Pubdate: Fri, 02 Dec 2011
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2011 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper
Author: Jerry Epstein


Regarding "Rare public divide between police, DA" (Page A1, 
Wednesday), cheers for Pat Lykos and her efforts to move Houston law 
enforcement toward a more productive use of time and money.

National polls for decades have shown the general public wants more 
attention paid to violent crime, drunk drivers, child abusers and the 
like, as opposed to arrests of people not shown to have harmed anyone 
but who simply possessed minor amounts of illegal drugs.

Most of these arrests are for marijuana, a drug that is not only much 
less dangerous than alcohol, but one that tends to suppress the 
violent behavior more strongly correlated with alcohol than with any 
other drug.

Ray Hunt, vice president of the Houston Police Officers Union, makes 
a statement that crack is the most addictive drug that there is. In 
17 years of research on expert opinion and studies, I've yet to see a 
single scientific claim to support this sort of hyperbole. Such 
propaganda can serve to rouse public fears and distract from 
marijuana enforcement, which is the misguided core of the drug war.

As a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) I have 
great respect for police. I am also aware that, as in many 
bureaucracies, the quest for money and power has been known to 
transcend the public interest.

Those who abuse or are addicted to alcohol (over 80 percent of all 
cases) come from the broad general population, but with the other 
drugs, over 90 percent of problem users come from people with alcohol 
problems. About 90 percent of cocaine addicts suffer with both drugs 

A government report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health 
Services Administration showed that 75 percent of the people who 
tried crack for the first time gave it up entirely within a year. 
There are now about 18 million alcohol problem users, about 70 times 
more than crack.

Nixon's National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse said in 1973 
that "incorrect assumptions" about alcohol were the single biggest 
reason for our policy failures and that confusing "drug use" with 
harmful use was another.

DA Lykos has made a small but important step to provide better public safety.

- - Jerry Epstein, president, Drug Policy Forum of Texas, Houston
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