Pubdate: Mon, 04 Jul 2011 Source: Morning Call (Allentown, PA) Copyright: 2011 The Morning Call Inc. Contact: http://drugsense.org/url/DReo9M8z Website: http://www.mcall.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/275 Author: Bill White TIME TO END WAR ON DRUGS 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. - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.