Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jul 2008
Source: DrugSense Weekly (DSW)
Section: Feature Article
Author: Stephen Young
Note: Stephen Young is an editor with DrugSense Weekly and author of 
How to Inhale the Universe Without Wheezing and other Unconventional 
Asthma Lessons published by


Raymond Figueroa says he's fighting gangs by selling liquor.

Figueroa, a former judge and Chicago City Alderman, was featured in 
the Chicago Tribune earlier this week for his efforts to discourage 
gang activity in his frequently chaotic Humboldt Park neighborhood ( 
see the story here - ).

Figueroa uses a liquor store he operates as headquarters for his campaign.

The story presented Figueroa as a guy who's trying to bring order to 
his neighborhood, but it raised questions from critics who wonder how 
a liquor store helps the community. According to the story, it's not 
the product, it's the atmosphere Figueora is trying to create in his 
business.  He doesn't allow gang members in the store; he calls 
police if there is gang trouble; he doesn't allow the "N-word" in the 
business; he tries to help teens in trouble; and offers cash for 
those who turn in guns to police.

He is lauded by many for those stands, but then I got to a part of 
the article that made me question Figueroa's intentions.

According to the story: "Figueroa is asking businesses along the 
Division Street business corridor, dubbed the 'Paseo Boricua,' to 
cease selling flavored cigars, which are emptied of tobacco and 
filled with marijuana or crack cocaine. Figueroa then hopes to 
present signed petitions to the City Council advocating a citywide ban."

I find it amusing that a guy who profits from liquor sales thinks the 
world will be a better place if no one could buy cigars to fill with marijuana.

Aside from showing that cannabis prohibition is a total joke ( We 
can't stop the pot, so let's ban the delivery systems! ), any liquor 
salesman who supports marijuana paraphernalia prohibition doesn't 
understand what's really going on in his own community. Indeed, it's 
easy to understand why liquor sellers want booze to be the only legal 
intoxicant - he's looking out for his own interests, not the 
community's interests.  Liquor is more damaging to individuals and 
communities than marijuana, and prohibition is more damaging than legal liquor.

Take cannabis out of the legal equation - start collecting taxes on 
it instead of wasting police time on it.  Let police spend time on 
violence instead of kids smoking blunts. Then the gangs have no 
reason to use violence in the cannabis market, just as they have no 
reason to use violence within the alcohol market. Violence is only a 
business asset in black markets - in legal markets other ways are 
found to resolve disputes.

Prohibition is, and has always been, a gang empowerment program. If 
this were the 1920s, Figueora would be the public enemy, and cannabis 
smokers would be on the right side of the law. It was the gangbangers 
of the 1920 who used alcohol prohibition as a ladder to increased influence.

Would Figueroa prefer if the gangs still controlled liquor, or would 
he prefer a responsible member of the community (like himself) to be 
in charge of distribution in his neighborhood? I suspect he'd prefer 
the second option.

Liquor sellers couldn't be responsible members of the community in 
the 1920s. It makes no sense to insist cannabis sellers be put in the 
same bind by a law that doesn't work.

Maybe a liquor store can improve the community. But not as long as 
prohibition is still part of its agenda.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake