Pubdate: Tue, 19 Feb 2002
Source: Capital Times, The  (WI)
Copyright: 2002 The Capital Times
Author: Richard S. Russell


Who could fail to be moved by Alice Petlock Pauser's story of her daughter 
Genevieve's addiction to marijuana and consequent involvement in the 
murdere of Kyle Hachmeister ("Parent, child heartache," Jan. 19-20)?

Yet, with all due respect for the aforementioned heartache, I submit that 
Alice Pauser has erred in laying the blame for this situation solely on 
drugs. If we look more deeply into the situation, we see that the problem 
is not the drugs themselves, but rather the laws that try (with spectacular 
lack of success) to ban them.

Consider alcohol and tobacco, two drugs whose bad effects on the user's 
health are unarguably worse than those of marijuana. Do we see kids knifing 
each other to death over beer or cigarettes? We do not.

Why? Because those drugs are legal and therefore widely and cheaply available.

Kyle Hachmeister was killed while being robbed of a goodly stash of illegal 
loot. How could a teenager pile up that much cash from just selling pot? 
Three Reasons:

* The market is huge. The potential black market for beer and booze is 
confined to the relatively small segment of the population from the 
mid-teens to 21. For pot it includes the entire adult population as well.

* The price is artificially high. Since trafficking in dope is illegal, 
everyone along the supply chain charges a premium price for his or her role 
in passing it along. This premium goes to pay for things like burned crops, 
confiscated shipments, lawyers, bribes, lookouts, turf wars, medical 
expenses and other costs which normal businesses don't have to deal with.

* Competition is restricted. In any other field of endeavor we'd probably 
admire the guts and initiative it takes to go into drug dealing. But 
clearly it's not for everyone. Competition is based not on economics but on 
fear, so dealers don't need to worry about Pot-Mart opening up two blocks away.

Take away the anti-drug laws, and all three of these conditions evaporate 
like the morning fog. Respectable, law-abiding, tax-paying businesses would 
supply the obvious demand at reasonable prices under controlled 
conditions,including carding kids before selling to them. Hachmeister might 
still have been a doper, but he wouldn't be making any money out of it.

And, more to the point, he'd still be alive; Pauser and the three other 
teenagers convicted in his killing would be free; insurance and 
professional medical providers would deal with their drug-related health 
problems; and their five families would not be devastated.

When historians of the future write about our era, they will compare it to 
the Salem witch hunts, Prohibition and McCarthyism as examples of mass 
hysteria broght on by collective delusion - in this case that drugs are so 
bad that we must destroy our children in order to save them.

Take a good look at the Jihad on Drugs. There are no winners, only losers.

The real danger to our kids is not drugs, it is anti-drug laws. The sooner 
we replace them with legalization, commercialization, sensible governmental 
regulation, and the attitude that drug problems are health issues, not 
legal ones, the sooner that tragedies like this will become a thing of the 

Richard S. Russell, Madison
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