harmless compared to alcohol - the plant has never been shown to 
cause an overdose death - but marijuana prohibition is deadly. As long as 
marijuana distribution remains in the hands of organized crime, consumers 
will continue to come into contact with hard drugs like cocaine.

Robert Sharpe, Program Officer, Drug Policy Alliance, Washington, DC 20008-2328
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