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October 17, 2005

An idea who's time has come?

Today's LAT has an OpEd by former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper calling for drug legalization. His rationale? The "war on drugs" is not working, leading to over-crowded prisons, corrupt cops, and devastated communities.

I think this is a good idea. While the human costs of cheap (or cheaper) addictive and life-destroying drugs would be high, the broader community would be spared the crimes against persons and property needed to support a life of serious drug abuse. More importantly, in my view, would be the social effects of eliminating drug dealers as role models for children in poor, urban communities. Ending the ghetto "career path" from entry-level lookout on up the ladder to full-time dealer, would save the lives of hundreds of thousands of young (largely minority) men, who are now seduced by easy money into a life ending in long-term incarceration.

After all, we've been down this road before. Our country outlawed the use of alcohol from 1920-33 in a futile attempt to avoid the social costs of alcohol abuse: the lost jobs, broken families, domestic violence and vagrancy due to alcoholism. Ultimately, the social costs of prohibition -- the rise of organized crime, gang violence, corruption, and disrespect for the law -- were far greater than any benefits from restricting access to legal booze.

Of course, the politics of drug legalization at present are a complete non-starter. But just because it's unpopular doesn't mean that it's not the right thing to do.

October 17, 2005 at 07:03 AM | Permalink


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