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December 15, 2004

Philly crack cocaine bust

KYW-TV in Philadelphia, the CBS affiliate, reported Tuesday (12/14/04) that nearly $4 million of crack cocaine is "off the street" and a suspect is under arrest. District Attorney Lynne Abraham was cited, among other people, calling it one of the largest busts in the city's history. If I remember correctly, Abraham is the DA who slandered Kemba Smith (former mandatory minimum prisoner granted clemency by Clinton) on Nightline. Nice lady (not).

Unfortunately, the quantity or dollar value of cocaine that is "off the street" does not have a lot of relevance to drug use. The important numbers are how much is "on the street" and how much do people on the street and elsewhere want. Just as supermarket chains understand that a certain amount of produce will go bad on the way to market, drug traffickers likewise expect that some of the drugs they are shipping will be seized by authorities. The market adjusts to the prevailing conditions -- suppliers of cocaine will ship enough of it to be able to supply their best customers most of the time. And as Judge Gray has pointed out, the larger the busts get, the greater a degree of failure is indicated.

This report is factual, but it does not ask or imply any of the critical questions. Will KYW go back to DA Abraham or police commissioner Johnson three or six or twelve months from now -- or to other, more neutral parties -- and examine whether the bust made any long-term impact on the price or purity or availability of cocaine in Philadelphia? If -- as decades of experience suggests -- the answer is no, it didn't, will they put anyone on TV who is willing to explicitly point out how this bust and its aftermath illustrate the futility of drug prohibition?

Click here to suggest this to them. And invite them to participate in our "Prohibition and the Media" blog ( while you're at it.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet

Posted by dborden725 at December 15, 2004 01:05 AM


Letter to the Editor
296 Words
December 17, 2004

Dear Editor,
I want to commend the courageous officers who according to Thomas Gibbins’ December 14, 2004 article, arrested one of the nation’s most violent drug dealers and seized 83 pounds of cocaine.
As a 26-year law enforcement veteran (14 in narcotics), I wish I could agree with Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson’s belief, “It's going to interrupt a whole lot of cocaine distribution.”
The truth is, if the DEA’s November 2000, “Liberator,” drug operation involving 36 countries and resulting in the seizure of over 20 tons of cocaine, $30 million dollars cash, and nearly 3,000 arrests, didn’t interrupt a whole lot of cocaine distribution it is hard to imagine the arrest of one person in Philadelphia will have any effect.
After three decades of fueling this war with over half-a-trillion dollars, our court system is choked with ever-increasing drug prosecutions and our quadrupled prison population has made building prisons this nation's fastest growing industry. More than 2.2 million are incarcerated in US prisons and another 1.6 million are arrested every year for nonviolent drug offenses.
Meanwhile, drug barons and terrorists grow richer every year, while our citizens continue dying on the streets. And all we have to show for this war is, today, illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent, and far easier to get than they were 34 years ago when, as an undercover officer, I first started buying heroin on those streets. This situation represents the very definition of a failed public policy. When a policy has failed so miserably over such a long period, it is time to find alternative strategies.
A system of drug regulation and control is a less harmful, more ethical, and far more effective public policy for keeping drugs out of the hands of our children than prohibition will ever be.

Jack A. Cole
Executive Director
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
27 Austin Road, Medford, MA 02155
(781) 393-6985 (781) 396-0684 Home (617) 792-3877 Cell
[email protected]
You can get over an addiction but you will never get over a conviction.

Posted by: Jack A. Cole at December 18, 2004 10:41 AM

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