Pubdate: Sat, 25 Jun 2011
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2011 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: Jose de la Isla


Four decades ago, I was a drug warrior. I was recruited in 1972 to
administer the think-tank portion of the Drug Abuse Council.

Addictive drug use (heroin and cocaine) was on the rise.
"Recreational" use of marijuana, hashish and other substances were
increasing. An alarmed public looked at drug abuse as the leading
cause of property crime.

Youth values and attitudes were considered to be running amok - like
protests and resistance to Richard Nixon's conduct of the Vietnam war.
He had run for president appealing to the "silent majority" who wanted
government to get tough on crime and pot-smokers.

But at the council, we began to realize in a very short time how
marijuana and hashish could originate in many places or that opium
poppy from Afghanistan and cocaine from South America were not easy to
control. Other concoctions could be made with a good chemistry set. It
was evident that the "interdiction policy," with lots of uniforms,
equipment, guns, sophisticated intelligence methods and huge payrolls
were the makings of a new industry.

To get a fix on what was going on, some serious thinkers served as
"fellows." Wesley Pomeroy, head of security at Woodstock and later
Berkeley's police chief, provided insight into how good
law-enforcement works. The sociology and ethnology of Jerry Mandel and
Harvey Feldman was state of the art. David Musto completed his classic
book, "An American Disease," about how the marijuana laws came about.

English psychiatrist Margret Trip compared how the British approached
the same concerns. Carl Akins provided the very first federal-budget
estimates as to how much the government was really spending on
drug-abuse control. Mathea Falco became a research-based and family
and children's advocate.

Larry Redlinger contributed a template for understanding how
illicit-drug production and consumer use operates like any business.
Trade routes - whether heroin tar or marijuana harvests, moved through
places like "El Chuco" (El Paso, Texas) through small-time
supply-chain "mules" to the border regions and later almost to any
port of entry. Competition through drug rivalries could reduce street
values, and price wars could erupt into localized violence as more
users and franchises grew. Supply chains were interrupted by
government efforts but hardly eliminated.

Most shocking of all is how supply chains were probably used by
para-government units for alternative sources of funds and to buy
support for various groups.

Nearly 40 years ago we already could see this coming about, leading
some fellows to advocate decriminalization and treatment reforms in
Social Policy magazine. Yesterday's controversial proposal is today's
common sense.

Recently, former president Jimmy Carter, a Nobel laureate, endorsed
the finding of other former presidents and prominent world leaders
that the drug war, as we know it, is a failure and it must end.

It is a responsible act to control the illicit movement of hundreds of
billions of laundered dollars, reduce the untold number of prisoners
for minor wrong-doing, revolving-door medical treatment and the
mockery made of law enforcement. Not to adopt a new course is doubly
irresponsible after what we have learned in 40 years about
psychotropic drugs. Neuroscience can now replace phobias, moral
preachings and political rhetoric as our public-policy guide.

There are sensible measures budget-cutters can take if they want to
reduce government and spending. A start begins by looking at
globalized, heavy-handed, militarized drug enforcement.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.