Peter Moskos, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Neill Franklin, a 32-year law enforcement veteran, have written an op-ed in The Washington Post calling for legalization of drugs in order to decrease violence and give decimated neighborhoods a chance to recover. Both are members of f Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Here is a portion:
Drug users generally aren’t violent. Most simply want to be left alone to enjoy their high. It’s the corner slinger who terrifies neighbors and invites rivals to attack. Public drug dealing creates an environment where disputes about money or respect are settled with guns.
In high-crime areas, police spend much of their time answering drug-related calls for service, clearing dealers off corners, responding to shootings and homicides, and making lots of drug-related arrests.
One of us (Franklin) was the commanding officer at the police academy when Arthur (as well as Moskos) graduated. We all learned similar lessons. Police officers are taught about the evils of the drug trade and given the knowledge and tools to inflict as much damage as possible upon the people who constitute the drug community. Policymakers tell us to fight this unwinnable war.
Only after years of witnessing the ineffectiveness of drug policies — and the disproportionate impact the drug war has on young black men — have we and other police officers begun to question the system.
Cities and states license beer and tobacco sellers to control where, when and to whom drugs are sold. Ending Prohibition saved lives because it took gangsters out of the game. Regulated alcohol doesn’t work perfectly, but it works well enough. Prescription drugs are regulated, and while there is a huge problem with abuse, at least a system of distribution involving doctors and pharmacists works without violence and high-volume incarceration. Regulating drugs would work similarly: not a cure-all, but a vast improvement on the status quo.
Legalization would not create a drug free-for-all. In fact, regulation reins in the mess we already have. If prohibition decreased drug use and drug arrests acted as a deterrent, America would not lead the world in illegal drug use and incarceration for drug crimes.
Drug manufacturing and distribution is too dangerous to remain in the hands of unregulated criminals. Drug distribution needs to be the combined responsibility of doctors, the government, and a legal and regulated free market. This simple step would quickly eliminate the greatest threat of violence: street-corner drug dealing.