Pubdate: Tue, 20 Feb 2007
Source: Polk County Democrat, The (FL)
Copyright: 2007 Polk County Democrat
Author: Brett Lowe, Staff Writer
Cited: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Christ, Peter)
Bookmark: (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)


Prohibition didn't work for alcohol, so maybe it's about time to 
realize that it's not working for drugs, either, and should be stopped.

That's the position Peter Christ of Law Enforcement Against 
Prohibition put forth for Tiger Bay Club members to consider.

Also commenting on the issue were Brad Copley from the office of the 
state attorney, 10th Judicial Circuit, and Marion Moorman, public defender.

Christ said his main objective was to end the drug war. He believes 
that the war is ineffective, and causes more harm than legalizing and 
regulating drugs would.

Eighty-five percent of drug-related deaths are due to battles over 
the marketplace, he said, while only 15 percent were related to individuals.

People who are arrested for drug use are often sent to prison instead 
of going to treatment centers for help. This is a not a good 
solution, especially as there is not one drug-free prison in 
existence, he said - criminals just make new connections in prison.

Arrests of drug dealers only serve to open up vacancies for others, he added.

Copley responded by saying that the thought of buying 
methamphetamines at a local drug store was ridiculous. He said that 
drugs are too addictive and life-destroying to be allowed to be sold 
in such a fashion.

In the war on drugs, it is important to attack everything on all 
levels, he said.

Moorman said that he views the war on drugs much like many people 
view the war in Iraq - he supports the troops, but is against the war.

He noted that the only humans not to use psychoactive drugs 
historically were the Eskimos, and that is because they had no access 
to those kinds of plants. After the drugs were introduced, they took 
to them just as had other peoples had before them.

Enforcement is a problem, Moorman said.

Losing the War on Drugs

When asked if the nation had lost the war on drugs, Copley replied 
that law enforcement could never wipe out drugs, but that doesn't 
mean the war is lost.

Christ said that the war on drugs is lost, and that it is now a 
social problem that must be dealt with.

Moorman agreed, saying that the collateral damage was unacceptable. 
The drug war has disproportionately fallen upon the poor blacks in 
the street as opposed to the rich whites taking ecstasy in the clubs, he said.

If drugs were legalized, Christ did not believe that they would 
become a widespread problem. Fifty-one percent of adults do not drink 
alcohol, he said. Addiction is a personal problem, and not everyone 
is going to take these drugs and become addicted.

Moorman said that meth does ravage those who use it, and he would not 
like to see it made more available. However, he said that no 
normal-thinking person would want to take meth even if it did become legal.

More deadly overdoses occur from people taking prescription drugs 
like Vicodin than from illegal drugs, he said.

Copley claimed that the public had seen only the tip of the iceberg 
if drugs were to be made legal. He was concerned about what happens 
to the children if the parents become hopeless addicts, who only care 
about the drugs.

Taxes from Legalized Drugs

One person asked panelists to give an estimate as to how much money 
could be made if marijuana were to be legalized and taxed.

Moorman said that he didn't know the economics to provide numbers, 
but said that marijuana was the number on cash crop in the United 
States. He said that the war on drugs had forced marijuana growers to 
innovate in their methods, and now they could make a lot of money 
growing out of small inside rooms with special lights and hydroponics.

While Copley could provide no estimate, he said that the social cost 
would far outweigh any of the monetary gains that could be made 
through legalizing marijuana.

Christ said money would immediately be gained because there would be 
less need for the $70 billion spent to fight drugs every year. He 
said that what used to be disparagingly called the "numbers racket" 
is now the Florida lottery system, which provides money for education.

Ideally, he said, money saved on law enforcement and money earned 
through taxes on legal marijuana and other drugs could be spent on 
helping treat the problems of addiction and spreading awareness of the risks.

Winning the Tobacco War

Another questioner said America seemed to be winning the war on 
smoking without making it illegal.

Copley answered that without enforcement, the government would be 
sending too many messages that could easily get mixed. In order for 
the government to truly appear to be against drugs, it must ban them 
completely, he said.

Christ agreed about the effectiveness of education on stopping 
smoking, and also pointed out that 90 percent of smokers who 
permanently quit manage to do so going cold turkey.

Some people just want to get high, and will no matter what, Moorman 
said. But education could be more effective at reducing those 
numbers, he added. He thought that before and after pictures of meth 
users would be an effective method of showing the dangers of meth use.

Drug vs. Performance Tests

When asked about drug testing, Christ said that he preferred the 
newer method of performance tests that are used by some airlines. 
These tests are taken every day a pilot is going to fly to determine 
if things like motor skills and reaction times are up to par.

These are far more safe for the passengers, Christ said, as drug 
testing says nothing about sobriety. He preferred that his pilot be 
able to perform his job. It is important that the pilot was not 
sleepy, or distracted by personal problems; Christ didn't care what 
the pilot did in his off hours.

Moorman opposes drug testing unless there is probable cause, but 
Copley said that they were a necessary evil and that he had no 
problem with them.

Moorman closed by repeating his problem with drug law enforcement 
causing problems mostly for the poor. He also said that it is 
possible to still be a constructive member of society even as a 
drug-user, citing the belief that the late Chief Justice William 
Rehnquist was probably addicted to prescription painkillers.

Legalized drugs would be too damaging to society, and that those on 
drugs only desire to get their next fix, Copley said. He said that 
the deterrent effect of criminalizing drugs was one of the strongest 
weapons in the war on drugs.

Christ gave the example of an alcoholic who drank every day, but 
didn't drink and drive and didn't hurt other people or property.

"What we do against them? What do we do for them?" he asked.

Nothing is done against such an individual, he said. But they are 
guaranteed purity of product through regulation, a safe place to buy 
or use the product in bars or liquor stores, and treatment on demand.

"But what about the user of illegal drugs?" Christ asked.

Someone who is convicted of using drugs but turns his life around 
will have the stigma of that felony charge follow him for the rest of 
his life. Users don't often know what all the drug producers have 
added to their drug of choice, and they definitely do not have a safe 
place to buy or use these drugs when they have to go down dark alleys 
to obtain them.

Treatment on demand is offered, but only if they accept the felony 
charges first, he said.

More than 450,000 people die tobacco-related deaths annually, 150,000 
deaths are related to alcohol, and 30,000 are related to illegal 
drugs. Christ maintained that it just did not make sense to keep the 
status quo. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake