Pubdate: Sat, 08 May 1999
Source: Standard-Times (MA)
Copyright: 1999 The Standard-Times
Author:  PAUL M. BISCHKE, Syracuse, NY


The surest way to alleviate the problems Ross Grace Jr. described in his
April 30 column concerning New Bedford's illegal drug traffic is
legalization, which simply means replacing intensive criminalization with
sensible civil regulation.

Criminalization reduces society's control over pleasure drugs since there
are no standards for dose, purity and age limits in the black-market
distribution system. Many Americans say they want to reduce drug problems,
but they insist that the only distribution system must continue to be the
black market. You can't have it both ways.

The Drug War creates more problems than the drugs themselves. I've seen the
results of intensified drug interdiction while living in another
Northeastern city, Syracuse, New York. It didn't create a pristine city, but
rather a series of drug-war zones. In New Bedford's drug-war escalation, you
should expect dramatic news stories, but not an improved or safer urban

Mr. Grace misuses the term "poison" in relation to street drugs. The
unreliable quality, unknown dose, and impurity of street drugs makes some of
them toxic, especially those requiring processing (meth, heroin, etc.). I
heartily agree that kids shouldn't use any street drugs. However, kids can
buy poisons every day (Drano, ammonia, etc.) in grocery and hardware stores.
A campaign against selling poison to kids is generally a different issue
than drug control. Contact your local poison control center.

People go to drug dealers to buy drugs that afford pleasure. Some pleasure
drugs are toxic at relatively low doses, for example, alcohol and MDMA.
Other drugs have much wider margins of safety before becoming toxic, for
example marijuana and psilocybin. The point is that the use of pleasure
drugs cannot generally be equated with ingesting poisons. Dose is of vital

Mr. Grace called the drug-use and drug-marketing in New Bedford a "cancer"
(the favorite term of drug czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey). Cancer is generally
treated more successfully by doctors than by police squads. Perhaps New
Bedford should seek a public-health solution to its "cancer."


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