#340 Just Say No To Legalization

Date: Wed, 6 Dec 2006
Subject: #340 Just Say No To Legalization

JUST SAY NO TO LEGALIZATION

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #340 – Wednesday, 6 Dec 2006

Not the Alert headline you expected?

It is the headline of the editorials in two sister Vermont newspapers,
the Rutland Herald and the Times Argus – printed as shown below.

The editorials are the newspaper’s response to the suggestion that the
war on drugs has been a failure and that legalization and regulation
of drug use ought to be considered made by Robert Sand, Windsor County
state’s attorney. You may read what the papers printed leading up to
the editorials at:

http://www.mapinc.org/people/Robert+Sand

The Rutland Herald published the editorial on Tuesday, December 5th
and the Times Argus followed printing it on Wednesday, December 6th.

Please consider writing a letter to the editor to either or both of
the newspapers. We suggest that identical letters not be sent to both
papers.

The Times Argus is the larger circulation newspaper. It serves as
Central Vermont’s morning daily newspaper. The newspaper serves the
capital region.

If you have contacts within Vermont who may be willing to write,
please send this to them as letters from state residents are more
likely to be published.

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Contact information for the newspapers:

The Rutland Herald

By email letters@rutlandherald.com

By webform http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=SERVICES07

The Times Argus

By email letters@timesargus.com

By webform http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=OPINION03

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JUST SAY NO TO LEGALIZATION

Robert Sand, Windsor County state’s attorney, renewed a perennial
debate last week when he suggested that the war on drugs has been a
failure and that legalization and regulation of drug use ought to be
considered.

Sand’s statement brought a strong response from Public Safety
Commissioner Kerry Sleeper, who said that protecting people from drugs
was an important role for law enforcement.

The nation has a troubled history with drugs and drug enforcement,
partly because of Americans’ appetite for drugs and partly because of
the political overreaction, bordering on hysteria, that evolved in
response to widening drug use.

Sleeper is right in saying that legalization would make drugs more
widely available and so would magnify the destructive effects of drug
use. Yet the nation’s attitude toward drugs has been distorted over
the years by those seeking political gain by fostering fear. The term
“war on drugs” is indicative of the overreaction that began with
Presidents Nixon and Reagan, who set in motion a futile
law-enforcement campaign that filled the jails with people more
profitably handled through treatment programs or with the scaled-down
sentences appropriate for minor offenses.

A book called “Smoke and Mirrors” by Dan Baum documents the wild
excesses of law enforcement during the war on drugs and the inflated
threat used to justify draconian police programs.

These excesses do not mean that legalization is the best response to
drug abuse. Society will always have an element that thrives by
exploiting people’s weaknesses. Call it the gangster element. There
will always be weaknesses, and there will always be gangsters. It is
necessary to keep the gangster element in check, which means focusing
law enforcement on the big-time exploiters of people and helping those
who are being exploited get free of their vices.

Supporters of legalization argue that the gangster element would be
cut out if drugs were legal. But some drugs will never be legal, and a
black market in illegal drugs would be inevitable.

The growth of heroin use in Vermont in recent years has been an
alarming trend. Heroin destroys lives, and the state has responded by
arresting dealers and helping users find treatment. One of those
treatments involves the use of methadone, a heroin substitute that is
used as part of a medical treatment. This is a realistic and positive
response to drug abuse.

Supporters of legalization note the irrational inconsistencies
plaguing the nation’s attitudes toward drugs. Alcohol and tobacco kill
far more people than marijuana, cocaine or heroin, and yet they are
legal. Prohibition of alcohol failed, and supporters of legalization
say that prohibition of marijuana is also failing.

It probably is, except in the sense that keeping marijuana illegal
discourages its use, which is a good thing. Ask any parent of
teenagers, even those who know their kids are dabbling with marijuana,
if they want marijuana more readily available, and the answer is
probably no.

The damage caused by alcohol and tobacco suggests, not legalization of
drugs, but containment of the damage that drugs do. We know that
prohibition of alcohol and tobacco would be unworkable and
undesirable, but gradually, we are containing their damage. The stigma
against illegal drugs is helpful in containing the damage they do. The
lines defining criminal vices are drawn in different places for
different reasons, but those lines must be defended.

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Suggestions for writing letters may be found at our Media Activism Center:

http://www.mapinc.org/resource/#guides

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Prepared by: Richard Lake, Sr. Editor http://www.DrugNews.org

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