Pubdate: Mon, 08 Jan 2007
Source: Western Star, The (CN NF)
Page: 6
Copyright: 2007 The Western Star
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 late last month, will probably not sell very well
outside the United States, because in most other countries the
possession of marijuana for personal use is treated as a misdemeanour
or simply ignored by the police.

But it will sell very well in the U.S., 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

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 40 years of "war" on

Howard Roberts, the deputy chief constable of the Nottinghamshire
police, was the latest senior policeman to make 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 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
a year.

So the NHS should provide heroin to addicts on prescription, said
Roberts, like it used to in the 1950s and 1960s, before Britain was
pressured into adopting the "war on drugs" model by the U.S. (Since
then, the number of heroin addicts in Britain has risen several

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
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 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 14 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 50 years, after only
few more tens of millions of needless deaths, drug prohibition will
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