Pubdate: Mon, 27 Jul 1998
Date: 07/27/1998
Source: Irish Times (Ireland)
Author: Martin Cooke

Sir, - As reports come in that the country's problem with heroin and
other dangerous drugs is beginning to be felt in provincial towns and
rural villages, one must wonder just what can be done to stop our
young people from starting to use these dangerous substances.

Earlier this month in the United States, the Office of National Drug
Control Policy announced a $2 billion anti-drug media campaign. At the
ceremony heralding its launch in Atlanta, President Clinton told
students, "These ads are designed to knock America upside its head and
get America's attention."

Meanwhile in Britain, Home Office spending on anti-drug education has
just been increased by 188 million in a much-trumpeted strategy to
educate schoolchildren as young as five years of age about the dangers
of drugs.

While such strategies may make parents feel that at least their
governments are doing something to tackle the problem, they are likely
to cause more harm than good in the long run, if only because of the
natural tendency of young people to ignore or even actively oppose the
threats and moralising of their parents' generation.

But the very fact that we should even need to consider committing such
vast sums of public money raises a larger and far more important
question: Just why are these dangerous substances so far outside the
control of responsible society that we cannot keep them out of the
hands of our children?

The answer is that drug prohibition has failed our children, and
failed them spectacularly.

Drug prohibition, far from being a form of drug control, is nothing
more than the surrendering of the control of these dangerous and
addictive substances into the hands of criminals. These so-called
"controlled substances" are, in reality, completely outside any form
of control whatsoever.

The whole root of the problem lies in the very fact that these drugs
are illegal in the first place. This very illegality gives them a
value far above their true cost. Indeed, they have become so valuable
that, as we have seen in Ireland time and time again over the past 20
years or so, all attempts to incarcerate the criminals involved in
their distribution only result in other greedy individuals stepping in
to fill the void that is created.

In June last year the United Nations estimated the total world trade
in illegal narcotics at $400 billion annually. This equates to 8 per
cent of the total legal trade in the world, and outstrips even the
automobile industry.

The UN convened a special session in June this year devoted to the
drug problem. Before this session even met, over 1,000 concerned
persons from all around the world signed an open letter to the UN
Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, which included the following: "We
believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than
drug abuse itself."

Irish signatories to this letter included Ivana Bacik, Reid Professor
of Criminal Law at TCD; Vincent Browne, journalist and lawyer; Tim
Murphy, lecturer in Law at UCC; Daire O'Brien, editor of Himself
magazine; Niall Stokes, editor of Hot Press and chairman of the
Independent Radio and Television Commission; and Olaf Tyaransen,
writer and journalist.

These dissenters from all around the world are neither "devious" nor
motivated by some concern to see the drug problem in their countries
get worse, especially as it relates to children. They simply

understand that drug prohibition has not protected our children, no
more than alcohol prohibition protected American children in the 1920s.

Prohibition does not work. Prohibition never has worked. Prohibition
never will work. And until the world wakes up to this fact we will
continue to see the lives of more and more of our children destroyed
by its effects.

- Yours, etc.,

Corcormick, Drumkeerin, Co Leitrim.