This article is from John McAlister, member of the Gahanna city council.
ThisWeek Community Newspapers (Columbus, OH)
Drug war is worse than drug abuse
By John McAlister
Published: February 26, 2009
Edition: Rocky Fork
Section: Commentary & opinion
In order to raise the awareness of my fellow city council members and the public at large, I have been voting no on any ordinance that comes before council that is in any way connected to this country's insane drug policy. It was for this reason that I invited a former drug warrior and prosecuting attorney from Chicago to address our council Feb 9. Jim Geirach is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. LEAP's mission is to inform the public, the media and policymakers about the failure of current drug policy. The group presents a true picture of the history, causes and effects of drug abuse and the crimes related to drug prohibition. LEAP also wants to restore the public's respect for law enforcement, which has been greatly diminished by its involvement in imposing drug prohibition.
I found Mr. Gierach's facts and figures he presented to council to be informative and insightful. Although I've received no feedback from anyone on council or the mayor, I would have to believe that they would agree with Mr. Gierach when he said that, like Al Capone, who was in favor of prohibition of alcohol, Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord, drug dealers, pushers, gangs and even Osama Bin Laden are all in favor of prohibition of drugs because it is the cornerstone and foundation of their business. They are the bad guys. Shouldn't we who are the good guys be against their position?
Mr. Gierach pointed out that so many people are now making money from this war that it permeates every aspect of our society even at the local level. Cities, including Gahanna, are now using drug money to finance police equipment and cruisers. Of course, we need police equipment but is it moral to be financing it with "blood money?" Does it make any sense to continually vote yes for a policy that for 38 years has shown to be a complete failure in stopping people from using drugs? People today are now in more danger from fallout from the drug war than the danger an addict poses.
Certainly, drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse. Mr. Geirach pointed out that every crisis in America is compounded by the drug war: crime, corruption, education, health care, terrorism, prisons, federal, state and local budgets, etc., etc. Simple marijuana (cannabis) possession is the fourth-most common cause of arrest in the United States, according to the FBI, costing $7-billion annually. An American is now arrested for violating cannabis laws every 38 seconds.
There is no doubt that drug abuse is a problem, and there are some intelligent people out there, like those at drugpolicy.org, who are addressing this problem and formulating "drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights and a just society in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more." It's time to let their voices be heard rather than ignored or drowned out by the drug war.
John McAlister is a Gahanna City Council member.
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