Pubdate: Mon, 16 Apr 2007
Source: Monday Morning (Lebanon)
Copyright: 2007 Monday Morning
Author: Gwynne Dyer
Cited: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Cole, Jack)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Heroin Maintenance)


Barry Cooper's new DVD, Never Get Busted Again, which went on sale
over the Internet recently, may not be selling very well outside the
United States, because in most other countries the possession of
marijuana for personal use is treated as a misdemeanor or simply
ignored by the police. But it will sell very well in the US, where
many thousands of casual marijuana users are hit with savage jail
terms every year in a nationwide game of Russian roulette in which
most people indulge their habit unharmed while a few unfortunates have
their lives ruined.

Barry Cooper is a former Texas policeman who made over 800 drug
arrests as an anti-narcotics officer, but he has now repented: "When I
was raiding homes and destroying families, my conscience was telling
me it was wrong, but my need for power, fame and peer acceptance
overshadowed my good conscience". Of course, Cooper's DVD, which
teaches people how to avoid arrest for marijuana possession, will also
bring him fame, plus a lot of money, but at least it won't hurt people.

However, Cooper lacks the courage of his own convictions. He argues
that the war on drugs is futile and counter-productive so far as
marijuana is concerned, but nervously insists that he is offering no
tips that would help dealers of cocaine or methamphetamines to escape
"justice". It's as if reformers fighting against America's alcohol
prohibition laws in the 1920s had advocated re-legalizing beer but
wanted to continue locking up drinkers of wine or spirits. But there
are bolder policemen around, who are willing to say flatly and
publicly that all drug prohibition is wrong.

One is Jack Cole, 26 years with the New Jersey police, whose
organization, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (Leap), is supported
by growing numbers of serving policemen who have lost faith in the
"war on drugs" and want to make peace. "Leap wants to end drug
prohibition just as we ended alcohol prohibition in 1933", says Cole,
who argues that neither kind of prohibition has ever had any success
in curbing consumption of the banned substances, but that each has
fuelled the growth of a vast criminal empire.

It is policemen who take the lead in these issues because they are the
ones who must deal with the calamitous consequences of the "war on
drugs". No doubt the use of "recreational" drugs does a lot of harm,
as does the use of alcohol or tobacco, but that harm is dwarfed by the
amount of crime and human devastation caused by forty years of "war"
on drug-users.

Howard Roberts, the deputy chief constable of the Nottinghamshire
police, is a senior policeman who has made the case for ending the
war, pointing out last November that heroin addicts in Britain each
commit, on average, 432 robberies, assaults and burglaries a year to
raise the money for their illegal habit. Each addict steals about
90,000 dollars' worth of property a year, whereas the cost of
providing them with heroin on prescription from the National Health
Service in closely supervised treatment programs would be only 24,000
dollars a year.

So the NHS should provide heroin to addicts on prescription, said
Roberts, as it used to in the 1950s and 1960s, before Britain was
pressured into adopting the "war on drugs" model by the US. (Since
then, the number of heroin addicts in Britain has risen several
hundredfold.) Days later, it emerged that the NHS is actually
experimenting with a return to that policy at three places in Britain
-- and Switzerland has actually been prescribing heroin to addicts on
a nationwide basis for some years now, with very encouraging results:
crime rate down, addict death rate sharply down.

If every country adopted such a policy, legalizing all drugs and
making the so-called "hard" ones available to addicts free, but only
available on prescription, the result would not just be improved
health for drug-users and a lower rate of petty crime, but the
collapse of the criminal empires that have been built on the
international trade in illegal drugs, which is now estimated to be
worth 500 billion dollars a year. That is exactly what happened to the
criminal empires that were founded on bootlegging when alcohol
prohibition was ended in the United States in 1933.

But what about the innocent children who will be exposed to these
drugs if they become freely available throughout the society? The
answer is: nothing that doesn't happen to them now. There is no city
and few rural areas in the developed world where you cannot buy any
illegal drug known to man within half a hour, for an amount of money
that can be raised by any enterprising fourteen-year-old.

Indeed, the supply of really nasty drugs would probably diminish if
prohibition ended, because they are mainly a response to the level of
risk the dealers must face. (Economist Milton Friedman called it the
Iron Law of Prohibition: the harder the police crack down on a
substance, the more concentrated that substance becomes -- so cocaine
gives way to crack cocaine, as beer gave way to moonshine under
alcohol prohibition.)

This is probably yet another false dawn, for even the politicians who
know what needs to be done are too afraid of the gutter media to act
on their convictions. But sometime in the next fifty years, after only
few more tens of millions of needless deaths, drug prohibition will