Pubdate: Fri, 12 Jan 2007
Source: Namibian, The (Namibia)
Copyright: 2007 The Namibian.
Author: Gwynne Dyer
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 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-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.

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

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, 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 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, 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.

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 an hour, for an
amount of money that can be raised by any enterprising

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 end.

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