Letter to the Editor: Decriminalization offers a better alternative to legalization

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By Letter to the Editor

“Why is the legalization of drugs still a controversial issue?” by Jonathan Parent in the Feb. 16 issue of the Concordiensis asserts criminalization of drugs can no longer be justified. I agree.

While the history of drug criminalization shows good intentions, like protecting public health, it also shows shameful motives such as isolating various minorities.

Recent presidents and many other elected officials acknowledge using illegal drugs in their youth, while less protected young people are criminalized and serving prison sentences for the same activities. The hypocrisy is despicable and undemocratic.

The most articulate voices against criminalization are retired drug enforcement officers, who witnessed the human tragedy, cost to society, and loss of liberties.

I suggest decriminalization is an even more appropriate objective than legalization.

Portugal decriminalized drugs by law in 2001, while the Supreme Court in Argentina decriminalized drugs in 2009. Societal results have been positive. The Guatemalan president recently moved to decriminalize drugs.

This may provide the lead for the rest of Central and South America, including Mexico, where most of the recent violence can be traced to the drug criminalization in the United States.

In 1973, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, hoping to be president, passed draconian drug laws.

Despite the well documented failures, tax payer costs and personal tragedies, including broken families, law makers have not risked their careers by making meaningful changes.

The best hope may be the United States Supreme Court. When elected officials would not act to end school segregation in 1954, the United States Supreme Court, while divided on other matters, ruled unanimously that it was unconstitutional.

The existing Supreme Court remains divided on many issues, but with an effective test case, they again may unify in declaring the criminalization of drugs an unconstitutional violation of the Bill of Rights.

Frank WicksProfessor of Engineering

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