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GetSmart About Drugs - A DEA Resource for Parents

News Release
December 19, 2005

Ex-Seattle Police Chief’s Drug Legalization Comments
Endanger Our Communities

As the lead Federal Drug Enforcement Investigator in the Pacific Northwest, I am outraged by the December 4th article by ex-Seattle police chief Norm Stamper entitled Legalize drugs – all of them. Mr. Stamper’s proposal to legalize all drugs sends the wrong message to our communities and children. His idea lacks logical, scientific, and medical backing and lends one to conclude that this is no more than a publicity stunt to sell Mr. Stamper’s book. Frankly, I am not buying his argument or his book. The steady decline of drug use around the country, over the past decade, has been the result of America’s balanced approach to illicit drugs, which combines strong law enforcement with prevention and treatment. Unfortunately, our citizens, in particular the young, are bombarded with false information on the dangers associated with the use of drugs – much like Mr. Stamper is doing.

Mr. Stamper’s proposal would put our communities and children at risk. While Mr. Stamper considers drug legalization as a way to provide freedom to American citizens, in reality it would further expose them to a known killer – drug use killed 26,000 Americans in 2002, a 20 % increase from the previous year. In 2003, 10.9 million Americans admitted that they drove under the influence of illegal drugs in the previous year. One in six (600,000) high school students admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana; one third of all people stopped for reckless driving, who were not under the influence of alcohol, tested positive for marijuana. These are real statistics that would only be exacerbated by Mr. Stamper’s legalization proposal.

Mr. Stamper advocates controlling drugs in the same way the government controls pharmaceutical drugs. This type of thinking ignores the fact that licit drugs, which are controlled by the government, were the second most abused drug among our youth in 2004. Mr. Stamper’s solution sends the wrong message likening dangerous drugs, such as methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine, with drugs used by individuals in need. Prescription drug abuse by teenagers is up because the perceived risk is low. If Mr. Stamper had his way, the same thing would happen with all illicit drugs as well.

Throughout the United States we have all seen the devastation drugs bring to innocent individuals, families, and communities. While leaders and citizens, particularly here in the Northwest, are working to fight the methamphetamine scourge plaguing our communities, Mr. Stamper advocates giving in to this threat with a laissez faire approach in dealing with illegal drugs. In Mr. Stamper’s article, he admits that drug use would likely go up “but no one knows for sure.” In fact, studies done by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America shows that drug use, particularly among young people, goes up when the perceived risk associated with its use goes down.

Mr. Stamper, a former law enforcement officer, now promotes a policy that would endanger communities – the same communities he was entrusted to protect and serve.

It is imperative that we draw a line and maintain intact the consequences for drug possession and abuse to send a clear message to communities, and most importantly, our children. Having a state government dispense illicit drugs, even if strictly regulated, would send the wrong message to our children by letting them believe that drugs are not dangerous and drug use is socially acceptable.

Rodney G. Benson
Special Agent in Charge
Drug Enforcement Administration


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