Pubdate: Thu, 21 Oct 2010
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal (KS)
Copyright: 2010 The Topeka Capital-Journal
Author: Kevin Elliott


Imagine a society where marijuana, cocaine or heroin are free to
ingest at any person's own discretion -- a country where all drugs are
made legal.

"It would give us more personal freedom and personal choice on what we
do with our bodies and our minds," said James Jacobs, a law professor
at New York University.

Jacobs told audience members during a debate on the issue Wednesday
night at Washburn University that the legalization of drugs would
reduce racism, lower prison populations, slash organized crime and
create a less intrusive government.

"Overall, I don't say this lightly, and I don't say this
prophetically," he said, "We would be much, much better off."

Topeka physician Eric Voth, however, doesn't picture the scenario with
such a rosy outcome.

"Besides the really big party that would take place, think how law
school enrollment would go up for defense attorneys and prosecutors,"
Voth said in his prediction that drug-related crimes would skyrocket
if illegal drug use becomes decriminalized. "You have to realize that
drug use isn't a victimless crime."

Voth, a nationally recognized drug policy expert, and Jacobs, a
constitutional law and criminal justice authority, took turns arguing
their positions on legalizing marijuana, as well as the
decriminalization of all illegal drugs.

Preferring a legal and regulated drug market, Jacobs said control
could be similar to that of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. Focus then
could be placed on voluntary addiction treatment, rather than the
current model of combating specific drugs.

Voth said the overall costs to society would outweigh any perceived
benefits to legalizing marijuana and other drugs.

"I have no moral cross to bear. I'm a physician," he said in framing
the issue from a public health standpoint.

Reflecting on the more than 4,000 drug addicts he has treated during
his career, Voth predicted legalizing drugs would result in an
increased demand for addiction treatment.

"Nothing is as oppressive as addiction," Voth said. "The addict who
can't walk away from heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana has become a
slave to that drug."

Citing that roughly 60 percent to 70 percent of all violent crimes are
committed under the influence of drugs, Voth predicts more demand
would lead to more victims. But there is money to made, as Voth said
new futures markets would be developed that would hinge their earnings
on which specific drugs would become most used and profitable.

"Imagine the billions and billions of dollars that would be created
through those markets off of other people's pain and suffering," he

Addressing marijuana use specifically, Voth said more than 450
different substances are found in marijuana whose effects on the body
can be harmful, particularly to children. Efforts to legalize its use
for medical purposes, he said, is a "Trojan horse" for those who wish
to legalize the drug.

"That is all very dramatic," Jacobs responded. "But it's all just a
demonization of a plant -- it's just a plant folks."
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