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News Link • Drug War

Drug war: What prohibition costs us [Blowback]

• opinion.latimes.com/opinionla
Stephen Downing, a retired deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, responds to The Times' Oct. 5 Op-Ed article, "Prohibition's real lessons for drug policy." If you would like to respond to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed in our Blowback forum, here are our FAQs and submission policy.

Drug prohibitionists like former White House drug czar staffer Kevin A. Sabet seem to be in a panic over Ken Burns' PBS documentary broadcast "Prohibition" because of its clear and convincing parallel to today's equally disastrous war on drugs. The earlier experiment lasted less than 14 years, but today’s failed prohibition was declared by President Nixon 40 years ago and has cost our country more than $1 trillion  in cash and much more in immeasurable social harm.

As a student of history and a retired deputy chief of police with the Los Angeles Police Department, I can attest that the damage that came from the prohibition of alcohol pales in comparison to the harm wrought by drug prohibition. In the last 40 years drug money has fueled the growth of violent street gangs in Los Angeles, from two (Bloods and Crips) with a membership of less than 50 people before the drug war to 20,000 gangs with a membership of about 1 million across the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Justice. These gangs serve as the distributors, collection agents and enforcers for the Mexican cartels that the Justice Department says occupy more than 1,000 U.S. cities.

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