Pubdate: Wed, 15 Dec 1999
Date: 12/15/1999
Source: City Paper (MD)
Author: Henry Cohen

"The End" (12/1) mentions that, in April 1988, Mayor Schmoke "argued
that drugs should be a matter of public-health rather than
law-enforcement policy." As a result, City Paper quotes a friend of
Schmoke's saying, "He got the crap beat out of him."

But he got the crap beat out of him only politically. Of course,
sadly, he didn't fight back. The continuation of drug prohibition is
the legacy of the Schmoke years. Crime could have been reduced by 75
percent or more if drug prohibition had not kept the price of illegal
drugs artificially high. These inflated prices gave addicts the
incentive to commit crimes to afford their fixes, and drug dealers the
incentive to push their product in the inner city. No one favors drug
prohibition more than drug dealers.

Ending drug prohibition could have saved taxpayers $35,000 per
nonviolent prisoner per year, and this money could have been used for
education, drug treatment, and repairing the inner city. Instead we
imprison sick people, and the new mayor pledges more of the same.

In Boston, in the mid-1600s, the Puritans cut off the ears of Quakers
for believing in the "wrong" religion. In the United States, in the
late 1900s, the martini drinkers lock up cocaine, heroin, and
marijuana users for using the "wrong" drugs. We have less excuse.
Given the knowledge of the time, the Puritans could have genuinely
believed that the Quakers' beliefs were causing their problems. By
contrast, given our experience with alcohol prohibition, we know that
drug prohibition, not drugs, is causing our problems. Yet we persist
in our failed policy.

Let us hope that the new mayor's position on drug prohibition was just
a strategy to get him elected. Once in office, perhaps he will show
more courage than did Mayor Schmoke.

Henry Cohen