Pubdate: Sat, 05 Jun 2004
Source: Amarillo Globe-News (TX)
Copyright: 2004 Amarillo Globe-News
Author: Billy Mosteller


Amarillo is searching for a new way to fund its drug enforcement
division after the city had to pay those who were wrongly accused in
the Tulia drug sting and after dropping out of and effectively
dissolving the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Trafficking Task Force.
Perhaps now is a good time for the people of the Panhandle to think
about the war on drugs, since it will most likely affect their taxes
in the near future.

Many drugs that are illegal are very dangerous substances. But why are
they so dangerous? With most drugs, they are dangerous or they are
made more dangerous because of their illegal status. Let's consider
methamphetamine, for instance. Were meth labs as common in the 1970s
as they are today? No, because methamphetamines were easier to come
by. But as laws changed in an attempt to reduce meth use, more
inventive and dangerous ways of producing it were put into practice.

Also, users of meth and all illegal drugs must deal with the black
market, which is a danger in itself. Meth is more dangerous today both
for users and non-users because of legislation meant to reduce its

American drug laws are often unfair and unreasonable. For example, the
drugs nicotine, caffeine and alcohol are permitted but marijuana is
restricted, even though marijuana has a much lower rate of addiction
than the other three, fewer health risks than cigarettes and alcohol
and virtually no withdrawal symptoms.

People often think that a drug's legal status has some connection with
its health risk, but this is not the case.

Marijuana was outlawed in the 1930s because newspapers in the South
published false information about people smoking marijuana and turning
into homicidal maniacs, and because it was popular with Mexican
immigrants and jazz musicians, two groups that were not well liked in
the 1930s. It has remained illegal for nearly 70 years because the
government does not want to admit it was wrong.

It is difficult for marijuana users to find jobs because of drug
screening, and there is a constant risk of getting caught and having
to pay heavy fines or serve time. It is time we looked at the war on
drugs for what it is: a war on the poor and a vehicle for social
discrimination, fueled by propaganda and the ignorance of the American

The U.S. spends billions of dollars a year fighting this war. If we
would stop treating addicts like criminals and try to create fairness
in our legal system, the lives of drug users and non-drug users would
be improved. Several European countries have legalized marijuana and
other drugs with no significant increase in drug use resulting. What
about the drug trade that helps fund things like terrorism and puts
drug pushers on our streets? The drug trade is only profitable as long
as the drugs being traded are illegal. If they were legalized,
legitimate businesses could reap the profit, and that legitimate
profit would be taxable.

The U.S. can continue to throw away billions of dollars ever year in a
futile attempt to stop drug use. It can continue to treat the addicted
like criminals and persecute the millions of Americans who use illegal
drugs. Or the U.S. can save the money normally used to fight the war
on drugs, make money by taxing new legalized drugs, use that money to
help those affected by drug addiction and eradicate the illegal drug
trade by forcing drug lords to compete with legitimate firms in the

Decide which option is best, then call your representatives and let
them know what you think.
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Billy Mosteller is a resident of Canyon.
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