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WHY HAVEN’T WE LEARNED FROM EUROPEAN DRUG EXPERIMENTS
By George Guevara 

Now That Proposition 215 has passed, marijuana is now the new medicine (the only medicine, by the way, that is smoked).  The use of so-called medical marijuana is a sham and voters were duped with the emotional arguments of its pain-relieving effects.  Marijuana is not really a medicine.  I won’t get into all the legislative aspects of the bill, as I don’t feel I have the political clout to adequately argue my opinion, although I do feel that not taking a stand on drug legalization only gives the attitude of acceptance. 

My personal thanks on this issue goes to state Attorney General Dan Lungren and to Orange County Sheriff Gates.  I believe that through their leadership and forthrightness, they can help correct a bad law.  On the other hand, look at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.  They decided not to take a stand nor make any statement pro or con on this proposition.  The board thinks they were so courageous because earlier this year they filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry.  I was the board’s idea of recouping some of the cost of medical treatment due to smoking-related illness.  So who is the Board of Supervisors afraid of that voted not to take a stand either way?  The arguments by proponents of drug/marijuana legalization seem to always being up the fact that Great Britain and other European countries have “shooting galleries” and parks where drugs are sold and used openly. It seems that we haven’t looked at other nations’ drug laws and their societal effects and that we think we are smarter than people of other countries.  England tried prescribing heroin but gave it up. 

     Until the mid – 1960s, British doctors were prescribing heroin to certain classes of heroin users.  After this experiment, a younger drug culture emerged with a demand for drugs far different from that of the older addicts.  The British experiment didn’t work.  Addiction levels rose, especially among teen-agers and many addicts chose to boycott the program and continued to get their heroin from pushers when, in 1983, England began switching over to methadone and stopped dispensing heroin from these clinics (shooting galleries).  This British system of supervising and controlling heroin distribution didn’t work and resulted in a 30-fold increase in the number of addicts in just 10 years.

     The Netherlands, despite its controlled program, is having troubles of its own.  Under the so-called ‘expediency principle,’ Dutch law protects individuals from prosecution for acts that are technically illegal, including the retail-level sales and purchase of marijuana and hashish.  The Amsterdam Municipal Health Service showed a rise in hard-core addicts attributable to a significant rise in the local heroin supply which led to a price drop of as much as 75 percent.  Switzerland has thus become a magnet for drug users all over the world. 

     The thing these smaller European nations have learned is a little tolerance about drugs brings a lot of unwelcome visitors.  Zurich permitted drug use and sales in a part of the city called the “Platzspitz,’ (Needle Park).  Five years after this experiment was curtailed after an influx of addicts and increased violence and deaths.  Basically, the number of regular drug users at the park had swelled from just a few hundred to over 20,000 by 1992.  After the Platzspitz closed, the price of heroin doubled. 

     Violent crime is also a major problem in the Netherlands.  A recent study of crime victims in 20 mostly Europeans rank the Netherlands as the number-one country in Europe for assaults and threats.  The Dutch Criminal Service reported a 30 percent increase in gun-related deaths.  Almost all involved drug disputes.  Robberies have also increased in each year since 1988.  The Netherlands, smaller than the state of West Virginia, has more than 50 clinics supplying methadone to heroin addicts and drug violators make up a large percentage of prisoners in the Dutch prison system.  So much for passive use and a decrease in violence.  

     In 1994, a number of European cities signed a resolution called the European Cities Against Drugs, commonly known as the Stockholm Resolution.  Basically, it states:  “The demands to legalize illicit drugs should been seen against the background of current problems, which have led to a feeling of helplessness.  For many, the only way to cope is to try to administer the current situation.  But the answer does not lie in making harmful drugs more accessible, cheaper and socially acceptable.  Attempts to do this have not proved successful.  We believe that legalizing drugs will, in the long term, increase our problems.  By making them legal, society will signal that it has resigned to the acceptance of drug abuse.  The signatories to this resolution therefore want to make their position clear by rejecting the proposals to legalize illicit drugs.”  The cities signing this resolution include:  Berlin, Stockholm, Budapest, Dublin, Gdansk (Poland), Gothenburg (Sweden), Helsinki, Paris, Lugano (Switzerland), Madrid, Malmo (Sweden), Moscow, Oslo, Prague, London, Reykjavid (Iceland), Riga (Latvia), St. Petersburg (Russia), Tallinn (Estonia), Valetta (Malta) and Warsaw. 

     Those are some very powerful and compelling words from some wise city officials.  It does seem to me that we would learn a lesson from other people and in this case other nations, but as usual, our superior arrogant attitude, that as Americans and Californians, we are better and wiser than everyone else, has gotten the best of us.

     What makes the proponents of drugs think this situation will be any different than in Europe?  What makes us think we won’t have the same problems?  I’m not saying that law enforcement can’t do a better job, because I think then can.  Well, maybe I do, but as a line officer I see, as do other officers I work with, the effects of drug use.  We are the ones who have to clean up the mess of shattered lives, broken bodies and dysfunctional families because of drugs, all starting with the drug called the stepping stone;  Marijuana.   

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