Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jun 2008
Source: Battle Creek Enquirer (MI)
Copyright: 2008 Battle Creek Enquirer
Author: Joseph Hepp
Note: Joseph T. Hepp of Battle Creek is a retired executive.
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


The war against the sale and use of illegal drugs has received very 
little media attention during our current political campaigns - 
probably because both parties feel that it is politically correct to 
oppose any form of legalization. It should be an issue because, in 
spite of the valiant efforts on the part of our law enforcement 
people, we are not winning this war! Besides not winning, it is 
costing taxpayers billions and billions of dollars for enforcement, 
not to mention increased crime.

The high demand for illegal drugs remains strong in America and since 
it is a highly profitable business, the drug dealers will continue to 
find ways to meet the demand. We read about big drug busts and about 
the confiscation of large amounts of illegal drugs but very little 
about the overall success of the war on drugs.  In some ways the 
prohibition of illegal drugs has created an appeal - you know the 
reaction of some people when a movie is banned.

There are similarities between the drug war and the prohibition of 
alcohol (1920-33) which was an action taken to reduce crime and 
corruption. Unfortunately, conditions actually got worse, more crime 
and corruption, along with lost tax revenue. Also many drinkers 
switched to drugs. I remember traveling to Oklahoma and Texas in the 
1950s when you could easily buy alcohol "under the counter" but not 
legally, with some exceptions in Texas. Oklahoma voters repealed 
total prohibition in 1959 but there were still many restrictions and 
the situation differed county by county - some were "dry" counties. 
The bootleggers opposed the repeal of prohibition for obvious reasons.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1998 estimated the cost 
of drug abuse to society to be $143.4 billion and the projected cost 
for the year 2000 at $160.7 billion. So you can guess at what current 
cost levels are. Drug abuse was defined as the consequences of using 
illicit drugs, as well as societal costs pertaining to the 
enforcement of drug laws (not including costs related to dependence 
upon alcohol, tobacco and prescription medications).

The estimated direct cost of the war on drugs is between $40 billion 
and $50 billion - federal government $19 billion, state and local law 
enforcement $10 billion and $10-$20 billion to keep drug users in 
prison, with indirect costs being considerably higher.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimated the number of drug related 
arrests in 2004 as follows:

.  For sales/manufacture of illegal drugs: 319,500.

.  For possession of illegal drugs: 1,426,200

.  Total: 1,745,700

Another source had an arrest figure for 2006 at 1,889,810 so it's 
probably safe to assume that the arrests were even greater in 2007.

Also, according to the Justice Department, in 2006, there were 
7,211,400 people in the U.S. corrections system as follows:

a) 4,237,023 on probation

b) 798,202 on parole

c) 766,010 in local jails

d) 1,492,973 in state and federal prison

Over 93,000 inmates in federal prison were incarcerated for drug 
offenses while the state prisons held 249,400 inmates for drug 
offenses. In 2006, it was estimated that it cost state prisons $67.55 
per day for each prisoner or a whopping $6,149,144,050 per year to 
support the 249,400 inmates incarcerated just for drug offenses.

The Mexican drug cartels are the main drug traffickers in the U.S. 
Since illegal drugs are a very profitable business, these cartels 
have become extremely vicious, powerful and dangerous - so much so 
that the Mexican government is unable to put them out of business. 
More than 2,000 Mexicans died in drug-related gangland style killings 
in 2006. Due to the high profitability of illicit drugs many street 
gangs, prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs have evolved into 
well-organized, profit-driven criminal organizations. Even the 
Islamic terrorists get much of their financial support from illegal 
drug dealing.

It is quite apparent that the only real solution to our drug problem 
is to eliminate the profitability of illegal drug dealing (or at 
least drastically reduce it) to make dealers disappear, and crime and 
corruption will quickly decline. It will require a new nonpolitical 
drug policy based upon facts and common sense.

Here are some ideas that have been put fourth (Think about them in 
view of the above):

.  Transfer a large portion of funds used for interdiction to 
education and treatment programs and facilities, including a more 
effective program to discourage young people from using marijuana and 
other mind-altering drugs.

.  Provide incentives for young people and adults to not use 
mind-altering drugs. (I believe nonsmokers receive better insurance rates.)

.  Free up more drug enforcement people to concentrate on illegal 
immigration and terrorist threats.

.  Legalize marijuana (drug of choice in the U.S.) on a limited basis 
- - keep in mind that it is a mind-altering drug, as is alcohol.

.  Release incarcerated, nonviolent drug users. Work them back into 
the mainstream of our society.

.  Subject marijuana users to the same penalties applied to people 
under the influence of alcohol.

.  Tax any authorized sale of marijuana.

The above represents a more practical approach for substantially 
improving the effectiveness of our drug war efforts!
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake