Pubdate: Mon, 15 Jan 2007
Source: Packet, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2007 Transcontinental Media
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 
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 

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 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, 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, 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 end.

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