Pubdate: Sun, 17 Nov 2013
Source: Star Democrat (Easton, MD)
Copyright: 2013 The Star Democrat
Author: Neill Franklin
Note: Neill Franklin is the director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.


BALTIMORE - Ninety years ago, brewing, transporting and selling 
alcohol were all federal crimes.

The prohibition of alcohol was repealed in 1933 because it supported 
large criminal organizations through the inflated prices of 
unregulated, illegal booze and because it disproportionately harmed 
the lower and middle classes.

Today we still have prohibition, its largest benefactors are still 
international criminal gangs, and its victims are still mostly the 
poor and middle-class.

The prohibition of narcotics - including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, 
LSD, and MDMA - has the same problems that alcohol prohibition did in 
its time, and then some. International drug traffickers reap huge 
profits and middle-and lower-class Americans pay the costly price of 
outdated drug policies.

For 34 years, I enforced the drug war as a police officer for the 
Maryland State and Baltimore Police Departments. My experiences on 
the front lines brought me face-to-face with the victims of the 
failed drug war: mostly good people caught in tough positions.

I reached a point where I could no longer watch the immense human, 
financial, and societal toll that our misguided policies were taking 
and I had to speak out. The cost of even a minor drug conviction is 
devastating. Employers are much less likely to hire people with 
criminal records, while students often lose access to financial 
support and can even be kicked out of school. The social 
repercussions of drug conviction often make people more likely to 
turn to crime because they're excluded from most conventional means 
of income and survival.

Even in the rare cases of eventual acquittal, low-income victims of 
the drug war may have no means to post bail and so often spend months 
in jail awaiting trial.

With no way to keep their lives in order, they can easily lose jobs, 
houses, cars, even custody of their children.

When they're released, they may have no criminal record, but they're 
left with a ruined life and few resources. This process creates a 
vicious cycle that ironically leads to more crime as the poor are 
made poorer and more desperate. This increased focus on drug 
enforcement takes attention and resources away from violent and 
property crimes, fewer of which now get solved than was the case 
before the war on drugs began.

Simultaneously, arrests for simple possession create tension between 
law enforcement and citizens, causing distrust and outright 
aggression towards police.

A mistrust of law enforcement means that people are less likely to 
call the police when there is a real emergency, thereby creating a 
space for more violent crime to occur.

The drug war is also expensive.

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world.

According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, police across the 
country made more arrests for drug abuse violations (some 1.5 
million) last year than for all violent crimes combined.

Of those, more than 82 percent were for possession, not even 
distribution or manufacturing. It costs an estimated $51 billion in 
tax dollars every year to prosecute the drug war. All this time and 
money could be used to prosecute and prevent violent crimes, and to 
improve education, transportation, and other public services. Some 
drug use can be very dangerous, but it is clear that the current 
approach to drugs in our society has been disastrously ineffective. 
Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over 
again and expecting different results." By that definition, 
prohibition is insane. We can't expect to have different results than 
we did 90 years ago by doing the same thing we did then. It's time 
for us to admit our failures and try a new approach.

This reality is being embraced by state governments. Colorado and 
Washington have legalized marijuana sales and use, 13 states have 
proposed doing the same, and 20 states plus Washington DC have 
legalized medical marijuana.

We need drug policies that reduce the harmful effects of drugs, not 
ones that create dangerous new side effects.

By legalizing drugs and taking a public health approach, we will not 
only reduce incarceration rates, we get all the perks that come along 
with it: less crime, safer communities, and more tax dollars to 
benefit society, just to name a few. Like an addict, the first step 
to recovery is to admit we have a problem. Let's become reformed 
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom