(By the way, the capital D in the title is not an error, the group it refers to wants to emphasize it–D equals drugs, you see.)
Post Standard columnist Sean Kirst has an interesting piece on his blog, it seems today is the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. He goes on to ask if we can learn anything from Prohibition in relation to the seemingly neverending War on Drugs and mentions the work of the local legalization group ReconsiDer.
While I largely favor decriminalization, the devil’s in the details. There are several issues:
1) What drugs? Marijuana yes. What other drugs that are currently available in my neighborhood merit legalization? Cocaine? Heroin? Meth? Not as many takers there because the health consequences of abuse are immediate and dangerous.
2) Where? At ReconsiDer’s forum at the Syracuse Common Council a few years ago, the experts testifying admitted that the municipalities that decriminalized first would see a disproportionate increase in sales (and presumably use) because rational capitalists will move into the legal market.
3) Infrastructure. Everyone admits that drugs are damaging to those who abuse them. What is needed is to change our response from a paramilitary one to one of medical treatment and psychological counseling to eliminate the need for the addictive behavior (or at least ameliorate the negative effects.) There are not enough affordable treatment slots now, yet decriminalization advocates acknowledge an increase in drug sales and use (at least initially).
What has always bothered me about ReconsiDer and the drug legalization folks is their zealous attitude. Legalize drugs and we will emerge into a future of peace, love and harmony. The skies will be bluer and there will be no crabgrass in your lawn. Mention any social ill and the ReconsiDer folks suggest that the solution is legalizing drugs. They walk around wearing (sometimes literally, but always metaphorically) “Ask Me About The Drug War” buttons–any stray comment leading to a half hour diatribe.
The neighborhoods I work in have been devastated by drugs. I agree that the paramilitary solution has created a more dangerous atmosphere–everyone it seems is armed. However, the number one destructive substance in my neighborhood–the one causing fights, knifings, domestic brawls and even shootings, and the one that dominates every patrol officers’ time–is alcohol.
That’s why I shy away from the ReconsiDer model. Yes, prohibition was wrong and we need to find a better way to manage our society’s response to addictive substances. But it’s been 75 years since the end of Prohibition and we haven’t figured out how to deal with alcohol. Is it any wonder why people shy away from other drug legalizations?