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Big Drug War News (Congressman Dan Burton on the drug war)
The Agitator ^ | 17 December 2002 | Radley Balko

Posted on 12/17/2002 9:39:06 AM PST by Joe Bonforte

In a little noticed hearing of the House Government Reform Commnittee last week, Indiana Congressman (my homeotwn's Congressman actually) and longtime drug warrior Dan Burton made some stunning comments. In a hearing entitled "America's Heroin Crisis, Colombian Heroin and How We Can Improve Plan Colombia," Burton stopped just a hair short of advocating the decriminalization of drugs. Watch the video here (cut forward to 1 hour, 18 minutes into the hearing). Here's the transcript:

Dan Burton: I want to tell you something. I have been in probably a hundred or a hundred and fifty hearings like this at various times in my political career,. And the story is always the same. This goes back to the sixties. You know, thirty or thirty five years ago. And every time I have a hearing, I hear that people who get hooked on heroin and cocaine become addicted and they very rarely get off of it. And the scourge expands and expands and expands. And we have very fine law enforcement officers like you go out and fight the fight. And you see it growing and growing, and you see these horrible tragedies occur. But there is no end to it.

And I see young guys driving around in tough areas of Indianapolis in cars that I know they can’t afford and I know where they are getting their money. I mean that there is no question. A kid can’t be driving a brand-new Corvette when he lives in the inner city of Indianapolis in a ghetto. You know that he has gotta be making that money in someway that is probably not legal and probably involves drugs.

Over seventy percent of all crime is drug-related. And you alluded to that today. We saw on television recently Pablo Escobar gunned down and everybody applauded and said “that’s the end of the Medellín cartel. But it wasn’t the end. There is still a cartel down there. They are still all over the place. When you kill one, there’s ten or twenty or fifty waiting to take his place. You know why? Its because of what you just said a minute ago, Mr. Carr, Mr. Marcocci (sp). And that is that there is so much money to be made in it ­ there is always going to be another person in line to make that money.

And we go into drug eradication and we go into rehabilitation and we go into education, and we do all of these things... And the drug problem continues to increase. And it continues to cost us not billions, but trillions of dollars. Trillions! And we continue to build more and more prisons, and we put more and more people in jail, and we know that the crimes ­ most of the time ­ are related to drugs.

So I have one question I would like to ask all of you, and I think this is a question that needs to be asked. I hate drugs. I hate people who succumb to drug addiction, and I hate what it does to our society. It has hit every one of us in our families or friends of ours. But I have one question that nobody ever asks, and that is this question: What would happen if there was no profit in drugs? If there was no profit in drugs, what would happen. If they couldn’t make any money out of selling drugs, what would happen?

Carr: I would like to comment. If we made illegal... what you are arguing then is complete legalization?

Dan Burton: No I am not arguing anything. I am asking the question. Because we have been fighting this fight for thirty to forty years and the problem never goes way...

....Well I don’t think that the people in Colombia would be planting coca if they couldn’t make any money, and I don’t think they would be refining coca and heroin in Colombia if they couldn’t make any money. And I don’t think that Al Capone would have been the menace to society that he was if he couldn’t sell alcohol on the black market ­ and he did ­ and we had a horrible, horrible crime problem. Now the people who are producing drugs in Southeast Asia and Southwest Asia and Colombia and everyplace else. They don’t do it because they like to do it. They don’t fill those rooms full of money because they like to fill them full of money. They do it because they are making money.

At some point we to have to look at the overall picture and the overall picture ­ and I am not saying that there are not going to be people who are addicted ­ they are going to have to be education and rehabilitation and all of those things that you are talking about - but one of the parts of the equation that has never been talked about ­ because politicians are afraid to talk about it ­ this is my last committee hearing as Chairman. Last time! And I thought about this and thought about this, and thought about this. And one of the things that ought to be asked is “what part of the equation are we leaving out?” And “is it an important part of the equation?” And that is ­ the profit in drugs. Don’t just talk about education. Don’t just talk about eradication. Don’t just talk about killing people like Escobar, who is going to be replaced by somebody else. Let’s talk about what would happen if we started addressing how to get the profit out of drugs.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if, twenty years from now, we could look back at law-and-order Dan Burton's conversion as the "Nixon goes to China" turning point of the drug war?


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Front Page News
KEYWORDS: addictedlosers; antigovnerds; apotheadstory; blackhelicopters; brainlessdruggies; cheetos; chickenlittle; cocainekills; colombia; congress; conspiracists; crackbabys; curehemmorhoids; dopersarelosers; drugreformyes; drugskilledbolin; drugskilledelvis; drugskilledgram; drugskilledgrech; drugskilledhoon; drugskilledjanis; drugskilledjimi; drugskilledjohn; drugskilledmoon; drugskilledriver; drugskilledsid; drugskilledthain; drugsno; drugsruinlives; drugvicbelushi; drugvicdimwit; drugvicfarndon; drugvicgarcia; drugvicmelvoin; drugvicmydland; drugvicruffin; drugvicvalerie; gowodgetem; jbtsno; liberdopianlies; memoryloss; methdeath; nodoobieno; paranoia; ripwod; saynopetodope; skyisfalling; tinfoildruggies; warondrugs; wodlist; wodlives
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The light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps? The last paragraph says it may be so. When even pro-Drug-War congressmen start to see the insanity fo the War on Drugs, something must be about to change.
1 posted on 12/17/2002 9:39:06 AM PST by Joe Bonforte
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To: Joe Bonforte
Boy, Dan Burton making sense? Boggles the mind.
2 posted on 12/17/2002 9:44:16 AM PST by widowithfoursons
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To: Joe Bonforte
No, no no. We must pursue the war on drugs with a new fervor! We must put cameras in every room of every home to make sure that nobody is using drugs! We must put informants in every school and workplace to make sure that nobody even thinks about drugs! We must put more police on every street corner to search every person who passes by to make sure they don't have drugs! We must have compulsory body cavity searches on every American citizen twice a day to make sure they don't have any drugs! We need to get rid of the fourth amendment to make us all save from drugs! We need to get rid of all of our rights if we are to fight the war on drugs! We must turn America into one giant prison to get rid of the scourge of drugs! All citizens will be given a place of residence (cell) and a new identity code (number) to expedite their daily drug screening.

Once we have accomplished all of this, then we will have arrived at our holy, drug-free paradise, comrades!
3 posted on 12/17/2002 9:50:44 AM PST by Billy_bob_bob
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To: Joe Bonforte
First, let me say that I do not support a FEDERAL WOD. I believe it is a state issue. Specifically, I believe pot should be legalized, but I still believe hard drugs such as cocaine, heroine, pcp, meth, ect should remain illegal.

To examine the proposition by Libertarians, and now Mr. Burton we must look at the entire picture, and the end result.

You are correct to assume that, in accordance with the nature of supply and demand, by reducing the supply, you increase the demand and by increasing the demand you raise the value of said product or service.

So, yes, by reducing the ability of hard drugs to find their way to the US, you increase the market value of those drugs. By doing that, you raise the motivation of dealers and producers to produce and send more drugs to the US. In contrast, by legalizing, you will indeed cut the legs out from under the cartels and dealers.

However we must also weight the effects of said action to the consumers of these narcotics. While the mean ol' cartels would likely go out of business, the consumers of the legalized substances would have more motivation to use. The product would be more readily available, for a cheaper price, and with a virtually nill likelyhood of getting a bad product.

So, while you may have remedied the supply side, killing off the cartels and giving the job of production over to corporations, you INCREASE the motivation of users and non users to use MORE.

I don't see that as a good thing.

4 posted on 12/17/2002 9:53:03 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Joe Bonforte
No. No. We can't legalize drugs.

People might get the idea that they have a right to control their own body. They might think that they have a right to buy medical drugs without a perscription.

Then where will the Doctors and insurance companies be? Broke, that's where.

What will happen to all those lawyers. The prosecutors and defenders?

Oh, no. We can't let that happen. We must continue to destroy people's lives so we can have high paying jobs.

5 posted on 12/17/2002 9:56:00 AM PST by narby
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To: Joe Bonforte
Maybe his kid got busted again.
6 posted on 12/17/2002 9:56:09 AM PST by Wolfie
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To: narby
Bump.
7 posted on 12/17/2002 9:58:51 AM PST by FreeTally
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To: narby
They might think that they have a right to buy medical drugs without a perscription.

They do have that right. Just not in a community where irresponsible use of a drug results in harm of others in the community. This would apply to narcotics that when used irresponsibly, result in citizens that are a risk to others, or to antibiotics, that when used irresponsibly can result in creating immune bacteria that cannot be cured by simple antibiotics anymore, ect, ect.

8 posted on 12/17/2002 10:01:01 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Joe Bonforte
The explanation for this is simple: Danny no longer can afford the street prices in Indianapolis......... 8~)
9 posted on 12/17/2002 10:03:14 AM PST by tracer
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To: Texaggie79
you INCREASE the motivation of users and non users to use MORE.

There was no drug war until about 90 years ago. But there were plenty of drugs readily available even right in the Sears and Roebuck cataloge (cocaine). Yet we had a smaller problem with drug use than now.

I submit that if people want to use drugs, they will. No matter if its legal or not. So I don't believe your premise that you INCREASE the motivation of users. Yes, the price is lower. But availability (if retail sales of drugs is still illegal) may be less than today because there's no big money to be made. So I believe that if done correctly, drug legalization can actually help the drug USE problem

10 posted on 12/17/2002 10:03:35 AM PST by narby
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To: Texaggie79
I don't see that as a good thing.

I understand your concern, though I don't share it because I don't believe making drugs legal would lead to the dire consequences you predict. But let's assume those consequences did come true. Do you believe that situation is worse than what we have now?

Remember the hundreds of thousands in prison for non-violent offenses, ripping up families and leaving kids without parents. Remember the hundreds or thousands killed each year in the drug war violence, many of them innocent bystanders. Remember the erosion of Constitutional rights as the 4th Amendment becomes practically meaningless.

I'm not trying to bait you. I just want to know if you really think all those things are preferable to increased drug usage - hypothetical increased usage at that.

11 posted on 12/17/2002 10:04:38 AM PST by Joe Bonforte
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To: Texaggie79
So, while you may have remedied the supply side, killing off the cartels and giving the job of production over to corporations, you INCREASE the motivation of users and non users to use MORE.

I don't see that as a good thing.

Just like ending Prohibition reduced the disincentives of alcohol users. Was that a good thing? If not, should Prohibition have been continued?

And why should I, a non-drug-user, have to pay---in tax dollars, a justice system corupted by drug money, and increased threat from drug-turf wars---to "protect" others from their own weaknesses?

12 posted on 12/17/2002 10:06:55 AM PST by MrLeRoy
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To: Texaggie79
This would apply to narcotics that when used irresponsibly, result in citizens that are a risk to others

Alcohol fits that description better than many illegal drugs. Do you support banning alcohol?

13 posted on 12/17/2002 10:08:44 AM PST by MrLeRoy
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To: *Wod_list
Wod_list ping
14 posted on 12/17/2002 10:09:55 AM PST by MrLeRoy
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To: jmc813
ping
15 posted on 12/17/2002 10:13:33 AM PST by ThinkDifferent
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To: Joe Bonforte
I'm in favor of legalization, but I see one big problem nobody else seems to have considered; what if the drug cartels won't allow it?

After all, they kill people routinely already, so it shouldn't be much of a surprize if Pfizer's Vice President for Recreational Drugs goes up in a ball of flame in the company parking lot: or Ma and Pa Smith get wasted in their convenience store the day after they start carrying marijuana.

I don't have a solution, but we ought to recognize that the cartels have an interest in maintaining an artificial shortage, and the means to do so.

16 posted on 12/17/2002 10:18:32 AM PST by Grut
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To: narby
90 years ago? Do you REALLY think you can compare today's drug culture to that?

Does legal booze keep people out of the bars? Last time I went, they were quite packed. Also, have you checked out any college campuses lately? Wanna know the most prevalent drug? The LEGAL one, Alcohol. Easy access, cheap, and fun for the whole frat.

You think that giving Phillips & Morris the job of supplying Cocaine or Heroin that they won't make BIG money? What are you smoking?

17 posted on 12/17/2002 10:20:01 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Texaggie79
While the mean ol' cartels would likely go out of business, the consumers of the legalized substances would have more motivation to use. The product would be more readily available, for a cheaper price, and with a virtually nill likelyhood of getting a bad product.

So, while you may have remedied the supply side, killing off the cartels and giving the job of production over to corporations, you INCREASE the motivation of users and non users to use MORE.

Your analogy only works in terms of a general commodity market, where cost is the only downside. Drugs have their own inherent cost, and people recognize that. If cost was the primary deterrent to people doing drugs, I'd think you would see a substantial increase in drug use as you move up the economic scale, but you don't. Removing the profit from drugs stands to have a much greater affect on the associated crime rate than the rate of usage because there are much different motivating factors involved, respectively. - IMHO

18 posted on 12/17/2002 10:24:50 AM PST by tacticalogic
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To: Joe Bonforte
I believe that if pot were legalized, mandatory treatment was used more than prison time for users, and hard prison time for dealers, we would be FAR better off than legalization of everything.

I'd put it this way. I like the state I live in, but if it decided to legalize all drugs, I would be out of here faster than you can say epidemic.

19 posted on 12/17/2002 10:26:54 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: MrLeRoy
Because that "weakness" if allowed to go unchallenged will endanger you and yours far more than some hoodlums on the other side of town.
20 posted on 12/17/2002 10:29:21 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Texaggie79
To be fair, I honestly feel that the best option we have (as chosen from a list of poor choices) is to quasi-legalize all drugs, and make them available ONLY from state run clinics or from hospitals. The idea is that they are not advertised in any way, they are not promoted in any way, they are simply available to those who want them. The clinics will be clean and basic, with drugs available at market rates, and treatment options made available at those clinics for those who want to quit their habits.

This would accomplish some good things. It would remove the profit potential from the sales of illegal drugs, it would assist those who are addicted in getting over their addictions when they are ready to straighten up, and it would send a clear message to the community that drugs are not "cool" or "hip", they are medicine for sick and dependant people.

When dealers go from being rich, powerful guys to pitiful, poor addicts who stand in line like everybody else for their fix, the glamor of the drug lifestyle goes right down the drain. Even stupid kids don't want to end up as an addict standing in line to get their drugs. Mark my words, if you remove the profit incentive you will remove %90 of the problem in one fell swoop.
21 posted on 12/17/2002 10:29:33 AM PST by Billy_bob_bob
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To: MrLeRoy
No because, as illustrated by MILLIONS of users, alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly.

When is the last time you had a little crack with your meal?

22 posted on 12/17/2002 10:30:46 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Texaggie79
Because that "weakness" if allowed to go unchallenged will endanger you and yours far more than some hoodlums on the other side of town.

That justifies FORCING me to pay those costs (monetary and otherwise)? If you think that, you're no conservative.

23 posted on 12/17/2002 10:33:36 AM PST by MrLeRoy
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To: Joe Bonforte
"A kid can’t be driving a brand-new Corvette when he lives in the inner city of Indianapolis in a ghetto. You know that he has gotta be making that money in someway that is probably not legal and probably involves drugs."

Hoo boy. Wait'll the race hustlers get through with Neville Lott. They'll have a field day with this one.

"So, a kid driving a vette through the ghetto must be a crook if he has money, huh?"

24 posted on 12/17/2002 10:34:11 AM PST by Cyber Liberty
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To: tacticalogic
Just because hard drugs would be cheap does not mean that users could afford them. Addicted, hard drug users cannot keep jobs. They will still need to get their drug, somehow.

However, that is not the main risk I fear from rampant drug use. I fear a community full of addicts.

It's much easier to turn down that fix when you must venture to some back alley, afraid for you life, spend more money, and risk getting a fake product, as opposed to walking into CVS pharmacy and grabbing one of the shelf.

25 posted on 12/17/2002 10:34:30 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Texaggie79
"It's much easier to turn down that fix when you must venture to some back alley, afraid for you life, spend more money, and risk getting a fake product, as opposed to walking into CVS pharmacy and grabbing one of the shelf."

It's obvious that you, or anybody you know and love, never needed a fix.

26 posted on 12/17/2002 10:36:50 AM PST by Cyber Liberty
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To: Texaggie79

So, while you may have remedied the supply side, killing off the cartels and giving the job of production over to corporations, you INCREASE the motivation of users and non users to use MORE.

I don't see that as a good thing.

Hear, hear!

27 posted on 12/17/2002 10:40:51 AM PST by Chemist_Geek
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To: Texaggie79
No because, as illustrated by MILLIONS of users, alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly.

When is the last time you had a little crack with your meal?

Is making the argument in terms of the extremes on either end really rational? When was the last time you enjoyed a little Everclear with your dinner? Do people ever responsibly use codeine, even if it isn't prescribed to them?

28 posted on 12/17/2002 10:41:38 AM PST by tacticalogic
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To: Billy_bob_bob
The profit incentive would simply be moved to Corporations
29 posted on 12/17/2002 10:41:57 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: tacticalogic
Drugs have their own inherent cost, and people recognize that.

Not the youth. Youth think that they are immortal.

30 posted on 12/17/2002 10:42:29 AM PST by Chemist_Geek
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To: MrLeRoy
No, If you choose to live in a state that outlaws hard drugs, then you CHOOSE to pay those costs by choosing to live there.
31 posted on 12/17/2002 10:42:47 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Cyber Liberty
Actually, I have 2 close relatives that do. One is addicted to cocaine, the other Crystal Meth. And another relative addicted to Heroine, but is on Methadone.

Each one would tell you that after leaving their support group meetings, they would be much more challenged to stay clean if they saw their drug of choice sitting in front of their face at a Wal-Mart, dirt cheap, and ready to use, than knowing they would have to pay out the butt for a crap drug at their dealers place.
32 posted on 12/17/2002 10:46:10 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Texaggie79
I fear a community full of addicts.

And how much of that fear is derived from the fear of crime and violence that follows the drugs?

33 posted on 12/17/2002 10:46:45 AM PST by tacticalogic
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To: tacticalogic
Everclear is an exception to the rule. Crack is a rule. Crystal Meth is a rule. Heroine is a rule. For alcohol, beer is a rule.
34 posted on 12/17/2002 10:47:57 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Texaggie79
Good point. Hadn't thought of it that way.
35 posted on 12/17/2002 10:47:58 AM PST by Cyber Liberty
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To: Chemist_Geek
Not the youth. Youth think that they are immortal.

I don't think anyone here is advocating that any of the drugs being discussed be made more easily obtainable than alcohol, especially to the young.

36 posted on 12/17/2002 10:49:11 AM PST by tacticalogic
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To: Texaggie79
"The profit incentive would simply be moved to Corporations"

Exactly! Corporations that are licenced and forced to operate within narrowly defined guidelines. If they step out of line they lose their license and someone else gets to make the profits, marginal as they are. Again, the idea is to legalize and regulate the traffic to the degree that it wipes out the profit motive. I'll go a step further and suggest something else in addition to my first proposal.

From what I have learned from the history of drugs in society, it is that there are two extreme conditions that can lead to a majority of any given population ending up addicted to any given drug.

The first extreme condition arises from attempts to prohibit all drugs. This leads to extreme demand from a small percentage of the population that leads to very high prices and profits being realized by those who supply said demand. The profit incentive leads the suppliers to want to expand their markets, and it's off to the races.

The second extreme condition arises from oversupply of drugs, as happened with the "nickel gin" plague that hit England in the 18th century. Because gin was so plentiful and so cheap, a large percentage of the population became addicted.

So, getting back to my proposal, I have to amend my suggestion to include the idea of setting prices high enough to discourage addiction, while keeping them low enough to short-circuit the black market.

37 posted on 12/17/2002 10:49:20 AM PST by Billy_bob_bob
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To: Texaggie79
How do you feel about marijuana?
38 posted on 12/17/2002 10:49:24 AM PST by Cyber Liberty
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To: tacticalogic
Not much.
39 posted on 12/17/2002 10:52:10 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Cyber Liberty
As stated above, I believe it should be legal. I see no more harm than alcohol, actually less.....
40 posted on 12/17/2002 10:53:28 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Texaggie79
Works for me.
41 posted on 12/17/2002 10:53:52 AM PST by Cyber Liberty
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To: Texaggie79
No because, as illustrated by MILLIONS of users, alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly.

So can cocaine, as illustrated by the ~80% of users who are not addicted:

When is the last time you had a little crack with your meal?

Crack is a creation of the War On Some Drugs; if cocaine were legal, crack would be about as popular as Everclear.

42 posted on 12/17/2002 10:54:57 AM PST by MrLeRoy
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To: Chemist_Geek
"Youth think that they are immortal. "

Fools don't know that we possess an immortal soul.
43 posted on 12/17/2002 10:56:26 AM PST by PaxMacian
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To: Texaggie79
Crack is a rule. Crystal Meth is a rule. Heroine is a rule. For alcohol, beer is a rule.

During prohibition bootleg whiskey was the rule.

44 posted on 12/17/2002 10:57:38 AM PST by tacticalogic
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To: Billy_bob_bob
If they step out of line they lose their license

MMM... Like Phillip & Morris? Trust me, when your profit margins are in the billions, you have quite a bit of sway with the government.

45 posted on 12/17/2002 10:59:05 AM PST by Texaggie79
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To: Texaggie79
I tend to have a little more faith in people than that.
46 posted on 12/17/2002 10:59:27 AM PST by tacticalogic
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To: Joe Bonforte
Hooray! Just to get past the "what if" to the "make it so!"

Stamped and taxed, sold hrough registered outlets to adults above a set age, like tabakky and alky.

47 posted on 12/17/2002 11:01:53 AM PST by bvw
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To: Billy_bob_bob
The English gin story is interesting. The upperclass drank mainly whiskey at the time, they did nothing to curtail it's use.
48 posted on 12/17/2002 11:01:54 AM PST by steve50
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To: Texaggie79
If you choose to live in a state that outlaws hard drugs, then you CHOOSE to pay those costs by choosing to live there.

If states were allowed to set their own policies you might have a point.

49 posted on 12/17/2002 11:02:43 AM PST by MrLeRoy
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To: tacticalogic; MrLeRoy
You simply cannot compare alcohol with hard drugs. It is a different animal. After a certain point with alcohol, the majority of people get sick by the consumption of more. This is not the case with hard drugs. The more you consume, the "happier"/"more energized"/"calmer" you are.

Lying on the bathroom floor next to the toilet is not near as desirable as lying back in extreme pleasure.

50 posted on 12/17/2002 11:03:07 AM PST by Texaggie79
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