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February 4, 2005 - The Collegiate Times (VA Edu)

Drug War Wastes Needed Resources

By Michael Krawitz, Columnist

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

"Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it." -- George Santayana

Students who paid attention in history class can quickly tick off a laundry list of "learned lessons" of Prohibition. For example, instead of enforcement eliminating alcohol use, it fueled a whole new culture of use. "Speak Easies" and private dance halls became the rage.

The federal police busted thousands of locations that sold illegal liquor. Businessmen like Al Capone, whose business cards listed him as a "used furniture dealer," built powerful empires of crime and corruption from Prohibition. Bathtub Gin, Jamaican Ginger or worse concoctions started taking their toll of blindness and mayhem. Because of this, among other reasons, Prohibition was repealed.

Prohibition's repeal was championed by the same grassroots organizations that helped create it. Organizations like the Crusaders believed in temperance, but remembered what life was like before Prohibition and recognized that the use of alcohol was being driven underground.

Prohibition enforcement handed over control of distribution of alcohol to thugs and really equaled zero control. They came to the opinion that although Prohibition was created with the best of intentions, it was causing more harm than good, and they fought for repeal.

Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and his brother, Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-1st), say in order to get tough on methamphetamines, we need a dozen new laws including 10-year mandatory sentences to contain the problem. If more prohibition equals less control and more crime, then why do these good men want more drug war?

I think they are using the emotions surrounding drug use to further their careers. I guess they don't care what the long-term fallout will be from their actions.

I don't think any current Virginia legislators were alive in 1914 when drug prohibition started, so I understand if they don't remember that most of the problems we associate today with drug use didn't even exist back when drugs were still legal.

If they remembered, they might make a pronouncement like the one made last month by Dr. Marek Balicki, Poland's Minister of Health, who said, "After analyzing the enormous social and health-related costs of criminalizing the personal use of drugs, which resulted from decisions made in 2000, the Ministry of Health has recommended decriminalization of personal use again. Making criminals from young people that have tried drugs is without sense."

Lennice Werth, a Virginia working mom and award-winning activist, runs a grassroots volunteer organization called Virginians Against Drug Violence (VADV) and regularly attends meetings at the state legislature. Ms. Werth said, "Legislators claim they are doing something to reduce methamphetamine use, but research done by Rand corporation shows increased penalties do very little to reduce use, while research done by Professor Arditti of Virginia Tech helps show how these draconian policies are destroying families and unraveling the very fabric of our society."

One of the most active members of VADV is Roy Scherer. Scherer, a U.S. Air Force veteran, lives in the capitol area, spends many days and nights attending legislative committee meetings and sending reports to grassroots activists throughout the state. Scherer, who also writes for the LP News, was sent on assignment to cover the "Virginia Methamphetamine Leadership Summit" held Dec. 6 at the Richmond Convention Center, co-sponsored by the U.S. Attorneys for Eastern and Western Virginia, and Virginia Attorney General Kilgore.

Scherer may be one of the most knowledgeable people in the entire state of Virginia on our drug laws, so of course they excluded him from the event and threatened to have him arrested if he didn't vacate the premises immediately. Scherer, who wears a suit and tie to meetings, says he may have been denied access to this supposedly open event for his long hair and the fact that the publication he writes for, the LP News, often criticizes the failed war on drugs.

Scherer said he was surprised because a methamphetamine press event months earlier was easy to attend. He speculated that the earlier event may have been a show for the public's benefit because the "voluntary" policies they spoke of (and were widely televised) were nowhere to be found in the pile of new draconian policy suggestions produced by the secret methamphetamine leadership summit.

The price of drugs when illegal is many thousand times the legal price. This obscene "drug war tax" creates empires for the modern versions of Al Capone. It is time we applied the lessons of history and bankrupt the Al Capones of our day. We could have free college tuition without the albatross of the drug war around our necks.

Please call and voice your concerns with your Virginia state representatives by dialing the Constituent Viewpoint Hotline at 1-800-899-0229. Tell them to just say no to any new drug war bills.

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