Sgt. D. Knieter of the South Tucson Department of Public Safety (Weekly, Feb. 7-13) chides Sidney Wolitzky for knowing "little or nothing about the effects of drugs on our society." But Knieter himself betrays a staggering ignorance of the facts when he relies on emotional statements about seeing "young people go into violent convulsions and die in your arms." Is drug prohibition actually reducing these sorts of situations? (Or is it making things worse by preventing addicts from obtaining measured and untainted dosages?) As the Office of Technology Assessment's March 1987 report, The Border War on Drugs (OTA-O-336) stated in the first of its key findings, "Despite increasing Federal expenditures for interdiction, illegal drug imports appear to be increasing. There is no clear correlation between the level of expenditures or effort devoted to interdiction and the long-term availability of illegally imported drugs in the domestic market." (Emphasis in original.)
Importation of cocaine into the United States has increased, not declined, with increased law enforcement expenditures, and the courts and prisons are clogged with drug cases. Further, the drug warriors are proposing ever more intrusive laws: Washington, D.C., now allows police to arrest people who gather in groups of two or more for "failure to move on," a misdemeanor. Gang membership has been banned in Los Angeles County and Seminole County, Florida, and may soon be banned in Arizona. Volusia County, Florida, Sheriff Robert L. Vogel Jr. regularly stops cars driven by people who meet his "drug courier profile" and those possessing large sums of cash have it seized regardless of drug involvement.
The issue is not, as Knieter seems to be arguing, about whether or not drug use can have negative consequences, but rather how best to deal with these consequences. The evidence indicates that prohibition exacerbates the problem and that legalization could at least take care of some of the symptoms.