Pubdate: Thu, 23 Nov 2006
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2006 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Jeff Mahoney


Why not let the government profit from drug trafficking, instead of

We make such a big deal about what's legal and what's illegal in our

You can go into a casino, lose a bunch of money, go to a store and buy
a gun and then into a liquor outlet and buy a 40-ouncer, drink the
40-ouncer and then go into another store with the gun, ask for
cigarettes, then use the gun to leverage access to the cash register
for money to buy marijuana because you lost your marijuana money in
the casino.

Now here's the question. How many laws did you break? Two -- robbing
the store and buying the marijuana. Unless you're underage. Then it's

If you hung around outside smoking cigarettes after scoring the grass,
soon a law officer would nail you. Not for robbery, drug trafficking
or weapons possession. For smoking less than nine metres from a public
building. You could add that to your broken-law total.

But it would be cancelled out if you were entitled to use pot for
medicinal reasons, such as the treatment of glaucoma. (These days
everyone's asking their physicians: "Doc, are you sure I don't have

If you bought crack cocaine or crystal meth, you couldn't plead a
medicinal-purposes exemption. As far as I know, crack isn't good for
anything except ruining your life and bringing people together in
those charming crack houses with the bailiff's-notice decor and not a
lot of stencilling on the walls, and guests you have to walk over,
with signs around their necks that say, "Do not resuscitate."

The criminality of crack cocaine, crystal meth, heroin and other
narcotics is all part of the war on drugs.

The war on drugs is kind of like that other war, in Iraq, insofar as
there's rarely good news coming out of it.

There'll be a big arrest, raids, busts, takedowns. But the trade goes
on. I haven't read any reports lately that it's harder to acquire
illegal drugs now than when the war on drugs started, which was, I
don't know, right after the caterpillar smoked his hookah in Alice in

It seems that the drug traffickers in the movies and popular songs of
today are richer, meaner and better armed with a bigger customer base
than they were 30 years ago.

I was turning the dial on the car radio the other day and heard a
caller say that we should just be done with it and decriminalize
drugs. The way the Puritans decriminalized rich French sauces back in
the 1700s. All drugs, the caller said. Not just marijuana.

I'm not sure what story the caller was responding to -- something
about shots being fired in a Toronto shopping area after some drug
deal went down badly. (Funny how when you're talking about drugs you
can use hip phrases like "went down." I would never say my kids'
afternoon play dates "went down.")

The caller mentioned Prohibition, what a folly it now seems in
hindsight. Imagine. If alcohol were still illegal, then most of our
professional sports franchises would not exist because they're owned
by beer companies.

And the players would have to take a cut in pay from $48 million over
four years to do funny dances in an end zone to $40 a night working as
bouncers at a bar. No, wait. There would be no bars.

The main thing that Prohibition accomplished was to make a lot of
criminal types very rich from bootlegging.

It seems to me that's what the criminalization of drugs is doing. It
is giving some very nasty people a chance to become glorified as
outlaws and to become very, very rich. And what may even be worse is
it gives Al Pacino a chance to portray those people in movies like
Scarface and really, really overact. It's just not worth it.

If nasty people are going to become rich and powerful, they should
have to do so by going through all the rigorous legal channels that
the rest of us abide by and get elected to public office.

I'm not sure anymore what criminalizing drugs really accomplishes. It
doesn't seem to deter anyone. I will never try crack cocaine or
crystal meth, not because it's illegal, but because, well, because I'm
high on life.

OK, also because it has zero appeal for me. I wouldn't do well on the
crack streets or in the crack houses. I don't know the etiquette.
What? Do you defer to the one with the most body piercings?

I think many of the people who end up getting horribly addicted to
hard drugs like heroin, crack and crystal meth would be struggling,
even without the addiction, with issues of compulsion, abuse and low

And I think they would be best served not by prison time but by
counselling and therapy.

If the government controlled drug consumption and taxed it, as the
government does with cigarettes, booze and gambling, they could put
some of that tax money, albeit hypocritically, back into prevention
and therapy, the way they do with cigarettes, booze and gambling. It
has sure worked with cigarettes. Smoking is way down.

I'm not making light of drugs. They kill. So do cigarettes, booze,
gambling -- all legal and controlled.

So why let criminals sell them, profit from them? They're certainly
not going to put warnings or helpline phone numbers on the dime bags
they sell.

The police do good, noble work to fight the drug pushers. But half the
time the justice system just throws the pushers back out on the street
again, where they can maybe get Fox TV to pay them to write books and
do TV shows about how they would have sold the drugs, if indeed they
had done the crime -- wink, wink.

It makes you wonder -- who respects the law anymore? Certainly not
drug pushers and users.

Maybe it's time to take drug traffic out of the hands of the worst
scum in our society and give it to the somewhat better scum in government.

It's a thought.
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