Pubdate: Sun, 08 Dec 2002
Source: Spokesman-Review (WA)
Copyright: 2002 The Spokesman-Review
Author: Robert Sharpe


Spokane 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.

There are cost-effective alternatives. In Europe, the Netherlands has 
successfully reduced overall drug use by replacing marijuana prohibition 
with adult regulation. Dutch rates of drug use are significantly lower than 
U.S. rates in every category. Separating the hard and soft drug markets and 
establishing age controls for marijuana has proven more effective than 
never-ending drug war.

Here in the United States, marijuana provides the black market contacts 
that introduce consumers to addictive drugs like meth. This "gateway" is 
the direct result of a fundamentally flawed policy. Unlike alcohol, 
marijuana has never been shown to cause an overdose death, nor does it 
share the addictive properties of tobacco. Marijuana may be relatively 
harmless, but marijuana prohibition is deadly.

Robert Sharpe, M.P.A.

Program officer, Drug Policy Alliance

Washington D.C. Washington, D.C. 
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