Pubdate: Mon, 01 Dec 2003
Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)
Copyright: 2003 St. Petersburg Times
Author: Stephen Heath


Re: Police unit pushes back against drugs, Nov. 22.

The headline was misleading. "Drugs" will never be pushed back as long as 
they remain illegal. As Capt. Marion Lewis of Tampa's Quad Squad aptly 
notes, "Drug dealing is a very lucrative business. As long as there is 
money to be made and a demand, they're going to be out there selling it." 
In other words, drug prohibition laws ensure that the problem will be 

Criminal prohibition is the exact opposite of how we deal with the two most 
dangerous and commonly abused drugs - alcohol and tobacco. These two drugs 
are legally distributed to adults who choose to use them responsibly while 
other laws protect the public from those who behave irresponsibly, i.e., 
driving while impaired or allowing minors' access to the drugs.

One wonders how long the residents of the targeted areas in Tampa and St. 
Petersburg will continue to turn to police for help in dealing with the 
very real problems related to the illegal drug trade. At the current pace 
in Tampa, almost 4,000 people a year will be given crippling lifelong 
criminal records thanks to drug prohibition. The ratios in St. Petersburg 
will be similar. Meanwhile none of the root causes that create demand for 
dangerous drugs are being adequately addressed, thus demand will remain 
constant. While drug abuse is a true problem, drug prohibition exacerbates 
rather than helps that problem.

Fortunately, there is a growing group of other police, judges and law 
enforcement officers who believe the best way to deal with these problems 
is to legalize drugs and take control of the trade from criminal gangs and 
cartels. They have formed together as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition - 
LEAP ( Readers interested in smart alternatives to the current 
police-driven drug war should investigate LEAP and lend their support. As 
LEAP founder Jack Cole, a retired narcotics officer, notes, "You can 
overcome an addiction much easier than you can overcome a felony record."

Stephen Heath

Florida Office of LEAP, Clearwater
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