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July 1, 2007 - Daily Southtown (IL)

Lawyer Wants DARE Off Vehicle Stickers

By Phil Kadner

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Jim Gierach has written a letter to the mayor of Oak Lawn, saying he is offended by village vehicle stickers that feature the insignia of one of the most popular anti-drug programs in the country -- DARE.

An attorney with offices in Oak Lawn, Gierach has spent nearly 20 years campaigning for the legalization of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

"There isn't a single problem in this country, make that the world, that isn't somehow tied to this country's prohibition against certain drugs," Gierach said during a recent telephone conversation.

"You can't afford new schools because tax money is being used to build new prisons to hold the people arrested for using or selling drugs.

"AIDS? More people in this country get AIDS from using dirty needles than from homosexual activity.

"Terrorism? Where do you think Osama bin Laden's getting the money to fund his terrorist organization? Afghanistan has become the leading grower of opium poppy, with thousands of our troops stationed there. Where do you think that crop ends ups? On the streets of the United States."

Gierach believes DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) actually encourages drug use among students.

He cites studies, the most recent from the University of Kentucky.

And he quotes Chicago Ridge police chief Tim Balderman as saying DARE actually introduced children in his suburb to illegal drugs for the first time.

"It got to the point where every 18 or 19-year-old kid we arrested for drugs was a graduate of the DARE program," Balderman told me. "I would say it was ineffective."

Gierach, 62, has become the leading spokesman for legalizing illicit drugs in the south suburbs, maybe the state.

He has run unsuccessfully for Cook County state's attorney and governor using that as his primary campaign issue.

He writes letters to newspapers, appears on radio and TV shows and makes public speeches to any group willing to listen.

None of that has changed anything.

I first met Gierach before he became known for his anti-drug campaign.

At that time, he was representing the Crisis Center for South Suburbia, pro bono, before the Palos Hills zoning board. The shelter for battered and abused women was trying to expand its facility on the campus of Moraine Valley Community College.

Some residents of Palos Heights objected to the expansion, claiming the shelter would attract angry husbands and spouses intent on doing violence to the community.

At least one citizen said, "those women probably deserve it," while thrusting a fist through the air, simulating a right uppercut.

Gierach's intensity and passionate speeches on behalf of the Crisis Center failed to win the day, but the shelter eventually found a new home in Tinley Park.

Although some people might characterize Gierach now as a crackpot or zealot, he reminded me that he has a long history of mainstream community service.

"No one said anything like that about me when I was an assistant state's attorney for Cook County, prosecutor for Oak Lawn, president of the Oak Lawn United Way or president of the Luther League at church," Gierach said.

"The people who say such things just don't understand the harm illegal drugs are doing to this country."

Gierach believes most violent crime in the United States can be tied to drug addicts or the street gangs that sell them drugs.

"The drug addicts will do anything to get money to pay for their addiction," Gierach said.

"The drug dealers will do anything to protect their turf."

To address the first issue, Gierach would make drugs available free of charge to addicts at health clinics.

Taxpayers might wonder who would pay for that.

"The same people who now pay for police officers to arrest drug addicts, the same people who now pay for prisons and prison guards, the same people who now pay for courtrooms and lawyers and judges to put drug addicts on trial," Gierach said.

As for the gang violence, Gierach believes it would come to an end once people could buy drugs legally in this country.

"Al Capone made a fortune during prohibition because the sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited," Gierach said.

"He built a criminal empire selling illegal booze the same way street gangs build their empires with money from drugs.

"You can arrest 1,000 drug dealers, and 1,000 more will replace them tomorrow. It's a waste of time, money and effort."

I told Gierach that, in my opinion, most people would disagree with his position on legalizing drugs.

"Some day, someone saying what I'm saying will do the world a great service," Gierach said.

For now, Gierach just wants Oak Lawn to "retreat from its wrong-headed, DARE-sticker shortedsightedness.

"Every time someone thinks they're doing something to stop drug use, they're actually promoting drug use," he said.

"People just don't understand the problem."

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