Pubdate: Wed, 03 Jan 2001
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Copyright: 2001 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Contact:  900 North Tucker Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63101
Author: Robert Sharpe


M.W. Guzy's Dec. 28 column discusses the pitfalls of drug legalization but 
fails to consider anything other than total, all-out legalization. This is 
misleading. I don't think anyone in the drug policy reform movement wants 
to see advertisements calling upon TV viewers to run down to the 
convenience store to buy crack.

As for Guzy's self-professed inability to understand the need to take out 
the profit motive, perhaps I can help.

When supply of illegal drugs is successfully limited while demand remains 
constant, drug trafficking becomes more profitable. The obscene profits to 
be made guarantee replacement dealers. For addictive drugs like heroin, a 
temporary drop in supply leads to higher street prices, which means 
desperate addicts increase criminal activity to feed desperate habits. 
Those who get caught are placed in prisons that serve to transmit violent 
habits rather than reduce them. The drug war fuels crime, while failing 
miserably at preventing use.

Children are especially vulnerable. With no controls for age, the black 
market is very much youth-oriented.

There are sensible alternatives to the drug war. Replacing marijuana 
prohibition with regulation would do a better job protecting children than 
the failed drug war.

Marijuana is the most popular illicit drug. Compared to legal alcohol, 
marijuana is relatively harmless. Yet marijuana prohibition is deadly. 
While there is nothing inherent in marijuana that compels users to try 
harder drugs, its black market status puts users in contact with criminals 
who push them. Current drug policy is effectively a gateway policy.

Robert Sharpe, Program Officer, The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy 
Foundation, Washington
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