Pubdate: Sun, 27 Feb 2005
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2005 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: James E. Gierach


Oak Lawn -- This is regarding "Nicole's letter" (Editorial, Feb. 20).
I was moved by Nicole Martinez's letter. She wrote that "Gang members
and innocent people are killed and injured daily" and that she had to
"reach out to people in authority."

Her recent letter moved today's leaders, Mayor Richard M. Daley and
top brass at Chicago police headquarters, but the mayor and the brass
were moved differently than I.

The mayor and Chicago Police Supt. Philip Cline were moved to preserve
the status quo, to continue the war on drugs and their aggressive
campaign against gangs and drugs.

That campaign features targeting high-crime areas with more police;
flooding police into hot spots immediately after a gang shooting to
prevent retaliation; touting and funding CeaseFire (an anti-gang and
anti-violence organization run by epidemiologist Dr. Gary Slutkin
whose mission is to "Stop the killing" by putting outreach workers and
reformed gangbangers on the street, etc.); and pooling federal, state
and local law-enforcement resources to target gang leaders with
special prosecutions and special sentencing in federal court on
weapons charges.

Unfortunately, even with this campaign, as Nicole wrote, "innocent
people are killed and injured daily."

In contrast, I was prompted by Nicole's letter to call, again, for an
end to the drug war and wished that I could talk to her and all her
schoolmates at Kelvyn Park High School in West Logan Square assembled
in the gymnasium. If I could, I would tell the kids that I'm sorry
everyone cannot live in Hinsdale, Wilmette or Orland Park, places with
drugs but without gunplay, turf wars and gangs for the most part.

I would say that the drug war is unfair because it targets

I would say to Nicole and her classmates that the origin of most of
the violence is the drug war--not drugs. Easy money, made possible by
drug prohibition, tempts kids to do the wrong thing. And it does not
matter how many kids are locked up for drug dealing, the violence will
continue, because the same monetary temptation that snared today's
drug dealers will attract the next class, and the next, and the next,

I'd tell Nicole and her classmates that so long as drug prohibition is
the law of the land, the land will be lawless. Guns, gangs and drugs
thrive in a prohibition environment.

If I could, I would tell Nicole and her classmates that the drug war
fills prisons to overcrowding and creates the need for more prisons;
it destroys neighborhoods, and corrupts kids and police shamefully;
and it steals scarce education dollars in the process.

I would tell them that education is the hope for a good life in the
long term, and that drug dealing is fools' gold redeemable only in the
short term.

I would say that the drug war puts more drugs everywhere, increases
drug purity, cuts drug prices and serves as impetus for newer and more
harmful substances.

If I could talk to Nicole's schoolmates, I would say, you probably
already know more about drugs, drug use and the risks of doing drugs
than I do. Yet the anti-drug crusaders and anti-drug governmental
agencies keep putting drugs in your face--"Don't do drugs"--as if
saying so would make it so.

I would say, don't get me wrong. I don't use drugs. I don't like
drugs. I don't condone drug use or abuse. (I drink wine.) For too many
people, the risks associated with drug use far outweigh any temporary
high or low that drugs might offer (excluding medical marijuana for
the sick). I can't stop you from playing with fire, and I can't stop
you from using drugs. No one can.

Remember that the violence associated with gangster Al Capone and his
rival dealers during the last "great experiment" with prohibition did
not end until alcohol was legalized, regulated, taxed and controlled.
We, again, must end prohibition--this time the prohibition of illicit
drugs--to stop the violence and restore hope, fairness and caring for
one another at Kelvyn Park High School and many other Chicago and
suburban schools.

James E. Gierach, Speaker

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
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