Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jan 2007
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2007 The Gleaner Company Limited
Author: Gwynne Dyer, Contributor
Note: Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose 
articles are published in 45 countries.
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.

Lacks Courage

However, Cooper lacks the courage of his own convictions. He argues
that the war on drugs is futile and counterproductive 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-legalising 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
organisation, 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.

Funding an Illegal Habit

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 programmes 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
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, legalising 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.

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

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles
are published in 45 countries. 
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