Pubdate: Mon, 04 Jul 2011
Source: Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
Copyright: 2011 The Morning Call Inc.
Author: Bill White


There have been a lot of lopsided military defeats over the years, but
I'm not sure any of them have been as one-sided as our dismal
trouncing in the war on drugs.

I've read estimates that we've spent a trillion dollars since
President Nixon declared a war on drugs 40 years ago last month. If
our goal was overflowing prisons, legions of dead police officers and
federal agents, thriving drug dealers, urban battlegrounds controlled
by gangs of thugs, grossly inadequate rehabilitation efforts and no
reduction of drug use, we could declare "mission accomplished."

But if we expected anything good to happen, it's been 40 years and a
trillion dollars of Custer's Last Stand.

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli announced last
week that county prosecutors had enjoyed a record year for drug
forfeitures. They seized $283,406 in ill-gotten gains over the past
fiscal year, and some of the funds will help support the Bethlehem K-9
unit and Easton police emergency response team.

I'm happy to see drug dealers soaked to help support local police
departments. But we have to stop pretending that any of this makes a
significant difference when it comes to winning this war -- and start
talking seriously about a new course.

If we did away with the failed war on drugs altogether, local police
resources could be redirected to more serious crimes. We could stop
building prisons, ease the burden on our courts and stop pouring tens
of billions every year into federal drug enforcement. Law enforcement
corruption and street violence would be drastically reduced.

If drugs were legalized, licensed and taxed, we'd not only be spending
less on government, we'd be bringing in more. All that extra cash
would enable us to ramp up efforts at drug education and
rehabilitation, woefully neglected under the present set of
priorities. By imposing age limits, we also could better keep drugs
away from young people. I guarantee you that drug dealers aren't
checking IDs.

Who would be hurt? Well, it would put a heck of a crimp in organized
crime, just as it did to the Al Capone types in the '30s when we ended
our last Prohibition. If I can buy it legally at reasonable prices --
and know exactly what ingredients it contains -- in a drugstore, why
should I deal with a bunch of gun-toting punks on a street corner?

The Libertarian Party has been pushing legalization for years, and on
the 40th anniversary of the war on drugs last month, I ran the
Libertarians' entire press release on the subject on my blog.

Increasingly, they're not alone. Consider the group Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition, in which criminal justice professionals are
pushing to put legalization on the table for serious discussion.

The group's website explains, "Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is
an international organization of criminal justice professionals who
bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our
current drug policies. Our experience on the front lines of the 'war
on drugs' has led us to call for a repeal of prohibition and its
replacement with a tight system of legalized regulation, which will
effectively cripple the violent cartels and street dealers who control
the current illegal market."

This isn't Cheech and Chong. These are chiefs of police, judges, state
cops, former undercover narcs. They've seen firsthand that we're
losing this war, yet our federal government -- including the current
administration-- shows little sign that it's seriously interested in
changing course.

Still, politicians may be forced to wise up. Gallup has been polling
Americans for years on whether marijuana should be legalized, and the
"yes" responses have been steadily growing, hitting a new high of 46
percent last year. Fourteen states have decriminalized marijuana
possession, and LEAP media relations director Tom Angell told me three
are expected to put legalization on their ballots next year.

To avoid clashes with federal enforcers, a bill recently was
introduced in Congress that would allow states to legalize marijuana.
It was co-sponsored by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul, who
collectively cover a heck of a wide political spectrum. That's typical
of this fight.

Marijuana is a good start, but it shouldn't stop there. The most
serious argument against legalizing drugs -- that more people would use
them if it were legal -- runs counter to what has happened in other
countries where drugs have been legalized, Angell pointed out. "In
Portugal," he said, "they decriminalized all drugs several years ago,
and in most age categories, drug use has actually gone down."

Either way, it makes no sense to continue down this same failed path.
Forty years of losing is a long time.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.