August 24, 2008

Wake-Up Call on Pot Busts

A war we can't win

Re "Struggling with the price of the pot fight," Roger Chesley op- ed, Aug. 16:

Marijuana prohibition is a costly failure. Detectives Michael Phillips of Virginia Beach and Jarrod Shivers of Chesapeake did not die as heroes.

Rather, they both died as victims of our country's failed war on drugs.

The Pilot is absolutely correct to zero-in on "marijuana prohibition" as doing more harm than good. The tragic deaths of two fine police officers who were both recently killed during marijuana law enforcement operations prove that marijuana prohibition is a dismal, costly and deadly failure.

Criminalizing pot puts all distribution, sale and control into the hands of criminals.

This has two dire consequences: First, there is no regulation in a criminal-controlled market. Some thugs who distribute marijuana often sell more dangerous narcotics, even to middle-schoolers.

Second, huge amounts of illicit drug money have escalated gun use, violence and turf wars reminiscent of 1930s alcohol Prohibition. Drug-related crimes as reported by police are invariably nothing more than "money-related."

The medical facts about marijuana dictate that it be removed from the war on drugs. The Drug Enforcement Administration's own administrative law judge, Francis Young, ruled in 1988 that "marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."

The most dangerous things about marijuana are the absurd laws and high-risk law enforcement techniques.

Alcohol prohibition did not work. Marijuana prohibition is not working. There are 10,000 laws on the books to promote the responsible use of alcohol. Perhaps marijuana will need 20,000 laws. Budweiser's "Know When to Say When" proves that responsible drug use is an acceptable aspect of our culture.

It is time to address all low-level drug use as a public health problem rather than a law enforcement issue.

Steven D. Wallace


A worthless war

Re "Va. Beach loses a defender; family loses a father and a husband," Kerry Dougherty column, Aug. 10:

Yes, another brave police officer is lost to his family and his community over a weed. A few weeks ago in a mistaken pot deal, a town mayor and his family in Maryland were thrown and cuffed on the floor in their own home by marijuana-chasing enforcement agents who shot and killed their two dogs.

Months before, the aftermath of another mistaken home raid here resulted in yet another brave officer dead and an innocent (of marijuana felony) person awakened and facing murder charges in a disputed defense of his home.

We use thousands of plants for hundreds of purposes, many medicinally. But for this weed, this silly little plant with a political agenda still hung around its neck from the 1960s, we legislate a no-win environment that both creates criminals and then exposes our law enforcement to deadly risk. Just so our government has the ability to stick it s nose where it does not belong.

Please don't "gateway drug" me. I have seen the ravages of misused alcohol on society over my 55 years.

There would be no criminals shooting good cops over pot if the illegality itself didn't create huge profits.

Why are our valuable law enforcement officers spending so much time to prevent those who choose to smoke pot, perhaps instead of drinking alcohol, from doing so? Has every terrorist cell in the U.S. and Osama Bin Laden been found? Have all the deadly drunk drivers been removed from our roads?

If marijuana were found to cause erections, it would be legalized within 24 hours, grown by every major pharmaceutical company, covered by Medicare and distributed to congressmen with no co-pay on their medical plan.

Greed would turn the weed into a major legal industry and our hypocrisy would be exposed.

This recent rash of deadly and problematic marijuana police mishaps highlights the folly of prioritizing the prohibition of pot over so many activities more dangerous to our community.

We waste our valuable resources and produce criminal enterprises and criminals that shouldn't even exist. Then we place our law enforcement agencies at war with them unnecessarily.

Our officers and the public deserve better. I sure would like those dogs alive and our two local officers at home with their families tonight. Even if it meant a few more potheads around.

Andrew C. Kline

Virginia Beach

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