Stop the pusher JUST SAY NO!

January 20, 1995|By Joe Otterbein

LAST MONTH on this page, A. Robert Kaufman and Robin fTC Miller, two local residents, in separate articles proposed legalizing drugs as a way to reduce crime and help restore civility to Baltimore's blighted areas.

The two only differed in how they would handle legalization: Mr. Kaufman wants a government-appointed commission that would oversee the distribution and sale of drugs through clinics; Mr. Miller wants private enterprises licensed by the government to sell drugs.

I don't want either. I'm a member of what I call Generation W, we came after the hippies and free love, and before AIDS and Republican born-again conservatives. As one politician once put "I was alive in the mid-1970s, so I know about drug abuse." Several of my childhood friends who used drugs are dead from its ravages, and others are alive but homeless or in institutions. Several close relatives' lives have been destroyed by drug use, including two who were recently incarcerated for drug-related crimes.

Consider the potential for abuse in both manufacturing and the distribution of these powerful and expensive drugs. What kind of effect would legalization have on both the addict's family and those who would work with these types of operations?

The truth is drug-caused problems would not go away after legalization, and might even worsen. Violent people would still strike out when they got high, families would still be torn apart by the mind-numbing effects of these drugs, addicts would continue to have no other interest in life but getting another hit.

There is no doubt in my mind that one day the drug user who is not a dealer won't be arrested for simply possessing drugs. Instead, such a person will be given medical help. That will happen when society realizes that putting people in jail for drug abuse is wrong. Just as we now realize that putting mentally ill people in prisons and asylums was barbaric in earlier times.

Of the people I know who have been destroyed by drugs, most are pathetic and often dishonest but they are, for the most part, nonviolent. They also are much too weakened by the effects of drug abuse to muster the strength to become dealers and make money selling drugs. In fact they use the drugs as fast as they can get them.

So if someone does nothing other than hurt themselves with drugs, it is morally wrong to imprison them. These people are already in a prison. It is not right for us to further destroy their lives with our often self-righteous need to punish them.

Selling drugs should never be legal. People get illegal drugs easily now, there is no need to make the problem worse by legalizing drug dealing.

Joe Otterbein writes from Shrewsbury Borough, Pa.

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