Pubdate: Mon, 15 Dec 2008
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
Copyright: 2008 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC.
Author: Lennice Werth


Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Thank you for your article on alcohol prohibition, including the
observation that it was "a tremendous failure."

Nothing has changed in human nature since the 1930s. As the historian
pointed out, "the distribution of liquor was turned over to a whole
group of criminal entrepreneurs." And while the premise of our current
drug war is that we must be protected from dangerous substances, drugs
are sold, unregulated, by this criminal class to its extreme
enrichment. The ensuing game of cops, robbers, and snitches is painful
to watch.

Nobody thinks this is working, yet our political leaders offer only
longer prison sentences. We have 5 percent of the world's population
and 25 percent of its prisoners. So many men and women are in prison
that their children are stressing our foster-care system. When they
get out, their opportunities to get on the right track are blocked by
laws that bar them from receiving help such as housing and education
aid. In this regard, the stigma of a drug offender is worse than that
of a murderer or thief, as they are eligible for such benefits.

Today, illegal drugs are cheap and easily available, even though we
spend millions -- maybe billions -- on our current failed prohibition,
and we have alienated our allies in South America due to the drug war.

Why can't we figure out how to have a better policy even with the
vivid historical example of alcohol prohibition?

Tobacco is a very additive substance, yet we are having great success
discouraging use without putting anyone in prison.

Regulation is an option under which we could require that folks buying
drugs would be asked to prove that they are adults. We could identify
those with the most severe problems and gently guide them toward
treatment. Regulation is the answer we found for alcohol. It is not
perfect, but it would be a tremendous improvement over the violent,
adversarial, and terribly harmful policy of drug prohibition.

Lennice Werth

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