Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jun 2006
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2006 The Buffalo News
Author: Nicolas Eyle
Note: Nicolas Eyle is executive director of Reconsider, a 
Syracuse-based drug policy organization.
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Rockefeller Drug Laws)

Tough Laws Not Working


After more than 35 years of fighting the current war on drugs, the 
latest excuse for drugs being cheaper, purer and more available than 
ever is that the police aren't filling out the paperwork correctly. 
("How effective is drug war?" May 24)

Gov. Nelson Rockefeller told us that we could put a stop to this drug 
business if only we had tough laws. The threat of life in prison 
would cause smaller dealers to turn in those above them in exchange 
for lighter sentences, and soon all the dealers would be in prison. 
We filled the prisons, but it had no effect on drug dealing.

Then we heard that if only we had more prison space, we could lock 
these drug dealers up, and that would be the end of the drug trade. 
Under Gov. Mario Cuomo, New York tripled the size of its prison system.

Today those prisons are overcrowded, mostly with nonviolent drug 
offenders, and there isn't a maximum-security prison in the state 
that manages to keep drugs away from the inmates. The problem is so 
common that President Bill Clinton proposed a law that would mandate 
drug testing for inmates before they could be released.

Now we hear that the police still haven't got the hang of the 
paperwork. How many more years can we afford to have our cities 
destroyed, our children exposed to these dangerous substances, our 
families broken up, our court system clogged, our tax dollars wasted 
and our civil rights eroded to fight the failed war on drugs?

We've spent billions of dollars on drug prohibition in New York 
State. What's the result? Drugs went from being a small problem 
confined, for the most part, to a few jazz musicians and some 
experimenting college students, to a common commodity in our schools.

Erie County Executive Joel Giambra made a wise suggestion when he 
said we should look into the idea of drug legalization. After all, 
everything we come into contact with in America is regulated and controlled.

The chair you are sitting on passed inspection and met some 
standards. As did the car you drive, the food you eat, the TV you watch.

Everything is regulated - everything that is, but potentially highly 
dangerous drugs, which we have, by declaring them illegal, 
surrendered our ability to regulate. We have turned control of these 
substances over to organized crime.

Legalization doesn't mean we should put barrels of crack cocaine on 
the sidewalk for people to help themselves from. It doesn't mean 
there would be heroin vending machines in our schools. It doesn't 
mean airline pilots should fly stoned. On the contrary. It means 
regulation and control.

We owe it to ourselves to look at alternatives to this obviously 
failed policy we've lived with for more than 35 years. We need to 
understand that more of the same is just not going to work. Plan A 
has failed; Buffalo needs to find a Plan B.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake