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How to win war on drugs - take away cash

Crime reporters Justin Fenton and Kevin Rector hosted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit Tuesday afternoon to talk about the Gun Trace Task Force, crime reporting in Baltimore and whatever else the Redditors had on their minds. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun video)

I've written several times on this subject and here we go again (“End drug crime by banning cash,” April 7, 2015). People (and I use the term loosely) are selling drugs, fighting over drug turf, and dying every day out there on the streets not just in Baltimore, but all over the United States. The only way I can see to totally end this "war" is to eliminate the motivation that sparks this continuing escalation of conflict. That motivation would be the continuing voracious quest in that world for untraceable cash.

In my days in that underground alternative reality environment, cash was the only medium of communication and driving force in all drug sales, gun sales and the robberies and burglaries associated with the acquisition of cash. Cash is what makes the underground economy go now and forever past. And it will continue into the future if we keep letting it happen. All peripheral operations (fences, chop shops, money launderers, etc.) only operate with cash (“Prosecutors say Chicago gets first cryptocurrency case,” Feb. 18). Law enforcement and political graft would also be stifled. Crooked politicians never take checks or any other traceable element for "special services rendered,” only cash. You know about the police.

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My alternative solution is simply this: First, recall all cash in circulation in the U.S. Second, make all of those individuals turning in their cash declare, verify how it was accumulated, or lose it. Even better, lock them up for tax evasion if they can't explain. Then, confiscate the property of all of those miscreants, returning all proceeds into societal coffers. Finally, issue plastic cards to allow all transactions to become electronic and more importantly, transparent. This would, I feel, remove the motivation and meaning driving the Black Market and street hoods to continue their lucrative operations.

Then, we can make them surrender in this previously “unwinnable” war. The last thing the black market wants, along with its accompanying underground economy, is transparency. Now, all of the rats will have to step into the light. After all, on each dollar bill it is printed, "This note is legal tender for all debts both public and private." Society's cost? No more private debt. I don't know about you or anyone else, but I could live with that.

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Oh no! We can never do that! Cash is a symbol of freedom and privacy in our society. What cash has evolved into is a symbol of addiction, misery and death. It allows addicts to get what they want when they want it. I believe that organized crime must be attacked by removal of the motivation (untraceable cash), which has always been its lifeblood. All other methods utilized and advocated for by people allegedly "in the know" in this war have been abysmal.

Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins and all of his colleagues have probably no first hand experience in any black market operations (“Baltimore should call off the war on drugs,” Feb. 20). All these "knowledgeable" people do is crunch numbers and make six-figure salaries to supply theories only. I hold that we need people who were in the black market, got out, and were grateful to be out. I am one who got out and I'm attempting to supply you with accurate intelligence on the lay of the land. In his column, Dan Rodricks wrote that “the Johns Hopkins report supplies hard evidence.” Holistic approaches mentioned have been in play for a long while. For example, in Anne Arundel County alone there are 50 probation officers who are swamped. There was nothing new cited in that "holistic approach.” How about bandying some alternative solutions about that could be much more direct?

George Hammerbacher, Baltimore

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