Pubdate: Mon, 5 Oct 2009
Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Page: 22
Copyright: 2009 Herald and Weekly Times
Author: Alan Howe, Herald Sun
Cited: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Bookmark: (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)


EVEN among the bulging annals of American improbability, this meeting 
was right up there.

The two most famous faces on the planet joined in a war on drugs -- 
the War on Terror of its day.

Since mid-1969, US president Richard Nixon had toyed with the notion 
of declaring drugs public enemy No.1.

Then, late in 1970, he received a surprise call from the King. Not a 
phone call. Elvis Presley turned up, uninvited, at the White House 
asking to see the president.

"I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and communist 
brainwashing techniques," he told the fascinated Nixon.

"And I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will 
do the most good . . . the drug culture, the hippie elements, Black 
Panthers, etc, do not consider me as their enemy, or as they call it 
The Establishment. I call it America and I love it, sir."

He asked to be made a Federal Agent at Large. Nixon presented him 
with the badge. Elvis presented Nixon with a World War II-era Colt 
45, the pair nicely ticking off America's twin evils.

Nixon kept the meeting secret for a time and months later launched 
his offensive against the drugs scourge.

What a dream ticket: Presley, the biggest rock star of all time, 
would be dead in just over six years, having consumed 19,000 doses of 
sedatives, stimulants and narcotics in his last 30 months; the 
gin-soaked Nixon, sometimes too drunk to take calls from other world 
leaders, liked to pop a mood-altering prescription drug called 
Dilantin, illegally supplied to him in 1000-capsule bottles.

The US war on drugs is estimated to have cost more than $1 trillion 
- -- more than enough money to put Osama bin Laden on the moon. It puts 
a million Americans in jail each year.

Plenty of Australians are jailed each year, too, for possessing and 
using illegal drugs.

In a little-publicised contribution to Kevin Rudd's 2020 summit last 
year, Brisbane doctor Wendell Rosevear, who has worked in the prison 
system for decades, called for all drugs to be legalised. He believes 
the billions of dollars spent in Australia on policing, convicting 
and jailing addicts and their suppliers should be spent on drug 
intervention and education programs.

"Drugs are illegal, so we put people in jail to solve the problem and 
we label people who use drugs as bad -- it doesn't make them feel 
valuable," he said. "If we think we can just put it out of sight, out 
of mind, we are actually devaluing people and not solving the problem."

Given that the West's various wars on drugs have failed so miserably, 
perhaps we should look more closely at Rosevear's proposals.

Certainly, he is not alone. Arriving in Australia today is Norm 
Stamper, the legendary former chief of the Seattle police, and also a 
campaigner for legalisation of all drugs.

Stamper is being hosted by the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, 
which believes we can minimise the damage from the drugs trade -- the 
violence, property crimes and deadly infectious diseases, not to 
mention the dizzying and untaxed profits being made by Australia's 
drug gangs -- if we relax our laws.

"That America proclaimed drugs public enemy No.1 and declared all-out 
war on them I now see as a colossal mistake," Stamper said from 
Washington state at the weekend as he prepared for his trip.

"The war was not against drugs so much as it was against people," he 
said. "Particularly people of colour, and young people and poor people.

"We've incarcerated tens of millions of non-violent drug offenders 
and yet drugs are more readily available, at lower prices and higher 
levels of potency than when we declared war against them."

I'd call that failure. He does. You'd probably agree.

Stamper is a prominent member of a 13,000-strong international 
organisation called LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) that 
includes current and former police officers, district attorneys, drug 
enforcement administration officers, homeland security agents, 
prosecutors, judges and prison wardens who want an end to the 
prohibition of now-illegal drugs.

They see the lessons of the US Prohibition 90 years ago being 
forgotten. Back then, alcohol manufacture, sale and transportation 
were outlawed. It barely affected consumption, but it led to deeply 
rooted criminal systems being established and crime rates soaring as 
demand was met, albeit illegally. Like it is with serious drugs today.

STAMPER sees "softer" drugs, such as marijuana, being decriminalised 
first, and when lessons are learned, harder drugs following suit.

Having worked in San Diego, he has first-hand experience of the 
Mexico towns that are now are the front line of the drug cartel wars 
for control of the lucrative drugs trade.

Ideally, Stamper sees the state growing, manufacturing and 
controlling the supply of drugs, although LEAP does not have a view on this.

Of course, that's a much stricter regime than we have for the 
manufacture and sale of alcohol, notwithstanding the alcohol-fuelled 
violence that so regularly sees injury and death on Melbourne streets. 
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