Pubdate: Tue, 19 Aug 2003
Source: Greenwood Commonwealth (MS)
Copyright: 2003 Greenwood Commonwealth
Author: Mett Ausley Jr., M.D.


Politicians Exploit Drug Problem To Own Advantage.

Editor, Commonwealth:

I agree with Charles T. Chapin that making intoxicating drugs readily 
available by legalizing them likely would raise the prevalence of addiction 
("Legalizing drugs will only add to problem," Aug. 13).

But Chapin maunders aimlessly in his criticism of Anita Mayfield's letter 
("Decriminalize drugs and nation will be crime-free," Aug. 8). She argued 
only that legalizing drugs would reduce black market crime and made no 
conjecture about addiction rates. Whatever the effect on addiction, a 
strong case can be made that legalization would curtail the monstrous wave 
of property crime and violence attending illegal drug commerce. Chapin 
seems to disagree, but offers as his solution the profundity that parents 
should be less permissive and people should exercise more self-discipline. 
Well, if pigs had wings, they'd fly.

Ms. Mayfield accurately points out that the massive effort to eradicate 
drugs through prohibition, enforcement and punishment has had at best 
modest impact on drug use, while imposing enormous financial and social 
costs which "tough on drugs" politicians and enforcement officials pretend 
are nonexistent. Mayfield astutely notes that same politicians and 
bureaucrats have abetted this disaster by exploiting the drug problem to 
their own advantage: the former by rabble-rousing to unsophisticated 
voters, the latter by milking taxpayers for more largesse and power. 
Commercial profiteers have joined this unholy alliance, and enormous vested 
interests now defend the status quo.

"Legalization" is indeed too simple a solution for such a complex problem. 
But solving a big problem often is a matter of taking small steps. Clearly, 
the first step should be to restore priority to the public interest and 
recognize that those we have appointed to address the issue have often 
helped themselves instead.

Mett Ausley Jr., M.D.

Lake Waccamaw, N.C.
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