Pubdate: Sat, 04 Aug 2001
Source: Hartford Courant (CT)
Copyright: 2001 The Hartford Courant
Author: Robert Sharpe


The efforts of Hartford police to clean up drug dealing in the North End 
are no doubt well-intended, but ultimately counterproductive. Attempts to 
limit the supply of illegal drugs while demand remains constant only 
increase the profitability of drug trafficking. In terms of addictive drugs 
like heroin, a spike in street prices leads desperate addicts to increase 
criminal activity to feed desperate habits. Make no mistake, the drug war 
doesn't fight crime, it fuels crime. There are lessons to be learned from 
America's disastrous experiment with alcohol Prohibition during the early 
1900s. The drug war effectively subsidizes organized crime, while failing 
miserably at preventing use. The alcohol Prohibition was repealed in 1933 
amid concerns that the black market was not only financing organized crime, 
but also exposing minors to liquor at levels previously unheard of. Like 
modern-day drug dealers, the infamous mobsters of the 1920s and 1930s did 
not ID customers for age.

There are cost-effective alternatives to a never-ending drug war. Taxing 
and regulating marijuana, the most popular illicit drug, would close the 
gateway to hard drugs.

Pot's black market status forces marijuana smokers to come into contact 
with criminals who push harder drugs.

The lack of age controls makes it easier for kids to buy pot than beer. 
This is a recipe for disaster. Sooner or later policymakers are going to 
have to acknowledge the drug war's inherent failure.

Drug policies modeled after alcohol prohibition have given rise to a 
youth-oriented black market.

Ironically, fear of appearing "soft on crime" compels many politicians to 
support a flawed policy that ultimately subsidizes organized crime and 
fails miserably at protecting children from drugs.

Robert Sharpe


The writer is program officer for the Lindesmith Center Drug Policy 
Foundation, a Washington based organization that is working to broaden and 
better inform the public debate on drug policy.
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