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Public Dissent is Building Against
America's Insane Drug War



If I were to attach to any political party in the United States it would probably be the Libertarians. A study of the party platform and an examination of its ideals has led me to realize that there are others in this loony bin who think like I do. We enjoy freedom and cannot understand why the rest of the people in the country aren't as zealous about preserving it as we are.

Among the strong blocks in the
Libertarian platform is the party call for a halt to the War Against Drugs. This stand, by itself, is enough for me to cast my vote in November for the party presidential candidate, Harry Browne.

Following are portions of the
party stand in support of the re-legalization of drugs:

"In the 1920's, alcohol was made illegal by Prohibition. The result: Organized Crime. Criminals jumped at the chance to supply the demand for liquor. The streets became battlegrounds. (Does this sound familiar?) The criminals bought off law enforcement and judges. Adulterated booze blinded and killed people. Civil rights were trampled in the hopeless attempt to keep people from drinking. (Try inserting the word drugs for booze, liquor and alcohol.) When the American people saw what Prohibition was doing to them, they supported its repeal. When they succeeded, most states legalized liquor and the criminal gangs were out of the liquor business. Today's war on drugs is a re-run of Prohibition. Approximately 40 million Americans are occasional, peaceful users of some illegal drug who are no threat to anyone. They are not going to stop. The laws don't, and can't, stop drug use.

"Whenever there is a great demand for a product and government makes it illegal, a black market always appears to supply the demand. The price of the product rises dramatically and the opportunity for huge profits is obvious. The criminal gangs love the situation, making millions. They kill other drug dealers, along with innocent people caught in the crossfire, to protect their territory. They corrupt police and courts. Pushers sell adulterated dope and experimental drugs, causing injury and death. And because drugs are illegal, their victims have no recourse.

"Half the cost of law enforcement and prisons is squandered on drug related crime. Of all drug users, a relative few are addicts who commit crimes daily to supply artificially expensive habits. They are the robbers, car thieves and burglars who make our homes and streets unsafe.


"Civil liberties suffer. We are all 'suspects,' subject to random urine tests, highway check-points and spying into our personal finances. Your property can be seized without trial, if the police merely claim you got it with drug profits. Doing business with cash makes you a suspect. America is becoming a police state because of the war on drugs.

"Today's illegal drugs were legal before 1914. Cocaine was even found in the original Coca-Cola recipe. Americans had few problems with cocaine, opium, heroin or marijuana. Drugs were inexpensive; crime was low. Most users handled their drug of choice and lived normal, productive lives. Addicts out of control were a tiny minority."

The Libertarian platform concludes that by legalizing drugs, they "would be inexpensive, so even addicts could support their habits with honest work, rather than by crime. Organized crime would be deprived of its profits. The police could return to protecting us from real criminals; and there would be room enough in existing prisons for them.

"It's time to re-legalize drugs and let people take responsibility for themselves. Drug abuse is a tragedy and a sickness. Individuals have the right to decide for themselves what to put in their bodies, so long as they take responsibility for their actions," the party statement concludes.

The Libertarians are not alone in their effort to put the brakes on America's drug war. There is a group known as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) which I suspect is behind a silent nation-wide petition campaign to get the issue of legalized marijuana on the public ballot as early as this fall.

I say it is a silent campaign because in spite of a nation-wide interest, it has received no media publicity that I know of. Yet students on the campuses of nearly every major university in the country have seen this petition and been invited to sign it. I hear through the grapevine that it is gaining a lot of support and if given a chance, should become a national campaign issue.

Also there is an interesting lawsuit filed in federal district court by several Kentucky farmers and agricultural organizations calling for the growing and harvesting of industrial hemp in the U.S.

The group charges that farmers in at least 30 other countries are growing hemp which is used in making clothing, paper and numerous other products sold in the U.S., but American farmers are prohibited by law from competing in this market.

"You can go into any grocery store or co-op today and find all sorts of hemp products," said tobacco farmer Andy Graves, president of the
Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association which filed the suit. "But as a farmer, I'm not allowed to participate in that part of the economy. I want a judge to explain that to me."

In their suit, the farmers suggest that Congress did not intend to outlaw hemp when it passed laws against marijuana. The farmers note that there is a difference between hemp and marijuana, even though they both are varieties of genus cannabis. The suit makes it clear that hemp is ineffective and unappealing as a recreational drug because it contains only a negligible fraction of the ingredient THC, which has a psychoactive effect on people who ingest it.

Another group known as
Media Awareness Project, issues regular news reports about proposed new legislation designed to escalate the drug problem. A recent story told of a bill to pump $1.7 billion in military aid to Colombia to help that country fight the drug cartel existing there.

"Not only will this aid entangle us in a Vietnam-like civil war, it will expand drug availability," said Kevin Zeese, president of the organization. "Colombia is already the largest recipient of military assistance outside of the Middle East and engaged in an aggressive herbicide spraying program. Yet, with all of that Colombian coca cultivation has tripled since 1992 and heroin-poppy crops increased by 1,400 hectares in 1999." 

"History shows that escalating the drug war in Colombia will actually increase the drug supply in the US by creating new drugs, new trafficking routes and new source countries," Zeese said. He pointed to 35 years of international drug control efforts noting that every time we have focused on interdiction and eradication drug availability has expanded.

"Escalating the drug war in Colombia is already spurring increased production of methamphetamine in the United States. Seizures of labs by DEA have increased from 327 in 19995 to 1,919 in 1999. Estimate supplies have increased from 11.7 metric tons in 1997 to 15.9 metric tons in 1998. Methamphetamine is less expensive than cocaine and produced locally. Methamphetamine is a potential cocaine substitute that is difficult to interdict and provides greater profit. In addition, Colombia's neighbors are noting increased cultivation of coca and increased profit for growers. In the last year Peru has seen a tripling of raw coca prices and 1,500 new hectares of coca cultivation.

"Rather than recognizing that the course we are on is steering us into the rocks, the Congress is pushing the throttle to full speed," Zeese said. "Not only are we building on programs that have never worked, we are risking involvement in a military quagmire."

Why doesn't our government put the brakes on a "war" that is shown to be a total failure? I believe it is because the war is actually supported by organized crime. By keeping these popular products classified as illegal, there are great profits to be made by narcotics traffickers, police, courts, lawyers, mental health agencies, medical facilities, jail and prison operators, building and construction trades (engaged in building new prisons) and many others. An entire government structure has been established to arrest, convict and rehabilitate so-called offenders, all in the name of money.  
















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