Pubdate: Thu, 01 May 2003
Source: Sojourners Magazine (US DC)
Copyright: 2003, Sojourners
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Note: Sojourners is a Christian ministry.


A conservative Republican asks: What would happen if there were no profit in

Dan Burton is a Republican member of Congress from Indiana. Tom Carr is
director of the Baltimore-Washington High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area of
the Office of National Drug Control Policy. This exchange is an edited
excerpt from the House Government Reform Committee hearing on "America's
Heroin Crisis, Colombian Heroin, and How We Can Improve Plan Colombia," on
December 12, 2002.

Rep. Dan Burton: I have been in probably 100 or 150 hearings like this at
various times in my political career and the story is always the same. Every
time I have a hearing, I hear that people who get hooked on heroin and
cocaine become addicted and they very rarely get off of it. And the scourge
expands and expands and expands. And we have very fine law enforcement
officers like you go out and fight the fight. But there is no end to it.
Over 70 percent of all crime is drug-related.

We saw on television recently Pablo Escobar gunned down and everybody
applauded and said, "That's the end of the Medellin cartel." But it wasn't
the end. There is still a cartel down there. When you kill one, there's 10
or 20 or 50 waiting to take his place. You know why? It's because...there is
so much money to be made in it there is always going to be another person in
line to make that money. And we go into drug eradication and we go into
rehabilitation and we go into education, and the drug problem continues to
increase. And it continues to cost us not billions, but trillions of
dollars. Trillions! And we continue to build more and more prisons, and we
put more and more people in jail, and we know that the crimes that they're
committing are related most of the time to drugs.

I have one question that nobody ever asks, and that is this question: What
would happen if there were no profit in drugs? If they couldn't make any
money out of selling drugs, what would happen?

Tom Carr: What you are arguing then is complete legalization.

Burton: No, I am not arguing anything. I am asking the question. Because we
have been fighting this fight for 30 to 40 years and the problem never goes
way. New generations-younger and younger people-get hooked on drugs. And
nobody ever asks this question. And I'm not inferring anything, because I
hate drugs. But the question needs to be addressed at some point: What would
happen if they don't make any money out of it? How about the overall effect
on our society-the number of people that are being addicted in our society?
Would it go up or down if there were no profit?

I don't think that the people in Colombia would be planting coca if they
couldn't make any money, and I don't think they would be refining coca and
heroin in Colombia if they couldn't make any money. And I don't think that
Al Capone would have been the menace to society that he was if he couldn't
sell alcohol on the black market, and he did and we had a horrible, horrible
crime problem. Now, the people that are producing drugs don't do it because
they like to do it. They do it because they are making money.

At some point we to have to look at the overall picture. One of the parts of
the equation that has never been talked about-because politicians are afraid
to talk about it-is: "What part of the equation are we leaving out?" And
that is the profit in drugs. Don't just talk about education. Don't just
talk about eradication. Don't just talk about killing people like Escobar,
who is going to be replaced by somebody else. Let's talk about what would
happen if we started addressing how to get the profit out of drugs.
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