Pubdate: Wed, 08 Sep 1999
Source: City Paper (MD)
Copyright: 1999 Scranton Times
Contact:  812 Park Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201
Fax: (410) 523-8437
Author: Henry Cohen


Wiley Hall praises Kurt Schmoke for his handling of various issues as
mayor (Urban Rhythms, 9/1), but he omits what was both Schmoke's
greatest act of courage and his greatest failure.  This was his
raising the issue of ending drug prohibition at a time when no other
politician was willing to, and then his dropping the issue, apparently
because he, like just about every other politician, put his career
ahead of his principles.

And look where we are now.  All three of the supposedly leading
mayoral candidates, Lawrence Bell, Carl Stokes, and Martin O'Malley,
have pledged, if elected, to shut down open-air drug markets in Baltimore.

Shutting down open-air drug markets would have murderous consequences.
 One out of eight adults in Baltimore is estimated to be a drug
addict.  Suppose we increased the number of police officers at a few
of the current open-air drug markets, and succeeded in shutting them
down.  What do Bell, Stokes, and O'Malley think that the tens of
thousands of addicts would do?  Give up their habits?  The supply of
drugs would remain, and the demand for them would remain.  Obviously,
new open-air drug markets would replace the old ones, and new dealers
would replace those arrested.

So shutting down open-air drug markets would not alleviate the drug
problem.  It would, however, exacerbate the murder problem.  This is
because when a dealer  is shut out of one open-air drug market, he
will move to or open another, where he will encounter competition from
other dealers in the area.  Competing dealers will shoot it out with
one another (killing children and other bystanders, of course) until
the winners establish their territories.

Furthermore, shutting down open-air markets will increase costs to
dealers while they develop new clientele.  The dealers, of course,
will pass on their increased costs to the addicts, who will commit
more muggings and burglaries to pay for their habits.  It is time our
politicians recognize that the scourge of our inner cities is not
drugs -- it is drug laws.

One candidate, A. Robert Kaufman, has pledged to _open up_ open air
drug markets; to allow them, that is, to operate legally in designated
areas.   Kaufman has my vote.

Henry Cohen
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