Justifiably, crime and violence are high on the list of issues that concern Americans. As this concern increases, there is a heightened sense of need for dramatic action. Sometimes, however, such pressure leads to desperately conceived notions that ultimately will be more devastating than the current crisis.
Legalizing drugs is one of those notions. It is not a new idea; debates about legalization have been going on for the past several years. Americans oppose the idea, and no serious-minded policymaker would ever consider it. What is troubling is the emergence of the issue right now.
There can be no rational argument that legalization would be a panacea for our social ills. On the contrary, it will only exacerbate the violence. The Clinton administration is vehemently opposed to drug legalization in any form. In the national drug strategy, the president stated, "This administration will never consider the legalization of illegal drugs."
For the first time in many decades, there is a comprehensive, coordinated strategy to deal with the underlying causes of drugs and crime. The Clinton administration is totally committed to investing in America. Creative initiatives such as community policing, empowerment zones, national service, health care reform, worker retraining for the unemployed and welfare reform offer a powerful combination of hope and opportunity to communities in which drugs and crime normally thrive. How can support be sustained for efforts to revitalize communities hit hardest by drug abuse and violence if we are willing to permit such activities to occur?
Legalization advocates seem adept at raising the issue, but they have a tough time translating their ideas into anything that is practical and workable. They don't tell us what drugs they would legalize or where they would sell them and for how much -- even as they continue to press the same fallacious arguments:
* Drug legalization will reduce the burden on our prison and court systems. Why do we have to legalize drugs to ease prison overcrowding and lighten court dockets? Effective drug control requires bold and effective programs to stop the recidivism overwhelming our criminal justice system.
We need more programs such as the newly created High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area in the Washington-Baltimore region that targets chronic, hard-core drug use. President Clinton's anticrime agenda calls for the development of other innovative concepts such as boot camps to address the nonviolent offender population.
According to the National Center for State Courts, about 20 local jurisdictions -- most of them large urban areas -- are either experimenting with or running full-time programs that provide treatment and rehabilitation for offenders (as opposed to incarceration) or separate courts for drug violators to improve case flow. In Dade County, Fla., for example, prosecutors and defenders in relevant cases are allowed to reach agreements through which defendants are diverted from incarceration into rehabilitation. Some court systems, such as those in St. Paul, Minn., and Washington, D.C., combine these approaches.
* Drug legalization will reduce crime and violence by removing the profit motive. Legalization advocates just don't get it. Many drugs are illegal because they are addictive. They are mind-altering and cause catastrophic outcomes. …