Pubdate: Mon, 26 Aug 2002
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Hearst Communications Inc.
Author: Keith Sanders


Editor -- Regarding the articles, "Back from the dead -- with U.S. help," 
by Alvaro Vargas Llosa, and "Our moral obligation to Colombia," by William 
Ratliff (both in Insight section, Aug. 18): The tragic irony of our 
involvement in Colombia's civil war is that prohibition itself is what 
attracts criminals and terrorists to the drug trade.

If the black-market chaos were replaced by sensible regulation -- as we 
have with other psychoactive drugs like alcohol, tobacco, Ritalin and 
Prozac -- the thugs would lose interest overnight.

Coca, opium and cannabis are easily grown, naturally occurring plants. They 
are profitable only because prohibition complicates supply just enough to 
boost prices a few hundred (or a few thousand) percent, while doing nothing 
to reduce demand. Besides, what drug user would buy unregulated products of 
unknown quality from an illegal dealer if safer and cleaner versions of the 
drug were available (for less) at the liquor store or pharmacy?

As for "drug-related violence," it's clear that illegal dealers can't go to 
court to settle their business disputes, which is why they turn to 
violence. Addicts wouldn't have to rob, steal or sell themselves for drug 
money under a legally regulated system where prices were lower and 
treatment was more readily available.

A look at America before the Narcotics Act of 1914 reveals that drug- 
related crime was unheard of when coca, opium and cannabis could be bought 
at the pharmacy. Americans have never been too good at history.


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