Pubdate: Thu, 24 May 2012
Source: Southtown Star (Tinley Park, IL)
Copyright: 2012 Digital Chicago, Inc.
Author: James Gierach


Orland Township Youth and Family Counseling sponsored a recent drug
abuse symposium at Sandburg High School in reaction to a sharp rise in
heroin-related use, arrests and deaths among youths in the
Orland-Palos area.

Concerned parents and students gathered in the gymnasium to hear
lengthy presentations from mainstream speakers who included a
recovered drug addict now in the treatment business, an Orland Park
police commander and a spokesperson for a drug treatment consortium.

All three speakers were supporters of the drug war, and all three make
their living off the unintended consequences of the war on drugs -
namely more crime, more drugs and more kids needing treatment. None of
the speakers gave any hint of appreciation of the fact that they're on
the side of the likes of Al Capone and today's drug cartels and street
gangs in favoring the United Nations/U.S. costly and ineffective drug
prohibition policy.

Each speaker stoked the fires of heroin fear, talked of the need for
greater heroin awareness and called for early treatment. And each
overlooked the most salient fact of the night - every case of student
heroin use, overdose and death was the result of "prohibited heroin"
and not "legalized heroin."

Numerous Latin American leaders are noticing and calling for the
legalization, control and regulation of drugs rather than more failed
prohibition, as I sought to do as a speaker at Sandburg that night. My
request was based upon my years as a Cook County prosecutor and my
long-time advocacy for the legalization, control and regulation of
now-illegal drugs.

In February, for example, I was a guest speaker in Mexico City along
with 37 other drug policy experts and national leaders from around the
world, including the former presidents of Switzerland and Colombia,
Mexico's retired foreign minister and a representative of the UN.

I also attended in Vienna in March the 55th session of the United
Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs that reaffirmed the world's three
drug-prohibition treaties, despite 60 pages of reports documenting
increased drug use and drug trafficking around the world.

In Guatemala, President Otto Perez Molino wrote in April that the
"prohibition paradigm that inspires mainstream global drug policy
today is based on a false premise: that global drug markets can be
eradicated." He added that "drug consumption, production and
trafficking should be subject to global regulations, which means that
drug consumption should be legalized but within certain limits and

Although a vast majority of Guatemalans oppose decriminalization,
Perez Molina's comments are seen by many as ushering in a new era of

In Mexico, President Felipe Calderon has called for a national debate
on the issue. In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos said he
welcomes drug legalization if it would curtail the power of criminal
gangs that thrive on prohibition.

And in April, President Barack Obama said it was "entirely legitimate
to have a conversation about whether the (drug) laws in place are ones
that are doing more harm than good in certain places."

But this is not an emerging democracy. This is Orland Township in
2012, and the First Amendment hasn't yet bloomed when it comes to the
Orland-Palos area heroin problem.

The dictates of Orland Township officials and Orland Park police
ensured that I would not be able to speak to those attending the
public forum and would not even be permitted to pass out literature to
those in attendance.

Drug prohibition has not only led to dangerous and uncontrolled drug
use by our kids, it has also stifled the First Amendment and made our
leaders look foolish.

James E. Gierach, a Palos Park resident, is an executive board member
for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international organization
of criminal justice professionals who oppose current drug policies and
support a tight system of legalized regulation.
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