February 22, 2009 -- St. Petersburg Times
You offered two recent opinion pieces about
the drug war. One would continue this war; the other would treat
drugs as a public health problem. In effect, the issue is whether
to stop all use or to stop problem use. History teaches that
the latter is more effective.
National Prohibition ( 1920-1933 ) failed
because it tried to stamp out all drinking by prosecuting bootleggers.
By the late 1920s the public had begun to withdraw their support
for Prohibition because they saw 1 ) an alcohol-free America
was not possible, 2 ) the illegal wealth enabled by Prohibition
fostered street violence and official corruption, 3 ) it was
costly to imprison bootleggers, and 4 ) there was a need for
liquor tax revenue.
We ended Prohibition in 1933 and have learned
to live with legal alcohol by focusing on problem drinking. While
many of us believe alcohol regulation is still too soft, no responsible
person has proposed that we try again to stop all drinking.
John Chase, Palm Harbor, FL