Gierach: No alternative view given at heroin forum
By James E. Gierach Guest Commentary May 23, 2012 8:24PM
James E. Gierach | File photo
Updated: July 3, 2012 8:39AM
Orland Township Youth and Family Counseling sponsored a recent drug abuse symposium at Sandburg High School in reaction to a sharp rise in heroin-related use, arrests and deaths among youths in the Orland-Palos area.
Concerned parents and students gathered in the gymnasium to hear lengthy presentations from mainstream speakers who included a recovered drug addict now in the treatment business, an Orland Park police commander and a spokesperson for a drug treatment consortium.
All three speakers were supporters of the drug war, and all three make their living off the unintended consequences of the war on drugs — namely more crime, more drugs and more kids needing treatment. None of the speakers gave any hint of appreciation of the fact that they’re on the side of the likes of Al Capone and today’s drug cartels and street gangs in favoring the United Nations/U.S. costly and ineffective drug prohibition policy.
Each speaker stoked the fires of heroin fear, talked of the need for greater heroin awareness and called for early treatment. And each overlooked the most salient fact of the night — every case of student heroin use, overdose and death was the result of “prohibited heroin” and not “legalized heroin.”
Numerous Latin American leaders are noticing and calling for the legalization, control and regulation of drugs rather than more failed prohibition, as I sought to do as a speaker at Sandburg that night. My request was based upon my years as a Cook County prosecutor and my long-time advocacy for the legalization, control and regulation of now-illegal drugs.
In February, for example, I was a guest speaker in Mexico City along with 37 other drug policy experts and national leaders from around the world, including the former presidents of Switzerland and Colombia, Mexico’s retired foreign minister and a representative of the UN.
I also attended in Vienna in March the 55th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs that reaffirmed the world’s three drug-prohibition treaties, despite 60 pages of reports documenting increased drug use and drug trafficking around the world.
In Guatemala, President Otto Perez Molino wrote in April that the “prohibition paradigm that inspires mainstream global drug policy today is based on a false premise: that global drug markets can be eradicated.” He added that “drug consumption, production and trafficking should be subject to global regulations, which means that drug consumption should be legalized but within certain limits and conditions.”
Although a vast majority of Guatemalans oppose decriminalization, Perez Molina’s comments are seen by many as ushering in a new era of debate.
In Mexico, President Felipe Calderon has called for a national debate on the issue. In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos said he welcomes drug legalization if it would curtail the power of criminal gangs that thrive on prohibition.
And in April, President Barack Obama said it was “entirely legitimate to have a conversation about whether the (drug) laws in place are ones that are doing more harm than good in certain places.”
But this is not an emerging democracy. This is Orland Township in 2012, and the First Amendment hasn’t yet bloomed when it comes to the Orland-Palos area heroin problem.
The dictates of Orland Township officials and Orland Park police ensured that I would not be able to speak to those attending the public forum and would not even be permitted to pass out literature to those in attendance.
Drug prohibition has not only led to dangerous and uncontrolled drug use by our kids, it has also stifled the First Amendment and made our leaders look foolish.
James E. Gierach, a Palos Park resident, is an executive board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international organization of criminal justice professionals who oppose current drug policies and support a tight system of legalized regulation.