Pubdate: Wed, 10 Apr 2002
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The Buffalo News
Author: Robert Sharpe


The Buffalo Common Council's commitment to a tough-on-drugs cleanup of 
criminal "hot spots" is no doubt well-intended, but ultimately 
counterproductive. Forcibly limiting the supply of illegal drugs while 
demand remains constant only increases the profitability of drug trafficking.

In terms of addictive drugs like heroin, a spike 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 burden on taxpayers grows each year as ever more drug users and dealers 
are imprisoned for consensual vices. Drug use continues unabated as 
replacement dealers step in to reap inflated illicit market profits. 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.

The Netherlands has successfully reduced overall drug use by replacing 
marijuana prohibition with adult regulation. Dutch rates of drug use are 
significantly lower than U.S. rates. Separating the hard and soft drug 
markets and establishing age controls for marijuana has proven more 
effective than zero tolerance.

Here in the United States, illegal marijuana provides the black market 
contacts that introduce consumers to drugs like cocaine. This "gateway" is 
the direct result of a fundamentally flawed policy.

Drug policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like to 
think the children themselves are more important than the message. 
Opportunistic tough-on-drugs politicians would no doubt disagree.

Robert Sharpe,
Program Officer Drug Policy Alliance Washington, D.C.
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