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Legalize All Drugs!

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In this country, one huge exploitative industry will never answer to Ralph Nader. lts consumers receive no product guarantee, it supplies no warranties, lts products are immune from Federal Trade Commission scrutiny and Pure Food and Drug Laws. Yet throughout the Sixties and on into the Seventies, U. S. citizens have become lts customers in droves. The industry is organized crime; the products, illegal drugs and narcotics; lts customers, narcotics addicts and drug users - the nation's pariahs. Within the nebulous confines of extra- legal business, the narcotic drug traffickers are the champions of commerce. They need no public relations agency to spruce up their images; business is thriving. The customer-victims of this industry are our only clue to what transpires in that other world; what they suffer is reason enough that this Industry should be nationalized, but the government can do nothing. . . or won't. And the victims multiply. Even those who are not addicted to a narcotic, but morely prefer the use of marijuana to another means of pleasure-seeking, are branded by the rest of American society. Presently, a heroin addict and a marijuana user face the same problems: it is a crime to secure the drug. The addict or user faces social degradation. The crime syndicate they both buy from exacts a huge toll from their addiction or, in the case of marijuana, the decision to use. Apply these distasteful realities to the statistics of drug use: in the City of Detroit, for example, arrests for marijuana offenses increased 400% between 1958 and 1968. It has been estimated that over 20 million people - citizens--in this country use marijuana (compared with over 90 million drinkers, 6. 5 million of whom are alcoholics). California has reported that at least one third of it's high school students use marijuana; in Michigan up to 34% of the high school graduates have had some drug experience. Colleges across the country, unable to secure exact figures, estimate that one quarter to one half of their students are drug users. The penalty for possession of narcotic drugs-which, under the uniform drug laws, includes marijuana - is a felony; conviction in Michigan means imprisonment of not more than ten years and a fine of not more than $5, 000. 00.. Sale of a narcotic nets the vendor hot less than 20 years imprisonment or more than life. Only first degree murder and treason require a greater punishment in Michigan. "This country, then, over 20 million marijuana users and countless thousands of narcotic addicts are criminals. Their crimes are, for the most part, against themselves. A marijuana user violates the accepted boundaries of pleasure-seeking; he or she does not drink. A heroin addict, though he or she must usually commit crimes against property to support the incredible cost of the habit, suffers a physical dependence on a substance. They are much like the alcoholic, but alcoholism in this country is sanctioned addiction, not punishable by law. Use of alcohol, a central nervous system depressant, which has produced physical dependence in an estimated 6. 5 million Americans and psychological dependence in perhaps five times that number is not only free of penalty, but its use is even encouraged by our society to such a degree that nonusers of the drug are regarded by most as being somewhat peculiar. Although drug addiction de facto is not to be condoned, it seems ridiculous to compound the misery and the real physical anguish of heroin addicts by persecuting them under the law. Americans have proven themselves to be curiously susceptible to dependence on substances to ease their pain and increase their pleasure. The potential for addiction is woven into the fabric of American life; to punish one kind of addiction is immeasurably cruel. Drug use is a legal-criminal problem only because there are laws forbidding it. Until the 1930's for instance, federal narcotic prohibitions did not include marijuana. In fact, 19th Century physicians used marijuana as an anti-depressant, a pain reliever, and occasionally as an anesthetic. By the 1930's, however, federal officials were eyeing marijuana with suspicion. They classified it as a narcotic, and instituted special federal tax and license procedures to govern its distribution and use. Each of the states in turn passed legislation banning marijuana within its boundaries, until it was nationally illegal by the end of the decade, a is interesting to note that marijuana prohibition was invented directly after the repeal of the Volstead Act, which prohibited the manufacture, distribution, sale and use of alcohol. It seems incredible that our federal government would not have learned a lesson from attempting to ban the use of alcohol. Prohibition effectively created a criminal class composed of citizens who did not agree that alcohol consumption was immoral. Rather than examining the pitfalls of morality legislation, the government turned from an unpopular moral code upon all the people at once, its awesome shortcomings have become apparent. Obviously great differences exist between alcohol and the whole range af drugs and narcotics currently illegal in this country. Nevertheless, one of the more basic issues in both cases remains the same: ATTEMPTING TO BAN THE GOODS SPREADS A THICK FOG OVER THE HEALTH PROBLEMS OF THE USERS AND CREATES AN ARTIFICIAL CLIMATE IN WHICH THE MAIN DEBATE RAGES OVER THE CRIMINAL ASPECTS OF THE PROBLEM. As under alcohol prohibition, a giant illegal machinery runs smoothly night and day to provide the people with illegal goods under narcotic and drug prohibition. The size of its tole has not resulted, as a rational person would expect, in the re-examination of the laws governing production, distribution, transfer, sale, use, and possession of narcotics and drugs. Rather, the universality of drug use and its seepage from the black inner-city to the white suburbs- -has triggered a wave of repression initiated by government officials at all levels, attempting to stamp out the problem by means that threaten the basic constitutional rights of all citizens. Such means include strengthening the investigative powers of various law enforcement agencies. However , it must be pointed out that illicit trade in narcotics could not flourish without police collusion. In this regard, the efforts of law enforcement agencies have been a failure, a monumental waste of time and money. ft is about time for politicians, the press and the public to calm down and rethink the problem with some composure. By legalizing drugs, you will break the organized crime-police law collaboration. This is an interlocking system generated by the enormous profits that allow the corruption of government officials by organized crime. The brunt of criminal prosecution should be shifted from the addict to the crime syndicate. Presently, drug users are vulnerable to exploitation by powerful criminal organizations. When prohibition proved to be a fiasco, creating more criminals than it eliminated, the federal government saw its error, lifted the ban and began to regulate the alcohol content of various liquors sold by now-legal producers and distributors. Why is this same approach so unthinkable in the case of illegal narcotics? Many citizens would shudder at the thought of legalized drugs, believing that for the United States to go into the narcotics business is tantamount to permitting drug addiction. Perhaps what they don't understand is that this country played the only trump card it held by rendering narcotics illegal. This has not been an effective means of eliminating or even controlling drug use, sale and production. Thus it seems only reason able that another approach is to be attempted and that this approach should include some method by which the government could have control over the narcotic and drug traffic. It is impossible to have this control while the business is dominated by the crime syndicate. A panoply of drug abuse control programs has sprung up across the country to deal with the health problems of the users and addicts. Although their methods differ, they are all similar to the extent that they attempt to bring as much humaneness to the problem as is possible under the present set of drugs laws. Methodone clinics in major cities attempt rehabilitation of heroin addicts. Students, with their allies in the medical profession, are aiding young drug abusers in treatment centers specifically designed to reflect the alternative culture of which many young users consider themselves a part. These programs represent a valiant effort to check the epidemic of drug abuse sweeping the country through accurate drug information, straight talk and no-nonsense treatment - a method certainly not prevalent among the responsible legal and educational institutions, which still rely on scare talk and misinformation to keep its children away from the "noxious weed" and the other drugs that marijuana supposedly "leads to." Now that the federal government has indisputable evidence that many veterans returning form Vietnam are heroin addicts, that problem :an be considered "officially recognized, " and the President has proposed a program to "cure" drug addicts, at a cost of $371 million annually. To an increasing number of citizens, who view heroin addiction and massive drug use as a symptom of the current problem s which plague our society, and rightly so, the President's program is merely the proposal to create another bureaucracy. Of the drug abuse control programs invented and all the ringing denunciations of drug pushers in legislative chambers across the country can only nick the surface of the problem. Like the drug control acts, the only persons they address are the "little people"--the addicts, the abusers and users, the street pushers. Only when the government has complete control over the production and distribution of the goods can the problem be solved. The simplest, fastest, thriftiest and safest method by which this goal can be realized is to repeal all laws restricting and prohibiting the use, possession, distribution, sale and 'production of narcotics and drugs, thereby putting the drug battle on a whole new set of ground rules. This would accomplish the following: (1) Devastate the crime syndicate's illegal narcotic business, and provide for the establishment of legitimate sources of drugs, including marijuana, which would be subject to federal regulation of the content, potency, adulteration of the drugs provided for legal sale. This in itself would preclude widespread usage of drugs, particularly by adolescents. It is presently easier for the very young to obtain drugs than to purchase a package of cigarettes or alcohol. (2) Drive the sinister criminal element out of the drug picture. Drug users would not have to rely on underworld or other illegal sources to support their drug habits, removing the "forbidden fruit" aura surrounding the illegality of drug use. (3) Minimize the harm done by drugs by allowing society, i. e. , doctors, teacher, psychologists, social workers, ministers, etc. to intensify preventive educational and rehabilitative programs. E has already been demonstrated that law enforcement agencies have failed in their efforts to eliminate drug use. Drug use is a societal problem and it Is necessary to remove the social stigma attached to drug use. (4) Allow millions of drug users to stop being criminals, thereby regenerating the law in new potency. . . millions might cease to violate it with impunity. Removal of youthful hostility to present repressive drug penalty laws could undoubtedly result in the respect for the law enforcement by the young. Punishment by law is a highly specialized tool of social control--its use may prove more harmful than the problem it addressess itself to. The repeal of the narcotic-drug laws would sweep away that class of American criminals who prefer marijuana use to liquor use for relieving tensions and obtaining a pleasurable state of mind. Health officials could begin in earnest to solve the health problems of heroin addicts and abusers of other drugs, without the criminal penalties compounding their miseries. Once again, this solution does not include a sanction of heroin addict ion, but merely clears the path toward control of the problem, unhampered by laws that do not do the job they were meant to do. A massive drug education program, based on accurate Information about all drugs and narcotics, minus the hypocrisy and fear-mongering that typifies many such programs today should supplement the repeal of narcotics-drug laws. Such a program should reach children in the primary school grades, but even age six may be too late for a child who has learned about addiction from watching its parents smoke, drink, take sleeping pills, diet pills. . . We live in an addicted society; a culture devoted to alleviating the tensions generated by living and working at fever pitch, by beating the Joneses, by enduring a war no one wants, by confusion. In the agony af our confusion, we must realize that repression and the refusal to admit the existence of another opinion, another politics, another life style, will not cause the offensive element to succumb. The legal-political furor over drug abuse is symptomatic of the terrifying mood creeping into our society - tne wish to stamp out the accoutremints of non-conformity by punishing the non-conformists. If we are to remain true to the principles we shout about, we must begin to realize where we have bastardized them and re-examine our motives and our fears. A nationwide repeal of the narcotic drug laws could be a step toward the rational re-examination of the ills of contemporary American society. We could begin now, we might avert a crisis not only in the burgeoning drug culture, but in the substance of our society. HOUSE BILL No. 5487 State Representative 23rd District