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Legalization isn’t about drug problems

Libby at Last One Speaks does a great job of keeping me up to date with the activities of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). One quote in particular in her recent post struck me:

“Legalization of drugs is not intended to be an approach to our drug problem in America,” [Law Enforcement Against Prohibition member Peter] Christ explains during an interview in his hotel room. “Legalization is an approach to our crime and violence problem in America. Once we legalize drugs, then we have to start the really hard work of dealing with our drug problem.”

This is such a critical point. Criminalization is not a solution to drug problems. And there are drug problems. Legalization will not exacerbate drug problems. In fact, legalization could help reduce some of the drug problems we have and lead to actual solutions (in this post, I’m ignoring the made-up drug problems like the Super Pot that the Drug Czar talks about).
While many prohibitionists are that way for cynical political or financial reasons, there are some who mistakenly believe that criminalization is a path to solving drug problems. Thus you get people like this commenter on Guest Drug WarRant:

My son Dan,Jr. died June 30, 2004 of a drug overdose. I believe that the media glorifies drugs by showing large amounts of cash, guns, nice expensive cars, but they never show the ones who die. I also believe fools like yourselves have a hand in killing people. Daniel Ferguson, Sr.

Mr. Ferguson is angry. Understandably. And yet he posted this in response to an article about the benefits of hemp. Certainly Dan Jr. didn’t die from an overdose of hemp. And he didn’t die because drugs were legal, and it’s certainly not logical to blame those who wish to legalize and regulate drugs, rather than having them sold in uncertain doses and purity by criminals, which is probably how Dan Jr. got his. But Dan Sr., like many others, operates under the false assumption that criminalization will solve drug problems. Why, after decades it hasn’t — must just be that we haven’t tried hard enough.
Criminalization will never solve drug problems. Pass more laws and Dan Jr. still dies. It’s harsh, but it’s the truth. You want to solve drug problems? First eliminate the criminal profits. Then deal with drug problems openly, with treatment and candor.
Mr. Ferguson, I’m sorry for your loss. Please be aware that current drug laws support the system in which your son overdosed. You could make a difference. Take a moment to read this. Then work with some excellent organizations like Law Enforcement Against Prohibition to get rid of the ineffective drug war, get rid of the violence and dangers associated with the drug war, and replace it with a pro-active system that will help those who truly need it.

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