Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A wake-up call

The Winston-Salem Journal has an interesting story on the recent murders of Appalachian State University students Stephen Harrington and Joey McClure. But the paper does readers a disservice by calling the killings "drug-related." This unfortunate choice of words obscures the true cause of the violence that led to their untimely deaths.

A more accurate way to describe the murders would be "drug prohibition-related," since the tragic loss of live
s outlined in the story has nothing to do with drugs themselves, but has everything to do with policies that make them illegal.

At least one ASU professor seems to have a clue:
Matthew Robinson, an associate professor of criminal justice at ASU, said he believes that forces beyond the control of campus authorities or even law enforcement drove the killings. Flawed public policy on fighting the drug war has created the illicit market and the systemic violence that comes from having no legal way to settle disputes, he said.
Indeed, when was the last time you heard about beer distributors killing each other over who gets to stock a specific store? The answer is never. That's because alcohol is a true "controlled substance" and disputes between legitimate distributors are handled with contracts and in the courts. Prohibiting a drug ensures that only criminals are involved with its production and distribution, completely removing it from the domain of actual control and regulation.

Lt. Johnny Reese, with the Boone Police Department, conducts periodic anti-drug trainings for students. He's holding out hope that a bit of good can come out of all the attention the students' tragic deaths are getting.

Reese said he sometimes worries that the seminars and lectures about crime go in one ear and out the other.

"People don't wake up until something like this happens," he said.

Let's hope that lawmakers start to wake up and realize that the only way to eliminate the violent collateral damage the War on Drugs inflicts upon families across the country is to end prohibition. How many more heartbreaking stories will politicians let in one ear and out the other without taking action?

1 comment:

David Borden said...

Tom makes an important point. Until media at least recognize the effects of prohibition, it's not likely that the general public will. Reporters need not take an anti-prohibitionist position in order to do so; they can just quote experts or advocates who espouse that viewpoint along with the other side. But they need to do so prominently as well; putting a quote like that in 3/4 of the way down while the headline blairs out "drugs" doesn't quite do the job either. Still, at least this article quoted our side, and that's good.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet