Pubdate: Mon, 12 Dec 2005
Source: Statesman Journal (Salem, OR)
Copyright: 2005 Statesman Journal
Author: Juan Pablo Braun
Note: Juan Pablo Braun, 18, is a Dallas High School senior.
Cited: Drug Policy Alliance
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


As the years go by, the amount and intensity of antidrug propaganda 
seems to be increasing considerably as people try to prevent and 
minimize drug use in the United States. Other efforts to accomplish 
this goal include investing in expensive programs to control drug 
trafficking, and of course, crime enforcement.

However, extensive prevention and enforcement efforts have resulted 
in little gain. In the past 20 years, drug prices have plummeted and 
availability has soared. In 1981, the retail price for a gram of 
cocaine was about $1,000; currently, it is about $140. In a recent 
survey by the Drug Policy Alliance, 90 percent of 12th-graders said 
that marijuana is "easy" to purchase.

The strict legal consequences for being caught with drugs have only 
given way to reformation of the trade -- drug dealers and traffickers 
have become smarter in how they do business. Perhaps rather than 
fighting in a quixotic battle to exterminate the drug problem, the 
U.S. should instead consider legalization.

Although it might seem radical, legalization of less-lethal drugs, 
such as marijuana, could prove to be just what is needed to more 
effectively deal with this problem.

The first effect of legalization would be the elimination of the 
middlemen: the traffickers, dealers and cartels. Not only would this 
lead to an end of sophisticated drug trafficking, it also would 
extract money from foreign and domestic groups that use drug money to 
support terrorism.

As a result of a direct and legal purchase of drugs, the government 
could track usage and regulate the quality of the drugs, limiting the 
dangerous products of homemade and dealer-enhanced drugs.

The liberal drug policy also would be conservative on the budget. 
Legally selling drugs would allow government to place a sin tax on 
them, much like cigarettes. This extra revenue could be used to 
establish rehabilitation centers, rather then wasting more than $17 
billion per year on the failing drug war. Not having state prisons 
occupied with drug offenders who were caught with insignificant 
amounts of marijuana also would save money, and leave space in the 
system for more dangerous criminals.

Many may argue that such a radical policy is a recipe for trouble, 
and that legal and increased availability would only further the problem.

However, examples such as the current Dutch drug policy suggest 
otherwise. In comparison with surrounding countries, where drug use 
has skyrocketed, consumption in Holland has remained virtually 
unchanged since the legalization of less-lethal drugs in 1976. In 
fact, Holland has seen various benefits of its policy, including an 
impressive decline in AIDS cases (often found among drug users who 
share needles).

Yet another aspect of drug use that has practically disappeared in 
Holland is the taboo that follows it. People use drugs partly because 
of the attraction to its taboo. Legalization could desensationalize 
drug use, eliminating the risque appeal of drug consumption.

As a teen, whether drugs are legal or not, my attitude toward them 
will remain the same -- similarly to how I refuse to smoke cigarettes 
or chew tobacco, even though legally I can. I honestly can say that 
what drives me to remain drug-free is not the annoying propaganda 
that costs taxpayers billions of dollars; nor is it merely the fact 
that it is illegal. I am drug-free simply because of the morals that 
have been instilled in me by my family.

The war on drugs is not changing the habits of the consumers, nor 
preventing use by those who remain abstinent. Legalization of certain 
drugs offers a new method of dealing with the drug problem, one that 
would prove effective and proactive. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake