Why not legalize it?


WELL, it's out.

We were waiting with bated breath for the release of the grand jury report on the city's drug enforcement.

I hate to report it, but it's a dud.

It's long on unsupported assertions and short on evidence. This runaway grand jury has thrown buckets of mud at the men and women attempting to stem the wave of crime related to illegal drugs. None of it sticks.

So the cops only arrest "nickel-and-dime" street dealers? You bet! There aren't enough cops to saw off even the bottom rung of the illegal drug ladder.

So now we're waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The outraged boobus Baltiramus will scream for a nice, non-African-American "special prosecutor," who will attempt to lay waste the political careers of State's Attorney Stuart Simms and Mayor Kurt Schmoke, or to make a sacrifice of Police Commissioner Edward Woods.

Much pious mouthing will be heard from politically ambitious City Council members and assorted mayor and state's attorney wannabes. Clergy will hold vigils and marches to "take back the streets."

But wait a minute.

If nickel-and-dime street dealers are willing to risk death nightly in order to defend a corner and keep the cash coming in, if a drug "kingpin" is willing to risk life in jail to garner the huge profits guaranteed by the prohibition of drugs, why should we be surprised that some cops, some prosecutors, maybe even some mayors and even presidents, look the other way?

We pay for the cops (who can't protect us from the thieves who steal to buy drugs), we pay for the state's attorneys (who are so burdened by small-time street dealers that they have to cut deals with burglars, rapists and robbers), we pay for the judges (whose judicial errors cost fortunes in appeals and who are overworked themselves) and then we pay for the jailing and hospitalization resulting from all of this.

When he suggested we at least consider decriminalizing some drug use, Mayor Schmoke had it right, and he had the guts to say it publicly.

Legalize drugs, sell them under bond to "drug" stores for the legal purchase by any adult over 21, the same people who already can legally purchase that most pernicious and damaging of drugs -- alcohol.

Oh, and tax it every step of the way.

Then the cops, the prosecutors, the judges and the jailers can go about their business.

Norman H. Sailors writes from Baltimore.

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