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November 15, 2007 - Victoria Advocate (TX)

OpEd: War On Drugs Is A Lost Cause

By Russ Jones

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

I'm no stranger to the drug war. I know that police officers want to do the right thing, want to put drug dealers out of business, and they look forward to the day when the dealers are gone and the cartels eliminated. And that is why the Interagency raid in Refugio (Victoria Advocate, Nov 5) with 28 arrests was celebrated by local law enforcement.

Law Enforcement is a brotherhood and cooperation, and getting the job done always feels good. My experience tells me that we will never see the end of the dealers and cartels by fighting the drug war the way we have been. Drugs are in every town in the nation: lots of drugs, lots of different kinds of drugs.

The international market for illegal drugs is a $500 billion a year enterprise. In the United States we spend about $70 billion a year fighting the War On Drugs.

Yet we fall further behind every year. For every change in police tactics, the cartels adjust accordingly. Maybe we need to admit there's a reason for our failure to control the trafficking in illegal drugs.

How much failure is enough? Can we afford another 10 years? 20 years? 50? Another century perhaps? Or do we call the cartels' bluff?

The scariest word for those who profit in the black market of drugs is "legalization." That's a word they don't want to hear. They know that as long as drugs are illegal they will have a tax-free, golden egg laying goose.

When Al Capone was a young man, he was just a common street thug, a hard punk. But Prohibition made street thug Capone into a very rich and powerful man. He had money to burn, to buy protection, to buy guns and to hire the muscle willing to use those guns. He could afford to pay off the cops and buy a politician or more.

When Prohibition was ended, violent crime decreased. Distributors of alcohol didn't have to engage in running gun battles against each other over territory. Legalization ruined the hold criminal syndicates had on the booze business.

Legalization doesn't mean drug dealers on every corner; we have that now with Prohibition II.

Legalization does mean products of known strength and purity. Legalization means legitimate businesses producing and distributing these substances under regulation.

Today's teens readily admit that it is easier to get illegal drugs than alcohol. They can't go into a business and buy all the booze they want, but they can sure find drugs. And when they buy illegal drugs they know they won't get asked for identification. They'll only need cash in hand.

I'm not speaking out of my hat either. I have worked as a detective in narcotics. I have participated in DEA task forces. I have worked in Latin America, studying drug trafficking. I am a court-recognized expert in narcotics enforcement.

I don't advocate drug use, but I do advocate intelligent drug education.

Education has drastically reduced tobacco consumption, and we didn't have to arrest our way to that reduction. We have, however, arrested our way into being the most incarcerated population on the planet. Even that hasn't stemmed the flow of drugs or our appetite for them.

If we really want to behead the cartels, we do it the smart way. We cut off their funding. The drug war is their cash cow, and they won't be happy if the word "legalization" becomes more common when discussing drug policy.

We need to change our ways. We need to accept our failure and look to a different way. We need to follow in the footsteps of those who recognized alcohol Prohibition as the failure it was and ended it.

Let's let the police catch those stealing our cars, our kids' bikes. Let's let the police have the time and resources to focus on real crimes with real victims. Let's let doctors deal with health problems of drug abuse. Let's let our educators teach effective lessons on the harm drugs can cause.

And let's return to being the nation once proud to be known as the "Land of the Free." End the War On Drugs. Put the cartels out of work.

Russ Jones is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, LEAP. He lives in New Braunfels.

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