The War on Drugs
(Printed in the Towanda Daily Review on 4/21/95.)
Editor: Our "War on Drugs" has claimed yet another victim -- Tony Bellanca. The Towanda High School English teacher was recently charged with the alleged possession of cocaine in Binghamton, NY.
If he's shown to be innocent of the charges, it seems that a rather uneventful conclusion to the episode would be in order. However, Dr. Daniel Paul, Superintendent of Schools, stated that, "a not-guilty verdict in court does not mean charges are necessarily dropped." If Dr. Paul's statement makes legal sense, then the laws need to be changed.
If guilty, because of our current fanatical laws against the use of drugs deemed "illegal", Mr. Bellanca is -- for lack of a better term -- screwed. Maybe he's guilty of bad judgment. I don't know. But I do know that whatever he did do, it's none of my business because his alleged activities did no harm to the person or property of anyone else. If the person or property of other non-consenting adults were involved, then he should be held accountable to some legal authority. However, if he affected only himself and other consenting adults, it's his business and he should be accountable to only himself.
I don't condone putting chemicals in your body that don't belong there. If someone decides to introduce foreign substances into their bodies, they should be made aware of the potential dangers and given treatment, if desired. If they decide that the risks are acceptable, and their activities do no harm to the person or property of anyone else, then it's none of my business, or anyone else's. Limited resources -- and this country's resources are limited -- to reduce substance abuse should be applied where they can be most effective.
The effects of the Bellanca case on the school district are predictable -- the introduction of drug tests to detect the current list of illegal drugs, even though the costs to society for legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco, are many times higher. Tobacco kills almost 400,000 people each year. Alcohol kills 125,000 per year excluding 50% of all traffic fatalities. Illicit drug-related deaths are less than 10,000 per year with most of these attributed to unregulated purity and underground crime activities.
In 1986, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York concluded in their report titled "A Wiser Course: Ending Drug Prohibition" that all federal legislation dealing with drugs be repealed because current laws have clogged the courts and had no effect on the consumption of said drugs. It reported that, "drug prohibition is also a failure that causes more harm than the drug it is purportedly intended to control."
I support the legalization and regulation of all drugs followed with education and treatment programs, instead of the current incarcerations and civil abuses. I realize that this opinion makes me a suspected user and I offer the following -- a urine sample to anyone, anytime, with two stipulations: a sample from you, and you hold the cup for me.
John L. Ferri