Newshawk: Tips for Getting LTEs 
Pubdate: Fri, 25 Jan 2002
Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle (MT)
Copyright: 2002 The Bozeman Daily Chronicle
Author: Robert Sharpe


The work of the Missouri River Drug Task Force (Chronicle Page 1, Jan. 21) 
is no doubt well-intended, but ultimately counterproductive. Attempts to 
limit the supply of illegal drugs while demand remains constant only 
increases the profitability of drug trafficking. In terms of addictive 
drugs like meth, a rise in street prices leads desperate addicts to 
increase criminal activity to feed desperate habits. The drug war doesn't 
fight crime, it fuels crime.

Montana's hazardous methamphetamine labs are reminiscent of the deadly 
exploding liquor stills that sprung up throughout the nation during alcohol 
prohibition. Drug policies modeled after alcohol prohibition have given 
rise to a youth-oriented black market. Illegal drug dealers don't ID for 
age, but they do recruit minors immune to adult sentences. So much for 
protecting the children.

Taxing and regulating marijuana, the most popular illicit drug, is a 
cost-effective alternative to the $50 billion drug war. There is a big 
difference between condoning marijuana use and protecting children from 
drugs. Decriminalization acknowledges the social reality of marijuana use 
and frees users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal records. What's 
really needed is a regulated market with enforceable age controls. Right 
now kids have an easier time buying pot than beer.

More disturbing is the manner in which marijuana's black market status 
exposes users to sellers of hard drugs. Marijuana may be relatively 
harmless compared to legal alcohol -- the plant has never been shown to 
cause an overdose death -- but marijuana prohibition is deadly. As long as 
marijuana distribution remains in the hands of organized crime, consumers 
will continue to come into contact with hard drugs like meth.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A. program officer

The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation

4455 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite B-500

Washington, D.C.