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by Peter Moskos

May 17, 2013

Tic-Toc Like Clockwork

Jeanmarie Evelly of DNAInfo.com writes about a "massive drug sweep" in the Queensbridge* and Ravenswood Homes in Astoria/Long Island City. 28 people indicted; 23 others arrested for selling drugs to undercover cops on "hundreds of separate occasions over an eight month span from 2012-2013."

Well, slap my back and declare victory.

Just like we I wrote about in 2009.

And happened before in 2005.

If drugs were so bad, one might logically wonder why police didn't simply arrest those who sold them drugs back in 2012 before they could peddle their addictive wears to other innocent people. The answer, of course, is you need to shut down the whole operation. Get the kingpin. And, you know, make the projects drug free. Just like we did four and eight years ago. In the war on drugs, we're always behind enemy lines. The depressing part is that the goal of the drug war isn't even to win. It's to keep fighting in perpetuity.

We can win a battle or two every four years. But I suspect today some other "entrepreneur" is already gleefully taking the place of those arrested. And he'll get paid and live large till he's arrested four years from now. And then we'll all pay to lock him up for five or twenty years.

Ask yourself, do you think one addict can't get drugs today because of this operation? If you think the answer is yes, you're very very naive. People want to get high. The only question is how. There are certainly more and less harmful drugs as well as more and less harmful ways of distributing them (liquor stores seem to work pretty well). So you then might wonder, couldn't there perhaps be a better way of reducing use and the harms of public drug markets than swooping down every four years and imprisoning "many vicious characters"*(at a cost of $30,000-$70,000 per man per year)?

Of course there is. We could reduce drug use (the US has the highest rate of illegal drug consumption in the world). We could drastically reduce the violence and effed-up culture that goes along with illegal selling. We could regulate the drug trade. But that won't happen with a prohibitionist mindset.

Meanwhile, I'm marking my calendar for 2017. Because this will happen all over again.


*Here's a nice video about the Queensbridge Homes. It's the largest public housing project left standing in America. And it's not as bad as you might think.

**New York Police Superintendent Pillsbury, in a 1859 quarterly report. Pillsbury wrote about “[Youthful immigrants,] many vicious characters, and a still larger number of needy and ignorant persons, who, under the influence of over ten thousand grog-shops become recruits to the army of law-breakers.” In 1859, 84% of arrests were drug related (alcohol). (And 80% of those arrested were foreign born.)

2 comments:

Minnesota criminal defense law firm said...
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MorePheen said...

Even under a prohibitionist framework there are a number of policies we could implement that would lessen the impact of drug markets. Heroin maintenance comes to mind, the Swiss have been doing it since 1994 and other countries are following. In Vancouver they found that dilaudid works as well as heroin, its schedule 2 so no need to get around that barrier. Perhaps something similar with long-acting oral stimulants could be tried with cocaine addicts. Obviously legalizing marijuana is a no-brainer. We already know what will happen with heroin maintenance, less crime, disease, improved health among addicts, raising of the average age of addicts (less younger addicts), and other positive social consequences. We just need the political will.

Most drug users are NOT addicts, so the markets will not disappear, but addicts do account for the majority of consumption. Removing the demand caused by addiction would seriously shrink the illicit drug marketplace.