Source Pravda.Ru

Our reader Michael Hess: International criminal trade in drugs

I'd like to thank the editors at Pravda for offering a Web feed. I use it here on on page two as a welcome addition. We strive here to provide many worldwide and some unusual sources of news in a compact and easy to access format. Your Web feed provides another important news alternative for our readers. I'd like to know what others think about cutting off the international criminal trade in some popular yet illicit drugs and stopping it virtually overnight? This would end any funding of terrorist organizations or other types of criminal syndicates with the swipe of a few pens. We have seen in the US that just overtaxing cigarettes, a drug more addictive and deadly than heroin, creates a black market that has had ties to Hezzbollah in a case that stretched from North Carolina to Michigan in the US. Canada learned that overtaxing cigarettes would produce a lawless criminal black market trade in tobacco and rescinded the punitive tax having learned it's lesson. During hearings in the US about the Tobacco industry, the Bliley Committee heard testimony about the very fine line in taxing tobacco just enough to extract revenue from tobacco companies yet not too much that would touch off a black market just like we have already created with other recreational drugs through our massively failed and counter-productive, harmful "drug" prohibition. Heroin and opium have no regulation. As with all prohibitions outlawing addictive or popular substances it has only strengthened criminal elements and handed them a golden goose. Terrorists indeed may be financing their operations in part from the sale of currently illicit drugs (just like they may have in the case of the cigarette smugglers) but the real profit happens during all the "hand offs" between middlemen smugglers. Those charged with keeping the drug flowing to those consumers who want or have to have it. There is some hope however. European countries are seeing the folly of equating cannabis with heroin and cocaine. The UK is moving to no longer arrest those who use cannabis. A move long overdue and one that prompts me to ask many news outlets in the US, "how many terrorists or other violent thugs got away while the police spend precious resources arresting more than 700,000 Americans each year, with nine out of ten of them for mere possession" of the plant material; a weed after all? With security and freedom more precious than ever why would America squander important resources going after what the entire body of medical literature has found to be a useful and relatively harmless plant substance with no known human acute overdose? The FDA approved Delta-9-THC and the DEA downgraded it's illegal drug status in pill form delivered in sesame oil because of its safety, efficacy and low diversion potential. Switzerland embarked on a plan some years ago to provide heroin maintenance to a segment of its addict population with great success. They bought the heroin legally from Tasmania. The US had reportedly put pressure on those involved because of its unreasoned and unyielding position that heroin use is criminal as opposed to the reality, that heroin use is a medical problem. Yet the Swiss are very happy with the success of their program. By providing addicts with clean heroin and injecting equipment and facilities for about ten dollars per day, the addicts overwhelmingly responded positively with a lowering of petty criminal activity, increased employment, better access to health professionals and an end to the addict being on the prohibition enforced treadmill of drug acquisition. Most Swiss addicts however still get heroin from the black market. Their program needs to be vastly expanded to cover all addicts. Switzerland could then be content that their heroin addicts were not unwittingly putting money in the coffers of terrorists or any other violent thugs. Policing suddenly becomes much easier with a legal trade, lawful business addresses, more enthusiastic help in other types of real criminal cases from the public and solid regulation ending the 24/7 black market trade in heroin that sells to children. In the UK, in addition to welcome cannabis law reform, home secretary David Blunkett is also calling for a return to the time Britain treated their addicts with dignity and making prescribing hard drugs such as heroin a priority. It is simply good common sense on a host of fronts to finally admit the wrongheadeness and outright danger to world security that the $400,000,000 currently illicit drug prohibition has had on the world. Alcohol Prohibition created organized crime in the US. World Drug Prohibition has created a huge successor and enhancement to criminal activity such as the world has never seen. It has to be admitted that some portion of the worlds population will want to consume some currently politically incorrect substances, because they do, they are and they are spending billions of dollars to have them in spite of the most dire Draconian consequences dreamt up by either the US or even Singapore. A pragmatic approach would simply follow the successful Dutch model yet expand on it and regulate trade in all currently illicit drugs, taking the profit right out of the criminals hands. I am instilled by fear when I hear American politicians compare the war on terrorism to the failed war on drugs. They actually claim drug war success in the face of drug interdiction rates between ten and fifteen percent (and likely less according to some sources.) It does not compute. In the US heroin purity is higher than ever and the price is lower. The high profile busts of major cocaine cartels, instead of crippling the cocaine trade splintered the market into many hundreds of distributors. And now Colombia grows the opium poppy. It does not inspire confidence in me or for my family that our leaders are planning to win the war on terrorism like they are losing the failed war on some drugs. I do not wish for this conflict to be termed as the "war on some thugs" with most of the terrorism raging on while we ignore root causes and eight of of ten of the terrorists get through. I would much prefer dismantling the organized money machine that is World Drug Prohibition and divorcing it forever from organized crime. Thereby stopping an unparalleled source of criminal funding and replacing current prohibition with full and sensible regulation. This would be the greatest of boons for law enforcement. Just like alcohol regulation crippled the income of organized crime. It also would for this first time mean for the currently illicit drugs trade: Tarriffs, taxes, bills of lading, proper labeling, strength and purity control, legal dispute resolution, neighborhood zoning laws, ID checks of children, easy to locate addresses of distributors like with alcohol and cigarettes, better health intervention, the check of diseases such as hepatitus and AIDS and a much improved relationship between police and minority or low income folks who traditionally distrust the police because of unfair treatment during World Drug Prohibition. The enormous amount of resources that will be saved from repeal of World Drug Prohibition should be redirected towards the vastly more urgent problem of security and rooting out violent terrorists and thugs. To do otherwise is to hand to the violent thugs the keys to our futures. Sincerely,

Michael Hess Editor, BBSNews