Pubdate: Sun, 14 May 2000 Source: Topeka Capital-Journal (KS) Copyright: 2000 The Topeka Capital-Journal Contact: Address: 616 S.E. Jefferson, Topeka, Kansas 66607 Website: Author: Eric A. Voth, M.D. Note: The author is Chairman of the International Drug Strategy Institute. Bookmark: MAP's link to Kansas articles is:


Dick Snider is correct about one thing in his April 28 commentary on drug legalization. My response is, to quote him, "Rot, balderdash, nonsense, bilge, and baloney" -- or perhaps something more colorful.

The advocates of legalization are quick to assert that legalizing drugs would reduce crime. I fail to see how; 70 percent of violent crime takes place under the effect of alcohol or other drugs. So how is legalizing drugs going to reduce it? Organized crime groups don't just dry up and blow away, they find other venues.

In Holland, a country where drug enforcement is lax, the murder rate is three times that of the United States. The Dutch have also seen staggering increases in violent crime, and marijuana use among their teens is up 277 percent since the policy changes. Australia has twice the heroin-related deaths than a country like Sweden, a country with restrictive drug policy. In Alaska, during its period of marijuana legalization, use of marijuana and other drugs was almost twice that of the rest of the country.

I just returned from Los Angeles after speaking to a large group of state and federal law enforcement officers. They are acutely aware of the surges in drug availability every time drug policy softens. They are now extremely concerned about the tremendous influx of MDMA (Ecstacy) from, guess where, Holland.

Functionally speaking, how would we legalize drugs? Only a few? Only certain strengths? Any type of control would create a black market. Snider's comment about the government providing drugs wold be a fiasco. Imagine if the government provided any drug that a user desired. Alcohol and other drugs already cost the United States at least $170 billion in lost productivity annually. And finally, look at the effects of our two legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Between those two we have around 500,000 deaths annually, 11 million alcoholics. Why would we even think of increasing those numbers and adding other drugs?

Our most effective approach to reducing drugs is prevention, but how can you prevent drug use with a nod and a wink? That has been the big problem in controlling alcohol use among teens. You might be interested to know that a new study on the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana doubles the effects of alcohol alone. Dick, maybe you ought to start quoting some of the information that I send you so you don't have to share the road with more stoned drivers.

- -- ERIC A. VOTH, M.D., chairman, International Drug Strategy Institute.