Pubdate: Fri, 21 Mar 2003
Source: Portland Tribune (OR)
Copyright: 2003 Portland Tribune
Author: Floyd Ferris Landrath


For more than a decade the American Antiprohibition League has been warning 
lawmakers that this day would come, the breakdown of civil authority 
accompanied by unchecked crime (Budget cuts cripple long arm of the law, 
March 4). However, it's not too late to save our criminal justice system 
from complete "meltdown," as Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker put it. I 
think it's long overdue that our lawmakers drop this phony bravado of 
"tough on drugs" and get smart on drug policy.

It's clear that drug prohibition, plus drug addiction, generate a lot of 
crime and cost a lot of money. We have learned that a very large share of 
our public safety resources is spent on a few hundred chronic offenders who 
cycle through the system ad infinitum.

It's no secret that most of this select group are junkies, crackheads and 
speed freaks, committing mostly nonviolent property crimes or trafficking 
in drugs to finance their often multiple addictions. It should be 
understood, relative to the total number of people who use any illegal 
substance, that this subgroup represents a small, albeit very expensive, 

So, what if there were a way to keep most of these troublemakers, the 
habitual offenders, out of the system? What if we could prevent much of 
their criminal activity, drug dealing?

Start from the basic, albeit obscured and oppressed, premise: The law 
notwithstanding, adults have a natural right -- respecting the rights of 
others, of course -- to smoke, snort, ingest or inject any drug they want.

Once you accept this basic reality, then it's merely a question of creating 
reasonable regulations to govern the manufacture and distribution of the 
particular substance.

After that, for better or for worse, it's up to the individual.

Granted, drug addiction is a tragic, sometimes fatal fate, and I am in full 
support of drug education, prevention and voluntary treatment. Nonetheless, 
I am unwilling to sacrifice my freedom or our scarce public resources 
because a few addicts are bent on self-destruction or because lawmakers 
remain stuck on stupid about drugs.

Floyd Ferris Landrath, American Antiprohibition League Southeast Portland
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