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September 1, 2005 - New York Daily News (NY)

Time To Legalize Drugs

By Stanley Crouch

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

The drug law that Gov. Pataki made sure to get his signature on before it passed into the books without his mark this week is a good beginning. It is an extension of the legislation he signed in December after rap mogul Russell Simmons and his crew joined the fight against laws many now consider almost medieval - the Rockefeller drug laws.

With this new legislation, 540 prisoners can petition for their release, just as 400 have since the December signing.

All of this is good, but it is far from enough. Our nation has yet to face the fact that recreational drug use is part of modern life and shows no signs of losing its appeal to the millions of customers who are not drug addicts but who fuel the trade.

Comparisons are often made to Prohibition - and they're accurate, not far-fetched.

We will continue to be plagued by an underground drug economy in which big piles of money are not taxed, and a situation in which underclass men become drug runners and murderers because the cash is too heavy for them to ignore.

Whether or not we think they should ignore the money is not the point. They will not ignore it and will stay in the game until they are put into a bloated prison system where they will not be discouraged from breaking the law.

The only way to keep those men out of the welfare of imprisonment is to remove the profit from the trade.

This means that, as I have written before and believe more deeply with each passing day, we have to legalize drugs and pull those billions of dollars out of the shadow economy.

There are some basic facts that will make themselves very clear once the appropriate decisions are made. The moment the big drug companies get just a whiff of the profit available, a lobbying battle will break out between them and the illegal druglords.

Those who now make untaxed fortunes in the world of crime are not going to lie still and see their product put into the world of legality, where they will suddenly find themselves incapable of competing with real businessmen.

This means that our big drug corporations will have to supply the necessary money to combat the lobbies sponsored by the criminal fringe.

In essence, the hard fact is that illegality works in the interest of criminals, not the public.

So that is where we find ourselves in this wing of modern life.

We need to make the moves necessary to keep our young men out of the drug trade and responsibly make use of the tax money that could address many of the needs looming over our society.

Let us see if Simmons and the others are able to move on to the next and much more important page in the evolution of facing the facts.

Men such as William Buckley and Kurt Schmoke, the former mayor of Baltimore, have made clear what actual thought on these matters adds up to: We have to face the need for legalization.

Will it be easy? Of course not. Is it important? Without a doubt.

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