Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jan 2006
Source: Valley Advocate (Easthampton, MA)
Copyright: 2006 New Mass Media
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)


Police Across the World Wake Up to the Costs of the War on

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 misdemeanor 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, then 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." Cooper's DVD, which teaches people
how to avoid arrest for marijuana possession, will also bring him fame
and 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 counterproductive so far as
marijuana is concerned, but nervously insists that he is offering no
tips that would help dealers of cocaine or methamphetamines 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), represents
growing numbers of serving policemen who have lost faith in the "War
on Drugs." "LEAP wants to end drug prohibition just as we ended
alcohol prohibition in 1933," says Cole, who argues that neither kind
of prohibition curbed consumption of the banned substances, but that
each fuelled the growth of a vast criminal empire.

Policemen 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 drug users.

Howard Roberts, 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
money for their illegal habit. Each addict steals about $90,000 worth
of property a year, whereas the cost of providing them with heroin
from the National Health Service in closely supervised treatment
programs would be only $24,000 a year.

The NHS should provide heroin to addicts on prescription, said
Roberts, as it did in the 1950s and '60s, 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.)
The NHS is actually experimenting with a return to that policy at
three places in Britain. Switzerland has been prescribing heroin to
addicts for some years now, with very encouraging results: crime rate
down, addict death rate sharply down.

If every country legalized all drugs and made 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
crime, but the collapse of criminal empires built on the international
trade in illegal drugs, now estimated to be worth $500 billion a year.
That is exactly what happened to the criminal empires founded on
bootlegging when alcohol prohibition ended in the U.S. in 1933.

But what about the innocent children who will be exposed to these
drugs if they become freely available? The answer is: nothing that
doesn't happen to them now. There are no cities and few rural areas in
the developed world where you cannot buy any illegal drug within half
a 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 a
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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