Pubdate: Thu, 05 Apr 2007
Source: Vue Weekly (CN AB)
Copyright: 2007, Vue Weekly.
Author: Gwynne Dyer


Dyer Straight

Barry Cooper's new DVD, Never Get Busted Again, which went on sale
over the internet late last year, 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.

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 so-called 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-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, who spent 26 years with the New Jersey police and
whose organization, 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 fueled the growth of a vast
criminal empire. It is police 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 law enforcement official 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 programs 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? 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 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

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles
are published in 45 countries. His column appears regularly in Vue
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek