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A Failed Drug War


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The recent bust of a marijuana growing operation in Blacksburg by the New River Regional Drug Task Force implies success to many people. "Another dealer in dangerous drugs off the street," some will say.

But there are others, even those within the law enforcement community, who dissent and say that this low-level bust has really accomplished nothing and is but another insignificant bump in the perpetual war on drugs.

Former President Richard Nixon declared a war on marijuana in 1971.

Marijuana is still here, the war is still here. Have we won? No. Have we accomplished anything? No.

In Western states, law enforcement has been engulfed by a bumper crop of marijuana being grown on our public lands, including our national parks. Criminal syndicates are planting tens of thousands of plants in remote areas using chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

These large "farms" are polluting Western waterways and endangering citizens who enjoy activities in America's great outdoors. Officials say up to 75 percent of the illegal plants seized in the West are being grown in these large and remote growing operations.

The results of Nixon's war have made marijuana now worth its weight in gold, literally. And it is that inflated value that has foreign gangs and criminal syndicates so actively involved in these operations.

Drug Enforcement Administration figures show nearly 4 million pot plants were seized in 2005 in California. There are, of course, no figures on how many plants were harvested without being seized, but assuming as many as one-third of the plants grown were seized means 8 million plants made it to market. Even at discounted, wholesale rates, we can easily see that billions of dollars are going into criminal coffers.

How can we end this cycle of failure?

As a former chief of police, trained by both the FBI and DEA in drug enforcement, I've served as a front-line warrior in street enforcement.

When I began doing serious research on the drug war, I concluded that it is not only a total failure but it also has caused tremendous damage to the fabric of society. I found not one benefit to this war that could be identified and instead found a myriad of unintended destructive consequences. In fact, the war proved counterproductive to every one of its stated goals.

It is that failure, witnessed on the street and in my research, that prompted me to join others from my profession in the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ( www.leap.cc ). A mere four years old, LEAP now has 6,500 members across the United States and Canada, with great interest coming from our European counterparts.

This war is a war at home. And it doesn't matter if your home is in Atlanta or Afghanistan because this war is failing everywhere. This is a war that has wedged our citizens between the police -- honorably attempting to uphold the laws that are their duty to enforce -- and the criminals seeking to profit from a market that has no regulation. A market that doesn't dictate any age restrictions and has no licensing, no permits and, best of all, no taxes. The same market that many decades ago made a street thug named Al Capone into one of the most powerful men in America.

What some refer to as "drug harm" is really drug war damage.

Overcrowded jails and prisons, although surrounded by razor wire and closed circuit monitoring, can't keep drugs out. A prison system that now has a population of more than 2 million people makes the land of the free the most incarcerated population on the planet.

Legalization is a word that often makes people uncomfortable. That is why I prefer "re-legalization." Except for the newer drugs, there was a time when these drugs were all legal.

Bayer marketed heroin, available without a prescription from the local store. Addiction rates back then were no different than they are today.

Prohibition is a policy predetermined to fail. It failed with alcohol, and we ended it. It is failing with drugs and must be ended again. The war on drugs is a failure in fact, practice and principle.

NewsHawk: Stoner4Life - 420Magazine.com
Source: Roanoke Times (VA)
Pubdate: Sat, 23 Dec 2006
Author: Jerry Cameron
Copyright: 2006 Roanoke Times
Contact: karen.trout@roanoke.com
Website: www.roanoke.com/
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