Pubdate: Mon, 25 Mar 2002
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)
Copyright: 2002 Chattanooga Publishing Co.


The recent breaking up of a major drug ring in Southeast Tennessee and 
Northwest Georgia shows again the importance of America's war on illegal drugs.

Dozens of officers from Hamilton, Catoosa and Walker counties aided in the 
operation, and seven people have been arrested on suspicion of being 
involved in the methamphetamine ring. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are 
believed to have changed hands.

Those who favor abandoning the drug war are fond of saying that busts such 
as this one highlight the immensity of America's drug problem and prove 
that it is hopeless. What they will not acknowledge is that if law 
enforcement efforts to stem the traffic of illegal drugs ended tomorrow, 
drug-related crime would explode unimaginably.

Part of the problem in the drug war is that it has a built-in public 
relations problem: It's easy for critics to point to jails crowded with 
people who sell or abuse drugs. But it's impossible to say how many people 
don't get involved with drugs in the first place because they hear about 
the legal and health consequences. Who knows the number of people teetering 
on the edge of becoming users or sellers who will be dissuaded when they 
hear of this latest, high-profile bust?

Battling illegal drugs is admittedly a complex task. It involves cutting 
off drugs at the source -- places like South America, Mexico, Asia and, 
yes, American marijuana fields and methamphetamine labs.

But it also means dealing with the demand side of the equation. If 
Americans didn't want drugs, suppliers would go out of business. Part of 
making at least some Americans not want to use or sell drugs is making sure 
they know the risks involved.

The war on drugs is crucial in seeking to accomplish that goal.
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