Pubdate: Mon, 15 Jul 2002
Source: Tuscaloosa News, The (AL)
Copyright: 2002 The Tuscaloosa News
Author: Robert Sharpe, MPA


Dear Editor: The work of Alabama's 24th Judicial Circuit Drug and Violent 
Crime Task Force is no doubt well-intended, but ultimately 
counterproductive. Attempts to limit the supply of illegal drugs while 
demand remains constant only increase the profitability of trafficking. In 
terms of addictive drugs like heroin, a spike in street prices leads 
desperate addicts to increase criminal activity to feed desperate habits. 
The drug war doesn't fight crime, it fuels crime.

The burden on taxpayers grows every year as ever more drug offenders are 
imprisoned. America now has the highest incarceration rate in the world, 
yet drug use continues unabated as new dealers step in to reap inflated 
illicit market profits. Let's not kid ourselves about protecting children. 
Illegal drug dealers don't ID for age, but they do recruit minors immune to 
adult sentences.

Taxing and regulating marijuana, the most popular illicit drug, is a 
cost-effective alternative to never-ending drug war. There is a big 
difference between condoning marijuana use and protecting children from 
drugs. Decriminalization acknowledges the social reality of marijuana. 
What's really needed is a regulated market with age controls.

Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical. Marijuana may be 
relatively harmless compared to alcohol -- pot 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. Current drug 
policy is a gateway policy.

Robert Sharpe, MPA

Program Officer

Drug Policy Alliance

Washington, DC
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