Pubdate: Wed, 15 Apr 2009
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 2009 Star-Telegram Operating, Ltd.
Author: Bob Ray Sanders


Some readers dared me to go a giant step further than my column last 
month agreeing with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that America's 
demand for illegal drugs was a major contributor to the violent 
mega-drug-trafficking business in Mexico.

They said that rather than call for more prevention and intervention 
dollars spent on the drug problem in America, why not call for the 
only practical solution: legalization?

What most of those readers did not know is that I have long been in 
favor of at least discussing the merits (and disadvantages) of 
decriminalizing drug use and completely legalizing drugs altogether 
as a means of removing the profit -- and thus the incentive for crime 
and violence -- from the drug trade.

I agreed with Joycelyn Elders, the nation's outspoken surgeon general 
under President Bill Clinton, who suggested in 1993 that it was 
perhaps time for this country to at least "study" the idea of drug 

A year later she would be fired because of her straightforward 
approach in discussing addiction and other health issues, including 
statements about contraception distribution in schools and having the 
audacity to reply to a question about masturbation as one possible 
alternative in fighting HIV/AIDS.

Except for dialogue among a few academics and celebrities (including 
some well-known conservatives), there has been very little talk about 
drug legalization.

Instead, we continue to pour money into enforcement -- with little success.

One of the most eloquent and detailed responses I received regarding 
this issue came from a self-described "52-year-old Mexican 
professional who lives, with his family, in drug-violence ridden Mexico."

This self-described retired senior environmental law enforcement 
officer, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he has witnessed 
Mexico's drug problem first-hand.

He likens what's happening in his country today to what happened in 
the United States during Prohibition in the 1920s and 1930s.

"When I was a kid, my mother used to walk me to the kindergarten, and 
on our way we crossed a public park that had bunches of red poppies," he wrote.

"To me, even as a toddler, poppies were so beautiful, that I can 
still close my eyes and see them quivering in the breeze," he said.

After U.S.-led pressure and the first domestic drug-prohibition laws 
in his country, "the poppies were yanked out of public parks and 
substituted by rose bushes. I have never seen another poppy grow in 
Mexico, whether in the wild or cultivated -- and that was more than 
45 years ago," the man wrote.

In his 10-point, six-page treatise, this Mexican citizen compared the 
Chicago gang syndicate to his country's drug cartels, which grew more 
powerful and diversified into other businesses (gambling, 
prostitution, etc.), all the while forcing the government to spend 
more money enforcing prohibition than on the true necessities for society.

He said that in Mexico, the government "began its decades-long 
love-hate relationship with drug lords, which meant, among other 
things, that drug leaders soon discovered, quite naturally, that it 
was far easier and cheaper to buy law enforcement officers than 
fighting them. Even today, cartels ... ask new police and military 
personnel what will be their choice: silver or lead? With such a 
convincing argument, what do we expect them to choose?"

Just as in Mexico, where more and more dollars are being spent on 
"national security" to fight drugs and on electoral monitoring to 
pinpoint politicians who possibly have been "bought" by the drug 
cartels, the money we spend on drug enforcement in the United States 
is way out of proportion to many other needs facing this country.

I'm certainly familiar with the argument that legalization will cause 
an increase in the number of addicts, contributing to more 
individual, family and societal problems.

I also know there is a huge drug-enforcement industry that would 
suffer if suddenly drugs were no longer illegal.

But then, what if the billions now spent on enforcing the prohibition 
resulted in an equal amount of dollars in new taxes under a legalized system?

Would it be worth it?

It's time we at least started talking about it. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake