Pubdate: Fri, 22 Feb 2002
Source: Daily Star, The (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The Daily Star
Author: Robert Sharpe
Note: Sharpe is program officer with the Drug Policy Alliance


The Daily Star's Feb. 13 editorial summed up everything that is wrong with 
the drug war with the line, "No matter how many you get rid of, more and 
more (drug dealers) will take their places." Attempts to limit the supply 
of illegal drugs while demand remains constant only increases the 
profitability of drug trafficking. In terms of addictive drugs such as 
heroin, a rise 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 drug war's burden on taxpayers gets higher every year as ever-more drug 
users and dealers are imprisoned for consensual vices. Drug use continues 
unabated as new dealers immediately 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 the $50 billion 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. Right now 
kids have an easier time buying pot than beer.

Separating the hard and soft drug markets is critical. Marijuana may be 
relatively harmless compared to alcohol - the plant 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 cocaine.

Robert Sharpe,
Washington, D.C.
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