Pubdate: Wed, 09 Jan 2002
Source: The Post and Courier (SC)
Copyright: 2002 Evening Post Publishing Co.
Author: Mett Ausley Jr., MD


Your Dec. 24 editorial "Help police stem violence" describes a scenario as 
familiar as a tired rerun: Authorities crack down on drug-dealing 
hooligans, and the neighborhood enjoys temporary peace. Soon the dealers 
and violence are back, and residents resign themselves to the futility of 
reporting drug activity, as you note in your call for their cooperation in 
helping police "put the drug dealers out of business."

These residents know firsthand what more of us are beginning to recognize: 
Insatiable consumer demand for illegal intoxicants combined with adamant 
prohibition create irresistible profit potential for criminals and ensure 
an intractable, permanently entrenched black market. Like fire ants, the 
drug dealers can be briefly suppressed or relocated, but not eliminated. 
Among the many evils of this situation is violence, with innocents 
frequently caught in the cross fire.

Systematic efforts to reduce individual drug use have met with limited 
success, and, from a law enforcement perspective, there are few, if any, 
untried options. The outlook is for this stalemate to go on indefinitely.

It is time to start thinking outside the box and confront the heretofore 
sacred cow that obstructs progress: prohibition itself. Those with a rigid 
moral perspective or vested interest in the status quo can be expected to 
oppose the legal but regulated distribution of currently illicit 
intoxicants, but denial must be overcome and admission made that current 
policy has failed.

The violent drug dealers can and should be put out of business, but in the 
business world, the demise of one's rivals is brought about by competition, 
not rhetoric, posturing and repetitious application of provenly 
unsuccessful measures.

METT AUSLEY JR., M.D., Lake Waccamaw, N.C.
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