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Busting our mental blocks on drugs and crime.

Suzannah Lessard recognized that the drug laws meant to protect us only made things more dangerous. This piece appeared in 1971.

When a drug problem is dealt with in strictly criminal terms, addicts have no choice but to seek out a black market. The dope underworld, in a nation where there are 200,000 addicts and yet heroin is contraband, develops into a grotesque, over-heated form of capitalism. The stakes are high enough to auract the biggest operators, and a small number tend to gain a monopoly.

Zealous enforcement only impels the racketeers to more ingeniously furtive ways, and the greater risk is reflected in the price, once again benefiting the crooks and victimizing the addict. Under the circumstances, he has to turn to crime to support his increasingly expensive habit. The odds for corruption of police are also high. In the course of duty, an agent is bound to come across stashes of heroin worth 50 times their weight in gold, not to mention large sums of money. The quick profits are so tempting that die minute one source is cut off another fills its place.

The quickest, surest way of neutralizing the mercenary motive would be to make drugs legally accessible at normal prices through doctors' prescriptions-in other words, to approach addictions as a purely medical/psychological problem without any criminal overtones.

Ideally, profits should in no way be associated with the distribution-inciting greed to advertise, promote, or in any way push drugs-and drugs would have to be kept away from children, but should be available to those who want them and need them. That way, the addict-populated ghettos would not suffer the extraordinary crime rates and the consequent fear, deterioration of social bonds, and abject poverty that come about when a good portion of the population has to spend its time and energies hustling to quell a craving.
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Title Annotation:Crime
Author:Lessard, Suzannah
Publication:Washington Monthly
Date:Feb 1, 1989
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