Pubdate: Fri, 09 Aug 2002
Source: Farmington Daily Times (NM)
Copyright: NorthWest New Mexico Publishing Co.
Author: Robert Sharpe, Alan Randell


San Juan County'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.

Throwing more money at the problem is no solution. 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 meth, 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.

Taxing and regulating marijuana, the most popular illicit drug, is a 
cost-effective alternative to a 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 use and 
frees users from the stigma of life-shattering criminal records. What's 
really needed is a regulated market with age controls.

As long as marijuana distribution remains in the hands of organized crime, 
consumers will continue to come into contact with hard drugs like meth. 
Given that marijuana is arguably safer than legal alcohol the plant has 
never been shown to cause an overdose death it makes no sense to waste tax 
dollars on failed policies that finance organized crime and facilitate the 
use of hard drugs.

Drug policy reform may send the wrong message to children, but I like to 
think the children themselves are more important than the message.

ROBERT SHARPE M.P.A. Program Officer Drug Policy Alliance Washington

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Editor: Re: "Meth Scourge Takes A Hit," Aug. 4. What is wrong with you? It 
is none of the state's bloody business what I choose to ingest into my own 
body. The war on drugs is a Hitler-like pogrom whose sole purpose is to 
provide a measure of vicarious pleasure for the wealthy and the powerful 
and the mainly white by ruining the lives of the poor and the weak and the 
mainly non-white.

It sells newspapers too, which may account for the media's instinctive 
support for government oppression.

And don't give me that guff about how the state is only trying to protect 
its citizens from the effects of dangerous substances. Users suffer more 
under prohibition because of jail time and adulterated drugs than without it.

My wife and I became well acquainted with that aspect of government policy 
when we lost our youngest son to street heroin in 1993. The harm argument 
is irrelevant in any event because two of our more harmful drugs, alcohol 
and tobacco, are legal. Whatever will you tell your grandchildren?

ALAN RANDELL Victoria, B.C., Canada
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