Saturday, August 14, 2010

Who Wants to Get Rid of Drug Law Pushers?

HARBESON: Admit it, we have a drug law problem

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I’ve heard many quotes by those who support the drug war and make a living off of government prohibition, but the best one lately was by Gary Ashenfelter, speaking for the Indiana Drug Enforcement Association.

He thinks we need another drug law. He says the current laws aren’t working and do not give law enforcement what they need to fight the drug war. In frustration, he asks, “You’ve got to wonder, what the hell are we doing?”

This was in reference to an upcoming Indiana Legislative Study Committee, which will consider whether or not ephedrine and pseudoephedrine — ingredients in over the counter cold medicine — should be classified as controlled substances.

Ashenfelter and the Indiana DEA believe this law would be a good idea. No doubt many politicians also think it would be a good idea. Just like they thought it was a good idea for all the other drug laws that have been passed over the years but are not working.

It was not that long ago that Indiana decided to fight the growth of methamphetamine labs by passing a law controlling the amount of over-the-counter cold remedies people could purchase that contained these ingredients.

Suddenly, everyone was required to show identification and sign forms if they wanted to purchase a pack of pills at the pharmacy to help them relieve their cold or allergy symptoms. If grandma ended up purchasing more than the government allowed, she was committing a crime.

The inconvenience this created for families was worth it, we were told. The money and time spent by government and by retailers was worth it, we were told. Yes, this law would really help fight the problems that were created by the previous drug laws they were so excited about, but didn’t work.

This one would work for sure though. After all, Indiana’s pseudoephedrine law was even tougher than the drug laws passed in the renewed Patriot Act. (Apparently it’s not patriotic to try to shrink swollen nasal mucous membranes.)

But now, they’re telling us this law is not working. Just like all the previous laws that have been passed because of previous laws that were passed to control other people’s drug use, which created the violent, dangerous black market.

What’s the solution now? Well there’s really only one choice for the law-addicted: Create another law ... A law that’s even more invasive to the everyday lives of the general public. A law that can only add to the high cost of health care because it makes these products available only by prescription.

When the study committee convenes in September, you will hear claims that this law is working in Oregon. Changes are common when new laws are first introduced but as alcohol prohibition proved, they are either temporary or irrelevant. As we’ve seen repeatedly, people will figure out a way around drug laws.

Yet we continue to hear from these drug-law pushers. They will use these statistics to convince us we need to take one more hit. We feel the high and hallucinate that this time it’s going to work.

But too soon, we come down when the law proves to be ineffective. But we take another hit. Over and over and over.

So, like Mr. Ashenfelter, I now have to wonder, what the hell are we doing? How much evidence do we need to understand that new laws intended to fight the drug war will not work and in fact create more problems and less freedom?

When are we going to finally hit bottom, admit we have a drug law problem and start working on this harmful addiction?

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson often runs into people who ask her what the hell she is doing.

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