Drug Bizarre

Robert Dowd is a veteran, a Southern Baptist, a Republican ... and a staunch supporter of legalizing drugs

Better thousands of addicts than thousands of dealers gunned down by police and DEA agents, Dowd retorts. "I've looked through our experience with alcohol and drugs, and I conclude that we're going to be a lot better off in a legitimate market selling openly and not throwing everybody in jail for using it. [We should] try to get everybody to use their good judgment. Just like we do with alcohol."

In February of this year New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, a critic of Washington's drug eradication strategy, corresponded with Dowd: "Thank you so much for your book. ... You perform a real service with your ideas. I have not seen it put better than your simple challenge: 'Show us one addict saved from the drug habit because there were no illegal drugs to buy.'"

But then a March setback showed it is difficult to break through mainstream thought patterns regarding anti-drug policy. Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who sat on a congressional drug task force this year, seemingly missed the volume's point. He wrote Dowd: "Thank you for sending your book The Enemy Is Us. I found it very interesting and insightful. I, like you, am committed to fighting the war on drugs. I appreciate your commitment to winning this war and commend your efforts in doing so."

Dowd gained a tenuous foothold in May, though. He was speaking to a men's group at the Kendall Methodist Church when he spied in the audience Rear Adm. Norman Saunders, commander of the Seventh U.S. Coast Guard District. The colonel gave the admiral a copy of The Enemy Is Us. U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Mark Woodring relayed this comment to New Times: "The admiral says he has not read the book, but that obviously the colonel did a lot of research to form his argument and that a lot of research would have to be done to counter it. His argument is very logical and very convincing. But that does not mean the admiral agrees with it."

"That's typical," Dowd observes impatiently. "The people involved in this thing don't have anything to counter my argument. But they don't want to agree with it."

Dowd is pressing on. In September he opened a letter from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) congratulating him on his induction into the Edison High School hall of fame. She wrote: "As the distinguished author of a book on the war on drugs, a successful businessman, and a 30-year aviator who served our nation from World War II through the Vietnam conflict, you definitely deserve this recognition. ... Please accept my best wishes for future success in all your endeavors."

Dowd quickly sent Ros-Lehtinen a copy of his book, hoping her encouragement extended to his quest for drug legalization. In the past the congresswoman has supported the federal policy of combining interdiction with prevention. "I am proud to be of the World War II generation -- a generation forged in the Great Depression, hammered into form on the anvil of war, then tempered and honed by our love of God, family and country," the letter accompanying the manuscript stated. "It is a generation of ordinary people who were called to an extraordinary task. In meeting our challenge, we achieved beyond our expectations. Now I am fighting my last war. I have spent this decade studying, researching, writing, and speaking about the tragedy of America's drug policy and more particularly, the failed 'war on drugs.' ... Attempts to stop the drug supply at its source have failed upon every occasion. Nary a soul has been saved from the drug habit for a lack of illegal drugs to buy." Ros-Lehtinen has yet to respond to Dowd's letter.

Jim Hall, director of the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug Free Community, supports Dowd's call for an expansion of education and prevention efforts. But he thinks Dowd may be confused. Hall argues that making all drugs legal would simply create a new illicit drug market to meet the demand of minors. "What would be a safe potency of cocaine for drug companies to sell? And if it's not a high enough potency, wouldn't you just be creating an illegitimate market for other things?" he wonders. "I don't think he's made the case that legalization will reduce the number of people who try drugs."

Dowd's answer: "All I'm asking them is to think about legalization. The individual should be the regulator of drugs. What's the difference really between a heroin addict and a skid row wino

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