Pubdate: Thu, 27 Feb 2014
Source: Equinox, The (NH Edu)
Copyright: 2014 The Equinox
Author: Pamela Bump


A recent Business Insider report of the 50 "Most On-Campus Drug 
Arrests Per 1,000 Students," ranked Keene State College at number 20. 
On a wider scale, KSC has contributed to a small percentage of 
drug-related arrests made nationally since President Richard Nixon's 
"War on Drugs" began. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP, 
has proposed one possible way of reducing future drug use and drug 
related arrests in the United States; legalizing all drugs at once.

"This [drug use] is a health problem, not a crime problem. Let's not 
let the criminal justice system take care of this issue. Let's save a 
whole bunch of money and a whole bunch of lives and help educate 
people. We have to end prohibition in order to do this. We legalize 
all drugs. Drugs like marijuana, drugs like cocaine, drugs like 
heroin. That sounds pretty radical. We're not making it up," Richard 
Van Wickler, a speaker for LEAP, stated at the non-profit 
organization's KSC presentation on Tuesday Feb. 18.

The event in the Lloyd P. Young Student Center's Mabel Brown Room was 
led by Van Wickler, a KSC adjunct who spoke on behalf of LEAP. Van 
Wickler also serves as the Superintendent of Cheshire County Dept. of 
Corrections. The event discussed prohibition, its problematic history 
and an explanation of why all drugs should be legalized, as proposed 
by the organization.

One major topic discussed was Nixon's "War On Drugs." Van Wickler 
explained that Nixon coined the phrase "War on Drugs" during his 
second term presidential campaign. Nixon argued that, "College kids 
were using drugs in epidemic proportions and that it would destroy 
America," according to Van Wickler.

As Van Wickler educated the audience on the history of prohibition, 
he explained that in 1914, "One of the reasons that they [the 
government] decided that drugs needed to be illegal was because 
one-point-three percent of the population at that time were addicted 
to a substance or a drug." Van Wickler later noted that in 1970, 
"They [government] wanted to know how many people were addicted, that 
made this [War on Drugs] such an incredible urgent mission. It was 
one-point-three percent."

"After the trillion dollars, thirty-eight million arrests and this 
'Get tough on crime' to try and create a drug-free society, they 
wanted to know what was the percentage on the population in 2002 that 
were addicted to drugs. That was one-point-three percent," Van Wickler stated.

Despite the non-changing percentage, Van Wickler said, "In 2003, we 
spent sixty-nine billion dollars in one year just for drug 
intervention alone. In 2011, it was eighty-eight billion dollars." 
Van Wickler expanded, "In 1950, we had 250 thousand people 
incarcerated, and then in 1970, we went to 338 thousand. In 1990 
one-point-one-million, and in 2000, one-point-nine-million. It took 
over two-hundred years to put the first million citizens in jail and 
it took a little over ten years to put the second million in jail. It 
was because we wanted to fuel the 'War on Drugs.'"

Van Wickler expanded on the negative influence of drugs, like heroin. 
"In 1979, twenty-eight people died from heroin overdoses. In 2000 
there was 141 deaths. In the last two weeks in New York City, eighty 
people have died from heroin overdoses. You don't know what's in that 
product. You buy it, you shoot it, you die," Van Wickler stated.

Van Wickler continued, "Heroin use in the United States, in the last 
five years, has doubled. We now have over 700 thousand people who use 
heroin. Tax dollars that we spent prosecuting this 'War on Drugs' are 
far above one-trillion dollars right now at this point. When you look 
at the number of people that we arrested as a result of trying to 
create a drug-free society, we have arrested over thirty-eight 
million citizens."

According to the LEAP speaker, members of Law enforcement, like Van 
Wickler, work to help people with addiction who are arrested, "But as 
you become addicted to these substances, you build up a tolerance. 
When we clean you off of that and you're back on the street, and 
you're nice and clean, you get that first bag of dope and you shoot 
it. Your system is not acclimated to it." Van Wickler indicated that 
this community has seen over 20 deaths in the last 15 years of 
individuals who have been released for only days.

"In 1970, you opened the newspaper and saw, 'Oh wow. There was a bust 
for an ounce of cocaine,' or perhaps their was a quarter ounce of 
heroin--By 2002, the newspaper reports ten tons of heroin and twenty 
tons of cocaine and it's not on the front page because it's no longer 
major news," Van Wickler stated.

Van Wickler explained that these statistics have become alarming when 
researching, "What's happening to our criminal justice system, 
especially as compared to what's going on in other countries," he said.

Van Wickler noted that Switzerland is one country which does not 
believe in prosecuting its citizens for having a drug problem. Van 
Wickler noted that in the case of a medically identified addiction, 
doctors could schedule appointments with patients to give them small 
dosages of the drug as safer "fix," than they would get with 
unregulated products. Van Wickler also noted that Switzerland has not 
had an overdose since 1996, when they began this health policy. With 
the use of medically cleaned needles, the country's rates of AIDS and 
Hepatitis have also become "virtually non-existent," according to Van Wickler.

Unlike alcoholism in the U.S., "If you're addicted to an illegal 
substance-you can't get help. You'll ruin your career," stated Van 
Wickler. Van Wickler noted that the U.S. has "the toughest 
enforcement laws in the world. We're also the country with the 
highest propensity for use, abuse and addiction."

KSC junior Dayne Degrazia attended this event for a class within her 
Chemical Dependency minor, and explained that the discussion was on a 
"controversial," but important topic. Degrazia said she agreed with 
most of the presentation's ideas. "It was a very interesting event," 
Degrazia said.

Sophomore Loren Madore, who learned about similar topics of 
legalization within her Social Problems course at KSC, indicated that 
the countries she studied legalized all drugs in certain urban areas 
of these countries, but not throughout the entire country. When it 
came to ending prohibition in the U.S, Madore, oppositely from Van 
Wickler and Degrazia, stated, "I don't think it's a good idea. We [in 
the U.S] have enough problems."

Despite the controversy of the topic, Van Wickler concluded, "The war 
won't end. If it goes on its current path it will never end. The war 
would be eternal. It needs a paradigm shift."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom